Thursday, November 29, 2007

Caltrans Proposes Bridge Traffic Alternative

Signal-controlled traffic proposal would increase construction time

by Nao Braverman

After initially turning a deaf ear to Gridley Road and Grand Avenue residents, Caltrans officials finally offered an alternative to a proposed detour that would divert approximately 9,700 Highway 150 commuters onto a residential street for six months.
The prospective detour, intended to direct traffic off Highway 150 while Caltrans repairs the San Antonio Creek Bridge, has raised the ire of a number of Gridley Street dwellers and their neighbors.
With a great deal of haggling from local residents and transportation officials, Caltrans engineer Steve Novotny, finally offered the city an alternative, albeit one that was not necessarily more attractive than the original offer.
The unwelcome detour had proposed to divert East Ojai Avenue traffic onto a residential portion of Gridley Road, then to Grand Avenue from Gridley to Gorham Road, and then back to Highway 150 while the bridge was being reconstructed. In response, a slew of neighborhood residents who feared the onslaught of highway traffic would endanger pedestrians on their residential streets, fought for alternatives.
The Caltrans proposed alternative, would be a two-phased bridge construction, whereby the bridge replacement would be done one lane at a time with a signal-controlled single lane of traffic over the bridge. This alternative, however, would increase the project duration from the originally proposed six months to two years, because Caltrans regulations only allow construction to occur during the dry season, according to Novotny.
At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, a handful of Gridley Street residents encouraged CIty Council to ask Caltrans to opt for the two-phased construction alternative, but some East End residents were in favor of the original plan, to get the replacement done as quickly as possible.
Boardman Road residents Pat and Larry Hartmann said that they had been begging Caltrans to get the bridge replaced for 10 years, with no response until now. The precarious state of the structure had put their property in danger of being washed away. Pieces of it had fallen off during previous storms and continued to pose a threat to their property. They begged that the council encourage Caltrans to get the replacement done as quickly as possible.
"When people see 10 cars in line for the bridge, they are going to go up Grand Avenue, increasing traffic in those neighborhoods anyhow," said Larry Hartmann. "If you chose the alternative, the wildlife under the bridge is going to be disrupted for two years instead of six months. It sounds like the cure is worse than the problem," he said.
But Gridley Road resident Peter Cantle disagreed. He questioned the need for the bridge replacement, and along with a number of other speakers including Stan Greene, Michael Shapiro, and Maria Studer, wondered whether Caltrans was eager to replace the bridge so that it could accommodate an influx of gravel trucks from the surrounding gravel mines. But if it had to be done at all, Cantle preferred the alternative to a detour that would redirect traffic rushing by his Gridley home.
Currently, the 28-foot-wide, 120-foot-long bridge, considered by Caltrans to be in "scour critical condition," is scheduled to be strengthened and expanded to 40 feet across and 180 feet long which includes a 4-foot-wide bike lane in the spring of 2008.
City manager Jere Kersnar conceded that after careful examination of the bridge by city transportation manager Mike Culver, city staff was not convinced that replacement of the bridge was as urgent as Caltrans claimed. Culver said that additional support to the structure would suffice to keep it safe for at least some time.
Richard McArthur, owner of Ojai Lumber Co., said that although he recognized the need for a bridge replacement, a detour would make it almost impossible for citrus trucks and any other large vehicles to get to and from the East End. There is no way for a 40-foot semi to safely go around the tight turn on Gorham Road, he said. "A traffic signal is probably the better solution, at least the lesser of two evils." The claim that the bridge was being strengthened to accommodate gravel trucks did not make sense to McArthur, because the trucks are allowed on the bridge as it is, with or without the replacement, he said.
Councilman Joe DeVito agreed and doubted that Caltrans had any ulterior motives. As a member of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, he had seen the 90-year-old bridge on the schedule for replacement for years, he said.
Councilmembers Sue Horgan and DeVito both felt that the bridge needed to be widened, at least, to be safe enough for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross. However, since the majority of citizens opposed the detour, and it did indeed seem inappropriate to direct such traffic through a residential neighborhood, council unanimously decided to notify Caltrans that they did not grant permission for the city streets to be used for a detour during the bridge reconstruction.
Though council members were not pleased with the second option that Caltrans offered, especially since it increased the project's time span, they were reluctant to tell Caltrans how to do their project. Instead they asked staff to notify the agency that they were not granting them the permission to use city streets as a detour. However the project proceeds, it should not include the use of city streets, said Kersnar. How they should proceed with the project under those conditions would appropriately be left up to Caltrans, he said.
The City Council unanimously agreed.
"One thing nice about Caltrans is that it treats both those who are for the bridge replacement and those who are against it, equally," said Councilman Steve Olsen. "It ignores both of them."

