Figueroa Comeback

Figueroa Comeback

Courtesy Melendrez, Gehl Architects, and Troller Mayer Associates

One of LA’s most important urban projects is back on track after the dissolution of California redevelopment funding almost shut it down for good.

A plan of streetscape improvements.

Since 2010, the MyFigueroa project had tried, through street, landscape, and land-use planning studies, to pave the way for the city’s most innovative pedestrian and bicycle environment along Figueroa Boulevard between LA Live, on the southern end of Downtown, and Exposition Park, adjacent to USC. It included separated cycle lanes and improvements to streetscape, pedestrian infrastructure, and transit stops.

The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles had served as custodian to the $30 million Proposition 1C grant funding the project. But once the California State Supreme Court dissolved the state’s redevelopment agencies at the end of 2011, it fell into limbo.

But in early April, the LA mayor’s office and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (DOT) struck a deal to move administrative oversight of the project to the DOT. Now MyFigueroa appears primed to move forward quickly. According to Tim Fremaux, a city traffic engineer, DOT will bundle the project’s environmental review with that of the city’s plans to build 40 miles of bike lanes. DOT would serve as lead agency on MyFigueroa’s construction, overseeing work by a yet-to-be-determined contractor. The Proposition 1C grant money will fund it, and additional Metro Call for Projects money could be used to improve connections between the Figueroa Street and the new Expo Line.

All told, the project will add pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements on 4.5 miles of streets along the Figueroa Corridor. LA-based landscape and urban design firm Melendrez Design Partners has already completed initial designs. The centerpiece of the project would be a separated cycle track (SCT) running in each direction along Figueroa Street between 7th and 41st streets. The SCT would slide parking spaces out toward the street, leaving curb, sidewalk, and drainage infrastructure in place.

The new streetscape includes dedicated bike lanes.

Grant funding for the MyFigueroa project also targets improvements for 11th Street from Broadway to Figueroa, Bill Robertson Lane between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Exposition Boulevard, and, finally, MLK Boulevard between Figueroa and Vermont. Eleventh Street, which feeds into LA Live, would add a bike lane and enhance pedestrian infrastructure—including a possible 19-foot-wide sidewalk. Improvements along Bill Robertson Avenue, currently flanked by a sea of surface parking lots and the LA Coliseum, could become a pedestrian promenade. MLK Boulevard would see improvements to sidewalks, setbacks, and lighting.

Melendrez principal Melani Smith said MyFigueroa will create “an amazing multi-modal link” and “a huge leap forward for the city.” An estimated 15,000 to 16,000 bikes populate the USC campus. This plus regular city and county bus lines—not to mention the opening of the Expo light rail line, slated for later this month— make the corridor an ideal location to reprogram streets as a public hub. The street, said the city’s Fremaux, would become “less of an alternative to Interstate 110, and more of a community street.”