Notes on LA Riverfront Park Phase III

As it’s hard to find good news as the year winds down, last Wednesday evening I got an update on the LA Riverfront Park Phase III as part of the Local Volunteer Neighborhood Oversight Committee.

Right now, this project is tasked of connecting the westernmost section of the river path (which extends from Owensmouth to Vanalden) to White Oak and Lake Balboa Park.

Most of this portion has been designed, updated and given community output, so we’re further along in the process than most people think with construction slated to start in the summer of 2021.

Engineering of the path is straightforward as the embankments allow for similar passage under major streets like in western portion or Fletcher through the Elysian Valley.


Upgrades at White Oak


At the same time, more than half of the path will have a separate lane for walkers and joggers where space allows it.

Another interesting detail is how the path will be widened underneath the overpasses as cyclists will be hitting higher speeds coming off of the downslope.

The main focus of the evening was the treatment at White Oak as the path eastbound transitions from the south side of the river to the north by a protected two-way bike lane.

While it may sound strange of the path to go north only a half mile before jogging back to the south on Balboa, this configuration actually overall helps getting around on a bike until they build a river connection through Sepulveda Dam & the 405 (which may never happen).


LA Riverfront Park Alignment


Currently, the two best options getting from the middle to the westside of the San Fernando Valley with a bike is going by the Orange Line Bike Path (which you’ll split equal time riding & stopped at red lights) or putting you bike on the Orange Line BRT which is hit or miss with only three bike racks.

While the existing three mile section is a quick way to get across, right now it’s far from any great connections on Vanalden making the path a bit of an island for commuters.

When the path connects to Lake Balboa, you’ll be able to get to Sepulveda on the other side of the 405 with only two at-grade crossings (and only one if you choose to stay on the river path and jog up Balboa Ave).

This is huge because the potential Valley to Westside rail line may have a station there.

While the rail should take no more than 20 minutes to reach Westwood (much faster if it’s subway), getting through the 405 to reach the rail line will be problematic if you’re traveling by car.

If the station gets selected on Van Nuys instead of Sepulveda, then the good news is that there will be an elevated bikeway as part of the Orange Line upgrades that will make biking more viable over driving.


Metro Los Angeles conceptual drawing of Sepulveda overpass with elevated bikeway


In other words, the two mile connection to Lake Balboa will transform three miles of unencumbered east / west access to ten miles into the most vital transit corridor in the Valley with just a couple of at grade crossing.

I also forgot to mention White Oak will have protected bike lanes from Victory to Oxnard connecting to the Orange Line Bike Path, so that’s bonus infrastructure too.

While we’ve been getting bits and pieces on the eastside of the River Path, extending the western portion will be a big boon for the Valley.