Figueroa Corridor project pushes forward with 2014 deadline looming
A rendering of what will be the new intersection of 11th and Hope streets in downtown L.A.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Miles of Downtown's Figueroa Street is poised to undergo a transformation that will turn the bustling thoroughfare into a more pedestrian, cyclist and public transit-friendly area. But the funds for this makeover must be used by the end of 2014 — putting extra pressure on supporters to move the project forward quickly.
On Tuesday at a community meeting, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) officials and project supporters presented updated plans for the Figueroa Corridor Project (or MyFigueroa) to a packed room.
Although many seemed enthusiastic about the new renderings, some DTLA residents and meeting attendees expressed concern over how these pedestrian-friendly streets would effect car traffic. Figueroa is an already congested commuter passage, and more room for bikes means less room for cars.
But L.A. City officials say that the project's effect on traffic has been considered and documented throughout the Environmental Impact Report process. Because of the Figueroa Corridor's quickly approaching deadline, only minor changes to the plan can be made at this point anyway. Otherwise, the city risks losing funding altogether.
MyFigueroa supporters continue to emphasize how developmentally progressive this new corridor will be anyways. There will be streets lined with flowers and plants, buses with raised platforms and shelters and cyclists will not only have a designated space on the road, but they will be protected from traffic by buffered bike lanes.
This $20 million MyFigueroa project which aims to connect DTLA to South L.A. and turn Figueroa into a "complete street," is likened to populated streets in other big cities throughout the country; such as Valencia Street in San Francisco and 11th Street in New York.
Urban designer Deborah Murphy who's working on the Figueroa project, said the point of the new Figueroa is "to connect people with their jobs, to where they go to play and get entertainment." And supporters say these changes to Figueroa — as well as to the portions of 11th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that are being re-designed — will bring economic benefits as well.
According to the National Complete Streets Coalition: "When a bike lane was added along Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission district, nearby businesses saw sales increase by 60 percent, which merchants attributed to increased pedestrian and bicycle activity."
Details from Wednesday night's presentation include proposed designs for light features, foliage, signage, crosswalks and bus shelters. Banner signs with color photos and slogans such as "Run Fig" and "Ride Fig" will hang from street poles and bus shelters will have room for advertisements and public art.
The proposed street lights include a mix of functional pieces and ones with a decidedly historic aesthetic. Street medians will be planted with Jacaranda (trees or shrubs that sprout purple flowers), and two different types of lilies will line 11th Street.
According to city officials, they'll be wrapping up design plans for the corridor by June 30. This will put them on track to complete construction by the end of 2014.