Motorists cruising on Coldwater Canyon Drive these days are confronted with an all-too dreaded site: orange cones in the middle of the street; a sudden change from multiple lanes to one; and construction crews in the 10-mile road.
What they’re encountering as their vehicle slows when entering the canyon from the Beverly Hills side is a long-needed public works project in Coldwater Canyon to replace aging pipeline and install new pipeline. Commuters who rely on the winding canyon road to drive from Beverly Hills to Studio City are likely already experiencing the traffic impact of the effort.
The water main replacement project commenced in February and is expected to continue through Spring 2024. Coldwater Canyon Drive from Rexford Drive to Monte Cielo Drive is impacted. That stretch of the of the road will have only one lane in each direction. In certain locations, however, only one lane will be available for both directions.
According to the city, “Replacing these pipelines is critical to maintaining the city’s water infrastructure as they were installed in the 1920s to 1960s and have been the site of several water main breaks in recent years.”
Last fall, some residents in Beverly Hills who reside around the canyon were out of water for over 24 hours because of the antiquated pipelines.
Shana Epstein, the city’s director of public works, strongly recommends that motorists seek alternate routes, such as Laurel Canyon Boulevard or Benedict Canyon Drive.
“If you don’t live there, you shouldn’t be driving there,” Epstein said. “If you insist on going down there as a commuter, we hope people will be cognizant of residents who need to get in and out of their driveways.
“We hope they’re respectful,” Epstein said, “not honking out of frustration.”
Work hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday, excluding holidays. The precise impact the project has on lane closures is changing week by week, and the city is notifying residents of the changes throughout the process.
Epstein called the road work a “complex project.” Along with approximately one-dozen people on the construction crew, there’s a project manager, an inspector, a city engineer and an engineering manager.
Samer Elayyan, the city’s engineering manager overseeing the project, said the equipment involved includes a concrete truck that backfills the trench up to a certain level with cement and sand.
An additional machine performs the excavation work, and approximately one dozen workers, including traffic control employees and construction crew, are on the site at any given time.
If motorists are commuting on Coldwater Canyon Drive before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m., they won’t see workers or the heavy equipment, but they will see signs of construction.
During non-work hours, a seal plate is laid over the excavated part of the road so cars can drive over it safely.
With narrower lanes running in each direction, the traffic commute “should be slower because of the construction zone,” Elayyan said.
Williams Pipeline Contractors, the city’s contractor, is carrying out the construction. The company secured the job following a competitive bidding process.
As those who’ve driven the canyon road recently have seen, construction crews are currently digging up the street. And after the piping is replaced, the workers will have to reconstruct the street, an elaborate effort that Epstein anticipates will take months.
The road work is only the latest obstacle drivers are facing when taking Coldwater. During the heavy rains this past winter, the road, where it intersects with Rexford, was closed altogether because of mudslides and a sinkhole, prompting residents to complain on social media neighborhood app Nextdoor while recommending the 405 Freeway as an alternate route.
The project has already caused major inconvenience for traffic-weary commuters. In March, the city issued a traffic advisory. A sign on Coldwater Canyon Road at Ventura Boulevard now informs motorists to expect delays as long as 60 minutes.
Students and faculty from Harvard-Westlake School on Coldwater Canyon told the school’s student newspaper they are worried it will affect arrival times at the school. The school plans to make adjustments based on how the project affects students’ driving routes.
Epstein stressed the importance of driving respectfully through the area because it is a construction site right now.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience,” she said. “Ultimately, this will be an improvement in terms of reliability for our customers on the hillside.”