Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
It's this way or the highway! Use this new auxiliary lane to all Downtown Los Angeles exits from northbound I-110.

Downtown LA: The Great Wide Way
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 09/2012

The Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110) Widening and Rehabilitation Project has made several structural and operational improvements for smoother and safer access to and from downtown Los Angeles.

(click on photos to enlarge)

A short, but busy one-and-a-half mile segment of Interstate 110 (Harbor Freeway) through downtown Los Angeles carries nearly 290,000 vehicles per day during peak commute times.

Over 58 years ago, in March 1954, a 1.1-mile section of I-110 between 3rd Street and Olympic Boulevard opened to traffic. At that time, The Los Angeles Times described it as "a modern maze of on-ramps and off-ramps for almost all of the streets feeding into - or out of - the downtown district."

It was.

Today, adding to high daily traffic counts is constant nightly influxes of people and vehicles heading to around-the-clock entertainment and sport venues.

You know the location! Approaching downtown LA at the I-110/I-10 connector, a hoppin’ entertainment district that includes the Convention Center, Staples Center, L.A. Live, Nokia Theatre, and The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels is just blocks away.

A $55 million Caltrans project that will enhance motorists’ access to and from the downtown area is nearing its final few months of construction. The project started in December 2009 includes many structural improvements and operational improvements to enhance safety and traffic flow on this corridor.

The project limits extend from a half-mile south of Washington Boulevard to north of Wilshire Boulevard, and include West 6th and 8th streets, Olympic, Pico, and Venice boulevards. The project widened lanes in both directions; widened bridge structures and ramps; realigned and reconstructed ramps, added merge and auxiliary lanes and a concrete median barrier; and improved the I-110/I-10 interchange connector.

The only remaining work involves restriping the ramps and lanes. The project is on schedule to complete this fall.

Until now, this Harbor Freeway segment connecting downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) has not been substantially improved since it opened in 1954. In 1984, the 30-year-old freeway successfully carried traffic to the LA Coliseum and to the University of Southern California during the Summer Olympic Games.

“For nearly six decades, this segment of Interstate 110 handled traffic volumes beyond its design capacity, resulting in significant congestion,” said Ragy Samy, Caltrans Construction Resident Engineer. “Motorists will now experience a smoother transition between I-110 and I-10.”

For example, motorists entering the 8th Street on-ramp to southbound I-110 will be able to stay in one lane and safely access eastbound I-10 without weaving, said Samy.

The improvements to the Harbor Freeway are part of a long-term regional plan to increase transportation options, enhance regional connectivity and improve traffic flow on the I-110 and I-10 freeways.

One such long-range improvement on northbound I-110 will come with the future extension of the Harbor Transitway from where it currently ends at Adams Boulevard to Union Station, where commuters can connect to buses, rail, Metrolink and Amtrak trains. Another new transportation option is the Metro ExpressLanes, or High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane project opening this fall on I-110 from State Route 91 to Adams Boulevard in downtown LA.

The 1954 LA Times article also reported that the [110] freeway was "expected to do much to alleviate traffic congestion in the business district." Just imagine what ‘traffic congestion’ meant to motorists back then.

This photo shows the new auxiliary lane on northbound I-110 from Olympic Blvd. to 6th St.  Another auxiliary lane was constructed on southbound I-110 between Olympic and 4th Street. Now Open!  The northbound I-110 on-ramp at 11th Street has been realigned, and the southbound I-110 on-ramp and bridge have been widened. This is the northbound I-110 on-ramp at 11th Street in the works!  The making of an auxiliary lane in downtown LA.