Loma signal back on track
By Kelly Feser Eells
While not exactly "soothing,"
the sound of construction is music to many a Mira Monte resident's
ear these days - especially since "these days" were
so long in the coming.
Indeed, many people had given up hope of ever seeing so much
as a jackhammer on the corner of Loma Drive and Highway 33, much
less a traffic signal.
But construction on the long-awaited signal has, as of yesterday,
officially begun. "We expect it will be finished by mid-September,"
said Judy Gish, Caltrans Media Relations representative.
Former Mira Monte Elementary School Principal Larry Hartmann
spent 15 years lobbying for improved safety at the intersection,
where he regularly provided "back-up" crossing guard
duty. As a direct result of his efforts, flashing yellow "crosswalk
ahead" lights were installed in 1995, with a secure "promise"
of full signalization by September of 2000.
Hartmann, who had retired that same year, kept his hand in the
project. Increasingly frustrated, by August of 2001 he'd had
enough. "Their promises," he said, "just don't
seem to mean much."
Then-project manager Gary Kevorkian cited budget constraints,
explaining that "previously unforeseen road and utility
upgrades to the area had added some $35,000 to the project."
Caltrans spokesperson Ivy Estrada noted that, until "a budget
is hammered out between the state and the county (which had agreed
to pay for a third of the project), reflected the plan revisions,
the project's on hold."
At a Highway 33 Improvement Committee meeting six months later,
Kevorkian announced 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. Construction," he added,
"could begin as early as June (2002)."
But last July, then-project manager Abdi Saghafi admitted that
the project had not yet gone out to bid, and then, "Until
the governor signs the budget, our hands are tied."
Saghafi was replaced by (current) project manager Mohammad Toutourchian,
who, in November, confirmed that a contract had been awarded
to Taft Electric and that "construction should start by
the end of this year or January (2003), at the latest."
However, the project was delayed yet again in March. "The
delay is only temporary," Toutourchian assured the committee
and concerned members of the public. "Once Quality Control
approves the contractor's corrected plans, once we know the pole
is okay, we'll be able to start construction. Probably by early
The Ojai Valley News
to the news