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LA acts to improve the traffic mess around Sunset and the 405

The 405 Freeway.
The 405 Freeway.
Flickr Creative Commons via arbyreed

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The city of Los Angeles is moving to ease traffic on a notoriously gridlocked stretch of Sunset Boulevard around the 405 Freeway in Brentwood. 

As part of the effort, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation announced this week that it has begun synching the traffic lights on the on-ramps leading from Sunset onto the 405, and at adjacent intersections.

The transportation department will soon begin re-striping the lanes that feed into the on-ramps in a bid to keep drivers from making last-second lane changes. 

City Councilman Mike Bonin has also directed the department to study the idea of making one of Sunset's existing lanes reversible between the 405 and Barrington Ave., so it could be switched to an eastbound or westbound direction during morning and afternoon rush hour.

Such a change would likely require additional resources because it would involve installing temporary barriers, new lights and signage, he said.

The improvements the city is pursuing were suggested in February at a community brainstorming meeting Bonin held with transportation experts and residents.

"We've got some real solutions here backed by significant money," said the councilman, who secured $2 million in federal funds to address the traffic issues around Sunset and the 405.

Traffic west of the 405 regularly backs up for miles, causing massive delays through the area's exclusive residential neighborhoods. Sunset is the only outlet for many of the canyon communities that sprawl above the iconic street, leaving residents trapped by a stream of cars.

"At this point our communities and the residents feel like we're prisoners in our homes," said local homeowner Zofia Wright. She complained that trying to drive a half-mile during rush hour can take up to an hour.

Wright is skeptical that the work the city is carrying out will make a difference.

"How can you fix the problem if you’re continuing to add to it?" she said.

Wright is part of the Sunset Coalition, a group of local residents who have sued the city to stop several development projects they believe will make traffic worse.

Most recently, the coalition objected to the city council's approval of an expansion project by the Archer School for Girls, which is located on Sunset.

The lawsuit claimed the city greatly underestimated the traffic and environmental impact of the three-year construction project.

Bonin said traffic has been a problem in the area for decades, and has worsened in the period before construction has begun. He contends the city council has only approved projects that have shown they will reduce traffic on Sunset.

He said he reached a deal with the Archer School to reduce the construction period from six to three years, and the school agreed to bus the majority of students to class each day to cut down on traffic.

Concerns over development and car traffic in L.A. have mounted in recent years. Activists have put an anti-development initiative on the March municipal ballot that would impose a two-year moratorium on new development in the city.