DOWNEY - Downey city officials are encouraging residents to sign a petition requesting Caltrans provide greater amenities for neighborhoods affected by the I-5 widening project, which is set to begin construction in 2013.During a community meeting last Wednesday at Redeemer Covenant Church, public works city staff updated residents living north of Cecilia Street and east of Fairford Avenue who will be highly impacted when the 5 Freeway is expanded. "It will be inconvenient for a while," said Ed Norris, Downey's deputy director of public works. According to the Downey public works department, 12 homes in northeast Downey have already been razed in advance of the widening freeway. The project will also surpass Dollison Drive, turning Quinn, Muller, and Buell streets into cul-de-sacs. "Also, for residents who go to school at Santa Fe High School, they'll have to walk further -- down Fairford to Florence and cross the freeway there," said Norris confirming that no new pedestrian overpass will be constructed across the freeway. Florence Avenue, one of the major frontage roads along the I-5 Freeway, will also be widened to accommodate another lane, which is expected to help ease traffic along the overcrossing from Studebaker Road to Orr and Day Road. Due to the many concessions being made by residents, city officials are hopeful that in addition to landscaping the front of the freeway sound wall, which will cap each cul-de-sac, Caltrans will agree to resurface the streets and pay for additional street lights. "We'd like them to include security lighting, benches, and litter receptacles so it will resemble a park," Norris said. "We started a petition in order to show Caltrans the strong level of support. We want to give them an opportunity to be a good neighbor." Built more than 50 years ago, the seven-mile stretch of the 5 Freeway from the I-605 to the Orange County line is one of the most congested segments in the United States. With a price tag of $1.6 billion, Caltrans is hoping the expansion project will ease the bumper to bumper grind through south Los Angeles County by widening the freeway, replacing the existing three general purpose lanes with five lanes -- four general purpose lanes and one carpool lane. Despite the long-term benefits, Norris acknowledged the expansion will mean many months of noise, dust, temporary closures and construction equipment for Downey residents living along the I-5 Freeway. "This is our first step of public outreach, but we want to hold a follow-up meeting," he said. "This widening project is coming. We want to make the residents aware that we'll do what we can to minimize the impact."
********** Published: December 27, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 37