Local businesses impacted by traffic gridlock celebrate with a champagne toast on Marina del Rey’s main thoroughfare
By Joe Piasecki and Gary Walker
Marina del Rey’s long traffic nightmare appears to be over.
To celebrate the completion of a county roadway improvement project that snarled traffic on Admiralty Way for seven months, Marina del Rey business leaders gathered in the center of the harbor’s main traffic artery on Monday for a brief champagne toast.
“We want to send a message to the community that you can come down here and it doesn’t take a half-hour to get from one end of the street to the other anymore,” said Tony P’s Dockside Grill owner Tony Palermo, who organized the gathering in front of his restaurant.
Palermo was joined by staff from other Admiralty Way businesses such as Café Del Rey, The Warehouse restaurant, Jamaica Bay Inn, the Hilton Garden Inn and the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey as well as members of the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, the Marina del Rey Convention & Visitors Bureau, L.A. County Dept. of Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman Carol Baker, firefighters with L.A. County Fire Station No. 110 (next door to Tony P’s) and Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station Capt. Reggie Gautt.
“From an emergency-response standpoint, we’re really glad to have the roadways clear and free,” Gautt said.
“The improvements were much needed, but we’re happy to have everything back to business as usual,” LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce President Christina Davis said. “We’re absolutely thrilled the roadwork is finally done and that everybody can move freely through Marina del Rey and support all these local businesses with ease.”
Closures and construction along all 1.8 miles of Admiralty Way from Fiji Way to Via Marina began last year after the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a series of harbor infrastructure upgrades in late 2012.
Improvements along Admiralty Way included median reconfiguration and landscape replacement work, street light relocation, turn pocket modifications and new traffic signals, signage and pavement. The project also created two left turn lanes from southbound on Admiralty onto Mindanao Way.
The project began with the removal of ficus trees that were planted in Marina del Rey more than 40 years ago and developed wide root systems that lifted and cracked pavement along Admiralty Way.
The L.A. County Dept. of Public Works has already begun planting varieties of native trees in roadway medians to replace the ficus. A total of 82 trees will be planted to replace 55 that were removed last year, Public Works spokesman Bob Spencer said.
“It’s significant that the ficus trees were ripping up the curbs and the sidewalks. They were obviously a safety hazard for pedestrians and people who were cycling,” Baker said. “I know that the [new] trees are small, but they’re going to grow and thrive and they’ll be much better in the long run.”
Cheryl Burnett, spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, said officials are planning further changes to Marina del Rey’s public trees.
“In the interest of having planning and coordination, we’re looking at having a palate of trees for the whole marina to replace the ficus trees,” Burnett said. “We want visitors and neighbors to expect it.”
Future Public Works plans for the marina include a waterline replacement project along Via Marina and Fiji Way that is slated to begin later this year. Officials say upgrades are needed to meet residential water service and fire-protection demands.
“We will continue to do our high-level of outreach with the Marina Lessees Assn., the Marina Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Design Control Board and Marina del Rey residents on what projects are going on and how they are coming along,” said Spencer.
Palermo said some inconveniences to residents and businesses might have been avoided during the Admiralty Way project had tree removals and street repairs been accomplished in block-by-block phases instead of one long project.
“People would call me and say, ‘I love you man, but I don’t have half an hour to get there and half an hour to get back.’ We were down about 12%. It was a long 200 days,” Palermo said. “In the future we would like the business community to be involved before construction. But like they say, it’s over. We’re here, come see us again.”