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Los Angeles traffic

June 23, 2008 |  4:18 pm

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Dropcap_i_packard_2 f only Ray Hebert had asked the right question. But how was he to know? Twenty years after Ed Ainsworth focused on a "motorway" system in his series on Los Angeles traffic, Ray Hebert examines the growth of Southern California's freeways.

Unfortunately, there's no historic overview looking back at the state of the city's congested streets that led up to the development of the freeways. All we have is a point in the time line.

Hebert focuses mainly on the progress of the various freeways under construction--and the  50-year-old map contains only a few surprises for today's motorists. (There's no hint of the Century Freeway).

But here's the tantalizing part of his story. Hebert writes ominously:

"The Los Angeles area will still be beset by freeway problems when most of the persons reading this story have given way to much younger men and women."

Quoting Assistant State Highway Engineer Edward T. Telford, Hebert writes: "... freeways are a continuing thing. Our successors will still be working on them. They will still have problems."

What problems did traffic engineers foresee in 1958? Here are some hints:

"Although the system is far from complete, there are signs that some of the freeways converging at the four-level hub interchange have reached their maximum travel load....

"... Some motorists, for short, close-in trips, are going back to existing surface streets, which are being made more attractive due to efforts of local jurisdictions."   

In other words, the downtown four-level was at maximum capacity 50 years ago. And people were already choosing surface streets for short trips because of congestion. Sound familiar?

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