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Why is there no construction work happening where traffic is restricted?

Component Parts of a Roadway Work Zone (Lane Closing) Los Angeles is known for many things – beautiful weather, the beach, palm trees, the Hollywood scene, professional sports teams like the Kings, Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, and most especially, traffic.

Yes, traffic. It is such a popular topic in fact, that many conversations that talk about how long it takes to get from one part of L.A. to another ends with the statement, “That’s without traffic.”

With road congestion being such a hot topic to Angelenos, every second spent navigating through the streets of Los Angeles is crucial. So when a driver starts seeing warnings signs saying “Construction Ahead” and lanes start reducing, yet no work is to be found, a frustrated driver would ask, “Why?”

Here’s the answer – a traffic control zone must be created in order to provide a reasonably safe environment while maintaining efficient movement on the road, which includes empty spaces to serve as a buffer between workers and live traffic.

Traffic control zones, as demonstrated in the figure, are planned together while considering several conflicting goals: the commute time of drivers, a safe construction zone, Metro’s desire to complete the project on schedule, and the work area permissions required to complete the project.

For the Purple Line Extension Project, the traffic management plans are coordinated with and approved by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and the City of Beverly Hills. The two city agencies conduct the traffic engineering review and assessments in conformance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which sets the federal and state standards for temporary lane closures, to determine the best solutions for each construction work zone.

“For every closure, we work with the cities to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the streets while complying with laws as dictated by the MUTCD,” says Gino Bondoc, Lead Traffic Engineer for the Metro Purple Line Extension.

As these traffic control plans are being developed, traffic mitigation plans are also implemented. Bondoc says, “Detour routes are provided and modified traffic signal timing are executed during construction work in order to help mitigate traffic gridlocks and heavy congestions. In some cases traffic control officers are also placed.”

Creating a safe and efficient traffic control zone that is compliant with the MUTCD is the main reason for a construction zone to appear inactive, but here are some other possible reasons why:

  • A k-rail weighs 3.9 tons each and cannot be moved easily or quickly so a k-rail needed only for certain work hours may be left there until the work in that specific area is completed.
  • Construction workers are taking the required breaks, including lunch.
  • Waiting for inspection by LADOT, City of Beverly Hills or Metro.
  • Waiting for concretes to cure or asphalt to cool.
  • Finishing work early.

The next time you’re driving down Wilshire Blvd. and see the warning signs for work ahead, remember the ultimate goal of this project. Once all three phases of the Purple Line Extension Project is complete, you can say it would take you only 25 minutes to go from Downtown Los Angeles to Westwood on the Metro Purple Line without needing to say, “That’s without traffic.”