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8 Improvements Suggested For the 110's Arroyo Seco Parkway

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News broke over the weekend of a new report from Caltrans that recommends a reduced speed limit for the section of the 110 Freeway between Glenarm Street in Pasadena and the 5 intersection in Highland Park. The Daily News reports that the Historic Arroyo Seco Parkway Corridor Partnership Plan would lower the speed limit on that stretch of road from 55 mph to 45 mph. Caltrans has already changed the name of the Pasadena Freeway in that area to the Arroyo Seco Parkway just to enable such a move: "By dropping the 'freeway,' Caltrans can change the rules on the narrow, winding, and some say treacherous 8.2-mile portion of the 110 between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena." Among the safety improvements to be gained from lowering the speed limit, the report also indicates that by slowing down, traffic flow on the 110 will actually improve. Imagine! While asking Southern California drivers (especially those of the "Buzzbomb from Pasadena" variety) to slow down is newsworthy on its own, the Caltrans report also includes a bunch of other notable recommendations for improvements:

The report's recommendations are organized into six categories: 1) Parkway (i.e., freeway improvements), 2) Multi-Modal, 3) Natural Environment, 4) Built Environment, 5) Tourism and Marketing, and 6) Community Identity. That means that the plan lays out options and goals for low impact development, stormwater collection infrastructure, branding, and historic preservation. Here are some of the highlights:

-- The new parkway would have all the techy bells and whistles, otherwise known in transportation jargon as Intelligent Transportation System Improvements. So Sigalert will totally know when you should have taken Huntington Drive.

-- Expanded shoulders and auxiliary lanes would be added for both northbound lanes and southbound lanes. These features allow for easier merging on and off the parkway and more room for disabled vehicles.

-- A whole bunch of on- and off-ramps would be reconfigured, including, but not limited to, York Boulevard, Avenue 57, Avenue 52, and Avenue 43.

-- The plan totally gets it about the popularity of bikes: "Establish a complete, regional bikeway system as a key link in a multi-modal network supporting the Byway Corridor."

-- Also totally gets it about the popularity of walking to the bus stop to go to the store: "To continue to be a region rich in pedestrian opportunities, the Arroyo Seco Corridor needs to become more physically integrated with regard to a complete multi-modal circulation network."

-- Arroyo Seco means dry creek in Spanish, but it's not always dry. The report thus calls for better management of water resources to improve stormwater runoff and recharge groundwater basins. Flood control, however, will still be "the principal purpose of the Arroyo Seco channel."

-- And there's a nod to the preservationists; the 110 is California's first freeway, after all: "Develop a Preservation Plan for the National Register-listed Arroyo Seco historic district features outside of the Arroyo Seco Parkway including bridges, flood control channel and landscape areas (including the South Pasadena arroyo stone gateway sign) that contribute to the district."

And for you landscape architecture history nerds, here is one final fun fact: Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. (he of the New York Central Park design) designed a parkway plan for the Arroyo Seco back at the beginning of the twentieth century, but that vision was trumped by a 1940s plan for a more auto-centric feat of engineering. Despite the missed Olmstead opportunity, the 110 has achieved the historic freeway holy trinity: State Scenic Highway, National Civil Engineering Landmark, and National Scenic Byway.
· Arroyo Seco Parkway (SR-110) National Scenic Byway [Caltrans District 7]
· Caltrans wants to change speed limit on Pasadena Freeway to 45 mph [Daily News]