A revised decades-old plan to construct an interchange on the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405) at Arbor Vitae Street in Inglewood has caught the attention of some Westchester residents with concerns regarding traffic on neighboring streets and access to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has announced an initial proposal to construct a new south-half interchange on the 405 Freeway in Inglewood, creating a new southbound on-ramp to the freeway from Arbor Vitae as well as a new northbound off-ramp to Arbor Vitae. The project would additionally widen the Arbor Vitae overcrossing bridge and reconstruct the Century Boulevard on-ramp crossover lane.

Project manager John Vassiliades of Caltrans noted that the project is a “scaled-down version” of previous proposals, including a planned full interchange at Arbor Vitae that was presented about ten years ago. The full interchange plan and earlier proposals were dropped due to issues such as funding and neighborhood opposition, he said.

Though still in the early stages, the half interchange is intended to reduce heavy congestion at the Century and Manchester boulevard interchanges of the freeway, which see much of the airport- and residential-related traffic, according to Caltrans. The project would provide direct access to the freeway from Arbor Vitae, which runs parallel to Manchester and Century, as well as to popular places like Hollywood Park Casino and the Forum, Vassiliades noted.

“It will provide access east and west of Arbor Vitae to major points of interest,” the project manager said. “The intent is to alleviate congestion on the 405 Freeway and improve the operational characteristics of the other interchanges.”

The addition of an Arbor Vitae interchange is also expected to reduce travel times to nearby locations for motorists who use the freeway, he said.

Caltrans has sought a preliminary environmental assessment study for the project which is currently available for public review. Comments on the study can be submitted to the department through Wednesday, February 3rd.

The department presented its latest interchange proposal at a community meeting January 19th in Inglewood, where area residents voiced concerns about potential impacts on local corridors and the airport.

Westchester-Playa neighborhood council member David Coffin said he submitted a request to the state department for a highway capacity analysis to be done. According to a traffic study, up to 40,000 vehicle trips through the Arbor Vitae interchange are projected by 2034, he said, adding that there is no report of which streets the vehicles are likely to travel.

“That’s why a highway capacity study is so important; we need to know where those cars are going to go,” Coffin said.

While Caltrans representatives laid out their plans at a recent Westchester-Playa neighborhood council meeting, the board has not taken a position on the issue. Some Westchester residents say they are skeptical that the freeway project is not designed to support possible airport expansion by opening another access to LAX.

“It may not be their (department’s) number one purpose but it certainly has the impacts for LAX anyway you shape it,” said Denny Schneider, Westchester-Playa council member and president of ARSAC (Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion). “Even if it’s not the intention, the consequence will be there.”

Coffin also noted that there has been a concern over the years that such a project could increase the airport’s capacity in the long term by having more vehicles using Arbor Vitae to get to Westchester Parkway and LAX.

Caltrans officials rejected the argument that the project is designed to improve access to the airport, saying it is simply meant to reduce congestion at other interchanges.

“It’s not our focus to relieve congestion to the airport; we are relieving congestion on our highway system,” said Vassiliades, adding that the 405 Freeway is one of the most congested in the nation.

But he acknowledged that the interchange plan would inevitably bring some benefits to the international airport because of its proximity.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said it is too early in the process to take a position but he supports his Westchester constituents in wanting to ensure that issues of traffic and airport capacity are addressed.

“I will have to see how they take this to the next level but we will be part of the process to protect the people of Westchester,” Rosendahl said.

Public comments on the environmental study can be submitted by mail through February 3rd to:

Ronald Kosinski, deputy director, Division of Environmental Planning (Arbor Vitae), California Department of Transportation, 100 South Main St. MS 16A, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Information on the project, www.accessarborvitae.com/.