About two dozen civic, business and government leaders from Ventura and Los Angeles counties have formed a "Widen the 118 Committee" to push for broadening the Simi Valley Freeway.
But a state Department of Transportation official who attended the group's first meeting on Tuesday at Simi Valley City Hall said such a project likely would take a back seat to those on other Southern California freeways with more pressing traffic problems.
"Speaking very candidly, you're looking at a degree of problems on the 118 that is not a super, major problem," said David Roper, a deputy district director of Caltrans. "The 118 is going to have a tough time competing for funds."
Roper said the Simi Valley Freeway, which now has three lanes in each direction, is not "operating at capacity" most of the time.
Nevertheless, members of the committee, after meeting for 1 1/2 hours, tentatively agreed to explore both short-term ways of alleviating rush-hour congestion on the freeway and to submit a plan to Caltrans for adding lanes in each direction, possibly from Moorpark to Balboa Boulevard in Granada Hills.
Leaders in Attendance
Attending the meeting were Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), representatives of state Sens. Ed Davis, (R-Valencia), Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) and Ventura County Supervisor James Dougherty, as well as government and private-sector leaders from Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks. The committee scheduled a second meeting for Oct. 14.
"There is an aggravation level from our citizens who travel that freeway," said Simi Valley Councilwoman Vicky Howard, who proposed formation of the committee. "That freeway is becoming the alternate route for the 101 (Ventura) Freeway, which may be the heaviest traveled freeway in the world. If we don't look ahead, we will become like the 101."
One way of smoothing the morning commute into the San Fernando Valley from Simi Valley has been in place for a year. Caltrans is allowing vehicles to use the inside shoulder of the eastbound freeway over a three-mile stretch during the morning rush hour.
Roper said the committee might encourage businesses to stagger work hours, and ask for metered lights on freeway on-ramps.
The Caltrans official said the freeways with the most severe traffic problems are the San Diego Freeway from the San Fernando Valley to Orange County, the Santa Ana Freeway from southeastern Los Angeles to Orange County and the Ventura-Hollywood Freeway.
According to figures compiled by Caltrans, an average of 69,000 vehicles uses the 118 at Tapo Canyon Road in Simi Valley daily. By contrast, an average of 251,000 vehicles a day uses the Ventura Freeway at Balboa Boulevard.