NBCUniversal is hard as work remaking both its theme park and pretty much the entire composition of the southeastern tip of the San Fernando Valley. One of the expected casualties of the $1.6-billion NBCUniversal Evolution expansion is the Barham Boulevard offramp on the southbound 101 Freeway. To make way for a new offramp that will feed Universal guests directly onto the 101, the Barham ramp was set to close for good in spring of 2016. But now with construction ahead of schedule, Caltrans has announced they're actually closing it later this week instead, reports the Beverly Press. Local residents already fuming over Caltrans's perceived preference towards CityWalk guests are not taking the news lightly.
NBCUniversal says the new onramp will take 70 percent of Universal Studios traffic off local streets. Even so, nearby residents are pissed—now, 101 commuters can either exit early at Lankershim and drive local streets or drive farther south and deal with the traffic at Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Both options are less than ideal for those used to having an offramp close by.
Some have fought back—local advocacy group Keep the Barham Ramp Association went on a lawsuit bonanza in January, suing Universal Studios, Caltrans, the city of Los Angeles, and LA County to stop the project. They claimed the public was not properly notified of the ramp closure because the plans were tucked away in an addendum to the project's environmental impact report and the Barham ramp was even referred to as the "Bennett offramp" in the document.
John Strozdas, president of Keep the Barham Ramp Association, called the closure "unconscionable" and said the ramp should not be closed while their lawsuit is still pending. This July, a judge threw out the lawsuit and Keep the Barham appealed, hoping that would be enough to keep their ramp closure campaign on life support. It appears, though, that unless something dramatic happens before October 17, the fight has been lost.
But why not have both onramps? The Barham ramp closure is due to a Caltrans safety issue they call "weaving." Ramps too close to one another can cause a deadly mixture of cars speeding onto the freeway and having to weave into cars slowing down to exit. Caltrans requires at least a 1,500-foot distance between ramps, and since the distance between Barham and the new ramp is only about 500 feet, Barham has got to go.
NBCUniversal is not shying away from the fact that their expansion is dramatically altering traffic patterns nearby. The Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors put NBCUniversal's plan through a lengthy vetting process to address the concerns of residents. To gain approvals, NBCUni had to throw some $3.75 million towards improving traffic in the areas surrounding their campus.
· Barham offramp to close permanently this weekend [Beverly Press]
· Cahuenga Passers Suing to Keep 101 Barham Offramp Open [Curbed LA]
· Burbank Getting Cash to Deal With NBCUniversal Project Traffic [Curbed LA]
· Report on NBC's Universal Evolution Almost As Large As Project Itself [Curbed LA]