10 comments:

James Hatch said...

Why cowtow to this project? Do we really need a bridge? Seems like everyone is just fine with the current bridge.

I am sick and tired of these government projects that take so long. Two years??? Dry Season??? Try two months max if these tax dollar leaches posing as construction crews making prevailing wages weren't paid by the hour. Why not give them the incentive to earn more in less time.

Enough is enough. We don't need this bridge. Bikers and peds can easily cross it now.

Wake up and smell the stench of the fat from the porkbelly roasting.

Anonymous said...

Don't be a fool we need infrastructure now. Build it in 6 months not two years. Quit crying about the detour.

furry herbalist said...

Hmmmm...Let me think. Wait in line for a one lane bridge crossing or jog onto Grand and into town. Locals who live east of the bridge won't be waiting in line I can assure you, especially if we are asked to deal with the inconvenience for 2 years. If the bridge needs replacing instead of repairing, then do it in 6 months and get it over with.

What I want to know is why they can't build a ped/bike lane on the outside of the bridge.

B Dawson

Anonymous said...

Obviously Mr Hatch was not around in January of 1969 when the bridge on Ojai Avenue AND the bridge on Grand Avenue both were rendered impassible for weeks by damage during the heavy flooding of that REALLY wet winter. The Ojai Avenue bridge for sure needs to be dealt with. They need to just get the project over with in as little time as possible. B has a great idea with the separate bike/ped bridge. And she also pointed out that none of the locals who know the area are going to sit and wait for a stupid traffic light anyhow!!

The city needs to get Cal Trans to kick down some bucks for the cost of increased traffic patrol during the quick-as-possible option and just get it over with. That would be cheaper than a two year project. And the whiners like Mr Cantle on Gridly just need to suck it up and realize that not doing this project would have a longer term impact on more people than just he and his neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Obviously Mr Hatch was not around in January of 1969 when the bridge on Ojai Avenue AND the bridge on Grand Avenue both were rendered impassible for weeks by damage during the heavy flooding of that REALLY wet winter. The Ojai Avenue bridge for sure needs to be dealt with. They need to just get the project over with in as little time as possible. B has a great idea with the separate bike/ped bridge. And she also pointed out that none of the locals who know the area are going to sit and wait for a stupid traffic light anyhow!!

The city needs to get Cal Trans to kick down some bucks for the cost of increased traffic patrol during the quick-as-possible option and just get it over with. That would be cheaper than a two year project. And the whiners like Mr Cantle on Gridly just need to suck it up and realize that not doing this project would have a longer term impact on more people than just he and his neighbors.

James Hatch said...

James Hatch is presumptively skeptical of any government project. We had a wet winter in '05 and cars are still driving over the bridge.

A great politician is also a great diplomat, willing to give and take for the greater good. In that sense, James Hatch is a utilitarian.

If the consensus is that we need a bridge, build it quick, hold the contractors accountable, and watch the waste, such as that on the Santa Clara 101 project.

Anonymous said...

My dog is presumptively skeptical of any government project. We had a wet winter in '05 and cars are still driving over the bridge.

A great politician is also a great diplomat, willing to give and take for the greater good. In that sense, My dog is a utilitarian.

My dog says if the consensus is that we need a bridge, build it quick, hold the contractors accountable, and watch the waste, such as that on the Santa Clara 101 project.

James Hatch said...

Anonymous,

You should keep an open mind when you talk to your dog. Can liberals do that when the opinions are different than their own?

Anonymous said...

You should keep an open mind when you talk to liberals. Can you do that when their opinions are different than their own?

Anonymous said...

My left finger thinks these are pretty good ideas. My cat does too. I should talk to more democrats. Anonymous, you are a moron. If you're going to criticize Hatch, do it. His opinions are so far gone from reality, it should be pretty easy to do.