As you may have read last week on Streetsblog or Biking in LA, a section of the Westholme Sharrows have been recently paved over. Nobody is more disappointed by this turn of events than LADOT Bike Blog. Reapplying the Sharrows has become the top priority in the LADOT Bikeways division. We expect work crews to start reinstalling the Sharrows soon. But more than reassurances that Sharrows are coming back, we should also give you an idea of how this happened in the first place.
LADOT & BSS
While LADOT is responsible for moving traffic on LA’s streets and striping lane markings on the roadway, it is a division of the Department of Public Works, the Bureau of Street Services (BSS), which is responsible for maintaining the quality of roadways. It is the BSS that fixes potholes, repairs pavement, and repaves the streets. They’ve got a very handy online request form for any street repair needs.
Most times, LADOT and BSS have excellent lines of communication. It was cooperation between BSS and LADOT that allowed LADOT to put 2 miles of bike lanes on Wilbur Avenue when BSS began a resurfacing program. This time, however, the lines of communication failed. We apologize for that. While most the scheduled resurfacing projects are on LADOT’s radar, the locations for the slurry seal project in the Westholme area were not transmitted to LADOT in time. Due to the speed of the slurry seal project, LADOT didn’t get all the information quickly enough when BSS decided to expand their project at Westholme.
Repave v. Slurry Seal
It may seem like arcane bureaucratic terminology, but there is a very big difference between a repaving project and a slurry seal project.
A repaving project is when work crews completely break up and remove the pavement on a street before putting down new asphalt or concrete. These types of projects are typically done on streets that have fallen into complete disrepair; These roadways need to be rebuilt from the bottom up. Repaving projects usually require a good amount of budget and planning ahead of time, which allows BSS to coordinate with LADOT before the projects begin.
A slurry seal project, however, is a much faster and low-cost maintenance operation. Rather than tearing out an existing roadway that is decent condition, work crews will lay an extra layer of surface (called “slurry seal“) over the existing pavement to seal any cracks or bumps in the roadway. Slurry seal projects are a great way to maintain a roadway that is still in good condition but is wearing down or has a few rough patches. Slurry seal projects also have the benefit of being much cheaper and much faster than repaving projects. In this particular instance, the slurry seal project in the Westholme area went through so quickly that BSS and LADOT weren’t able to coordinate the project. LADOT management is now working with BSS management to make sure such mistakes won’t take place again.
Another issue complicating the replacement of Sharrows on Westholme Avenue is that the Sharrows aren’t yet in a Street Plan for Westholme Avenue. Many streets in Los Angeles have a corresponding street plan at LADOT. A street plan shows the width of the street, lanes, and curbs as well as the street markings and signs on that particular street. When a street is resurfaced by BSS, LADOT first looks at the street plan to see what kind of striping needs to be applied or updated.
The problem on Westholme is that Sharrows aren’t on the street plan yet. And no, Sharrows not being on the street plan is not part of a grand LADOT conspiracy to make sure Sharrows fail.
Sharrows aren’t yet on the street plan because they’re part of a test study. When you get a marking put onto a street plan, it’s pretty serious. Once it’s on the plan, it can take months to get that plan changed. Since the recommended placement of Sharrows may change depending on the results of the test study, it would not make very much sense to put Sharrows on the street plan at 11 feet if LADOT Bikeways ends up recommending they be placed at 12 feet.
So, when do we get the Sharrows back?
We won’t have to wait for the results of the test study before the Sharrows are replaced on Westholme Avenue. LADOT plans to replace the Sharrows as soon as possible, and City Staff is evaluating the most fiscally efficient method for the re-installation. Just as soon as we have more information or a schedule for the Sharrows re-installation, LADOT Bike Blog will let you know.