Compiled by Gary Walker

Left Turns in the Right Direction

New left-turn signals (green) and flashing crosswalks (orange) are coming to an intersection near you
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‘Westside Fast Forward’ makes signal changes to relieve traffic gridlock

Traffic signals throughout Westside neighborhoods are being updated to include new left turn signals as part of a multifaceted effort by the city to relieve traffic congestion, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin announced Monday.

The city will also install flashing pedestrian crossings at Via Dolce Park in the Marina Peninsula, Manchester and Gulana avenues in Playa del Rey, two along Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista and another on Rose and Fifth avenues in Venice.

But the series of initiatives that Bonin is calling “Westside Fast Forward” focuses mostly on getting cars off the street by expanding public transportation options. These include the ongoing expansion of the Purple Line subway, connecting the Green Line
to LAX via a People Mover already under construction, the recently launched LAnow neighborhood shuttles and the expansion of Metro’s bike share program from Venice into Mar Vista, Del Rey, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista and Palms.

A rapid bus line planned for Lincoln Boulevard would connect the Expo Line’s Fourth Street station to LAX, but as of now that’s not scheduled to come online for another 20 years or more, after Caltrans plans to widen Lincoln between Playa Vista and Marina del Rey to accommodate additional traffic lanes.

Tackling Trash on Ballona Creek

County leaders consider solutions, including a waterwheel collector

Los Angeles County Public Works has removed an estimated 37 tons of trash from Ballona Creek since October — but no one knows for sure how many plastic bottles, food containers and other trash bypassed failing debris retention nets and flowed directly into Santa Monica Bay during recent winter storms.

Whatever the amount, it’s too much for Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes Playa del Rey. Last week Hahn sponsored a unanimously approved board resolution seeking a multiagency report on solutions for diverting urban runoff debris from Ballona Creek and removing trash quickly once it arrives.

High on the list is a floating trash-removal conveyer system currently having success in Baltimore Harbor. Lucy Han of the Playa del Rey community organizing group Friends of the Jungle has been lobbying county officials to consider installing a trash-collecting waterwheel on Ballona Creek near Alla Road, a proposal The Argonaut reported in January.

Hahn specifically called for consideration of the waterwheel concept after displaying photos of trash floating on Ballona Creek and piled up along its banks after rainstorms.

“It’s a terrible sight to behold,” she said, “and equally distressing to me is how much trash we aren’t able to capture that flows down our waterways into the ocean and washes up on our beaches.”

“All of those pictures are right at the end of my block,” said Playa del Rey resident Natasha Khamashta, a supporter of the trash wheel concept. “This is not only a public works issue, it’s a public health issue.”

Oil Well Plugging Continues

Workers have been pouring cement 1,400 feet below Marina del Rey

It may take another four or five weeks for workers to finish sealing off the abandoned 1930s oil well at Via Marina and Tahiti Way, where a January eruption sent a mud and gas shooting into the sky.

The old well was capped to depth of 800 feet in 1959, but this time contractors for the developer building a hotel complex on the parcel are going much deeper, MdR Hotels Inc. spokesman Geoff Maleman said.

Last week workers poured two cement plugs from roughly 1,400 to 1,200 feet, and the next phase of work will include a series of five different plugs all the way up the surface. The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources will inspect and sign off on the integrity of each plug, Maleman said.

“There are many experts looking at the progress of plugging of the well right now, and there are very rigorous signoffs in place,” Los Angeles County Department of Beaches & Harbors spokesperson Carol Baker said.

Recent work became more complicated after a piece of equipment broke off and fell into the well — “a fairly common occurrence in the oil drilling industry,” according to MRS Environmental, an engineering firm hired by Los Angeles County to advise them of progress at the well.

In industry slang the lost equipment is referred to a “fish,” because retrieval involves fishing it out of the well. Workers ultimately decided to let this be a fish that got away.

“It was determined that the only way to remove the equipment was through high-risk operations, so the engineers decided  plug the well with the ‘fish’ inside the hole,” Baker explained.