Creek Road residents stall
by C.A. Gilman
More than 125 people packed themselves into city chambers
Thursday night at a special City Council meeting to review a
traffic circulation study prepared by Austin-Foust & Associates,
This public workshop was to be the first of many dealing with
solutions to the traffic and circulation problems besetting Ojai.
The city hadn't anticipated the crowd of neighbors from Creek
Road and Casitas Springs. Although both areas are outside of
the city's jurisdiction, their residents were alarmed that they
would be impacted by any decisions that the city made.
Both Ojai and Ventura County had paid for the $30,000 study
that looked at traffic circulation improvements from north of
Casitas Springs to Upper Ojai. The county had asked the City
Council to review the results of the project before they took
it to their agencies.
City Manager Dan Singer facilitated the discussion and continually
stated that the study contained only ideas and examples for implementing
traffic management solutions. Despite his assurances, there was
much anger from a number of people within the audience that their
neighborhoods would be affected.
Austin Foust is a traffic and engineering firm in Santa Ana that
has worked with communities across the state on similar projects.
Joe Foust, a principal with the firm, reported on a study that
gave primarily engineering answers to traffic and circulation
problems. It didn't address other solutions such as mass transit,
pedestrian-bicycle options or employment.
One of the project's solutions included a traffic light at Creek
Road and Route 33/150 to alleviate peak hour traffic in the morning
and afternoon. The 23,000 cars a day that travel Ojai and Ventura
avenues are twice the roads' capacity. Because Creek Road and
Santa Ana Road have only 2,000 cars per day, they were looked
at as alternative routes for the three to four-hour peak
Foust said he was surprised to find that the traffic on Wednesday,
Thursday and Fridays was the same as traffic on Saturdays, and
the traffic on Sundays was just a little less.
There was major outcry to this proposal; neighbors citing increased
risk of accidents on this already accident-prone road. Creek
Road is a rural byway that circumvents the major artery through
downtown Ojai. It provides few pull-over areas to allow cars
to pass. There are also no sidewalks nor streetlights.
The county has continually stood behind Creek Road by not allowing
anything to interfere with its rural, quiet nature.
Foust's study offered other solutions such as free right-lanes
to enable a continual flow of traffic, such as at Baldwin Road
for cars going northbound. Another was for squeezing in dual
left-turn lanes, offering a test case that could be implemented
at El Roblar Drive and Maricopa Highway.
Other possibilities included roundabouts at the "Y,"
El Roblar Drive and Maricopa Highway, and at Montgomery Street
intersections; traffic signal coordination and surveillance systems;
message systems to warn motorists when the traffic is heavy;
street lighting to increase safety; and one-way directions north
on Ojai Avenue and south on Matilija Street.
Richard Keith said, "This is an opportunity to encourage
business in this community and for people to work locally."
He offers financial incentives for his employees to walk or bike
Another person suggested bike trail extensions, increased trolley
service and more pedestrian facilities.
Michael Braden said, "We need a paradigm shift in how we
can travel without using our vehicles, such as increased mass
transit such as they have in Europe."
City Council member Dave Bury said, "This is about finding
creative ideas, not only engineering ideas. This problem isn't
going to go away. There are 780,000 people in the county today.
Although Ojai is only growing by three-tenths of 1 percent per
year, the county has a 3 percent growth rate, which adds an additional
20,000 people a year to the services and roads in this area.
Tonight our little local issue became a regional issue and we
need to look at it this way."
According to Singer, the next steps will be to review the improvement
questionnaires that had been distributed earlier to those attending,
and to bring the information gathered at the workshop back to
the back to the City Council with the traffic mitigation fee
issue. He said, "There has to be a connection between assessing
a traffic mitigation fee and implementing an improvement plan
- this is a state law. The traffic mitigation fee is similar
to the flood mitigation fee that is assessed on any new development.
These fees go into a central fund that allows the city to provide
flood run-off solutions. No one person is responsible."
There is already a reciprocal traffic mitigation fee program
that the county has adopted. The county has to spend those funds
At the same time the city is reviewing their policies, the county
will be doing the same with their various agencies.
Singer added, "This is one piece of a larger puzzle. Another
question we need to look at is what kind of employment opportunities
do we want to see here so that people won't have to drive. How
do we want to behave and change?
There is a high likelihood that most of the circulations items
(in the study) won't even be tasted; but even if we take away
15 to 30 percent of the ideas it was worthwhile. The meeting
accomplished its purpose to get options out in the community
and to start looking at alternative solutions."
Those who came to Thursday night's meeting included residents
of Ojai and surrounding townships; members of the Ojai City Council;
Cindy Cantle of County Supervisor Steve Bennett's office; Butch
Brett, deputy director of Public Works Agency and director of
Ventura County Transportation Department; Gary Kervorkian of
Caltrans; members of the MAC and Highway 33 Commission; Oak View
Civic Council; Ojai Unified School District; Ojai Fire Department;
Ojai city staff; City Engineer Glenn Hawks; the Citizens to Preserve
the Ojai; the Ventura County Environmental Commission; the Transportation
Committee for Sustainable Ojai; etc.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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