Costs mount for Loma light
by Kelly Feser Eells
There just may be a light at the end of the tunnel, or rather,
at the intersection of Loma Drive and Highway 33.
The last that concerned residents heard about the on-again, off-again
signal, "promised" by September 2000, was disappointing
- when asked about the delay in August of 2001, Caltrans spokesperson
Ivy Estrada stated that previously unforeseen road and utility
upgrades to the area had added some $35,000 to the project.
She explained that construction plans and the budget that had
been hammered out between the state and the county, which agreed
to pay for a third of the project, would both have to be revised.
Perhaps most disappointed of all was former Mira Monte Elementary
School Principal Larry Hartmann, who, for 15 years, nearly single-handedly
lobbied for improved safety at the intersection. "Their
promises," Hartmann was quoted as saying, "don't seem
to mean much."
As a direct result of his efforts,
flashing yellow "crosswalk ahead" lights were installed
in 1995. But after a 93-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed
in the crosswalk - used primarily by Mira Monte schoolchildren
and frequently patrolled by Hartmann himself - two years later,
a "safety index" study was initiated, with plans for
full signalization announced shortly thereafter.)
Though Caltrans traffic investigator Gary Kevorkian delivers
regular status reports at the quarterly Highway 33 Improvement
Committee meetings, his reports rarely include any details about
the on-again, off-again traffic signal. At the committee's Feb.
13 meeting, however, Kevorkian's presentation included an in-house
designed map, reflecting everything from potential "areas
of future study" (indicated by public concern) to feasible,
nonpriority, and priority projects; and, "New signal at
Route 33 and Loma Drive," per Kevorkian, is "No. 1."
In a subsequent conversation, he confirmed that, "We, the
county and the state, are in the final stages of a corporate
agreement. The bid process is being finalized as we speak."
Kevorkian added, "Construction could begin as early as June."
In other committee business, Charlie Villalvazo, treasurer of
the Courtesy on 33 campaign, reported that bumper stickers were
available to get the word out. Smiling, committee chair Lanie
Springer pointed to the batch of stickers - offered at $1 each
or, "if preferred, a 50-cent donation" to the campaign
- and told the audience, "we're putting you on the honor
California Highway Patrol Capt, Scott MacGregor said, "Well,
we're saying it (Courtesy on 33)," a reference to his agency's
increased presence in the community.
After acknowledging the CHP's ongoing participation in the grass-roots
campaign, Casitas Springs resident Diana Burns wondered if it
was possible to "get a patrolman, though I know it's expensive"
stationed near the Arroyo Mobile Home Park, if only during morning
and evening rush hours.
Springer said, "The CHP has already increased safety tremendously
for us. I've driven there - through the area in question - for
30 years, and now they (other commuters) practically coast. I'm
Villalvazo asked, "Maybe just a sign, then, like 'Radar
Burns prompted the audience's laughter by adding, "Or could
we just borrow a patrol car?"
MacGregor replied, "Yeah, but that only works for newcomers.
Soon, people start saying, 'Hey, that's a fake car.' Besides,
the problem is, usually, the people who live here." Education,
he continued, "through the local newspapers, etc., is key
" to solving the problem of discourteous and/or inattentive
motorists. "But I'm pleased that we're making a dent."
MacGregor was similarly pleased to announce that his department's
efforts to secure a traffic safety grant, a project that was
still in its conceptual stages at the committee's September 2001
meeting, had jumped another hurdle. Teresa Becher, interim director
for Sacramento's Office of Traffic Safety, allowed that the Highway
33 Corridor Safety Project had merit and, having been selected
from a "huge pool" of applications, would be included
in her office's upcoming review process.
Because grant funding is awarded on a competitive basis, OTS
encourages concepts that demonstrate a "comprehensive, multidisciplinary
approach" to addressing traffic safety, as well as those
demonstrating an applicant's ability to work with "community-based
organizations" - such as the Highway 33 Improvement Committee.
As MacGregor explained, an OTS grant, should one be awarded,
will help his department fund new traffic safety measures (developed
in collaboration with the committee) and assure the continued
implementation of several currently in use; namely, community
education and outreach; additional enforcement; and "state-of-the-art"
equipment, like radar trailers. "We're happy to have gotten
to the second tier," he said.
OTS plans on making grant funding available to successful applicants
on Oct. 1, 2002, the beginning of its 2003 federal fiscal year.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for May 8, location to
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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