In a public-private partnership hailed as "the wave of the future," Valencia developers and the state Department of Transportation agreed Friday to spend $250,000 for trees and shrubs to spruce up the Golden State Freeway in Valencia.
Eucalyptus, valley oak and pepper trees, oleander and purple-flowering trailing lantana shrubs will grace both sides of a 1.7-mile stretch of the freeway between McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard, as well as the entrance and exit ramps.
Caltrans agreed to contribute $125,000 to the landscaping after developers with major projects near the freeway volunteered a matching amount. Valencia Co. and Dale Poe Development each provided $62,500 through the Santa Clarita Valley Improvement Assn., a business group formed to help beautify Interstate 5.
Caltrans, which must use most of its resources to relieve traffic congestion, will provide money only for aesthetic improvements such as landscaping or sound walls if it receives matching contributions from the community, said Don Watson, Caltrans director for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Municipalities, counties or private businesses can contribute the matching funds, Watson said. Although the policy has been in effect about six years, only recently have such partnerships been formed, he added.
"It's kind of the wave of the future," Watson said after a news conference at the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce to announce and sign the agreement.
The landscaping work is expected to begin by Sept. 1 and be completed in six months.
The improvement association hopes eventually to landscape the entire 10-mile stretch of the Golden State Freeway through the Santa Clarita Valley from the Calgrove exit to north of California 126 in Castaic, although it may take 20 years, said Lou Garasi, president-elect of the Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce. He said no cost estimate is available.
When it is finished, the landscaped stretch will look much like the Simi Valley Freeway between the San Diego and Foothill freeways in the northern San Fernando Valley, said Bill Koval, a Caltrans senior landscape architect.
Automatic irrigation systems will be installed on the landscaped stretches. The trees and shrubbery will be maintained by Caltrans.
Valencia Co., a division of Newhall Land & Farming Co., has residential and commercial developments under way on each side of the freeway, and Dale Poe Development has a 5,400-unit residential development west of the freeway, Garasi said.
The beautification effort was coordinated by state Sen. Ed Davis, a Valencia Republican, who said he became disgusted with "beer cans, bottles, even used condoms" littering the freeway.
"It says 'Golden State Freeway,' " Davis said. "It doesn't look golden. . . . It's a dung pile."
Davis acknowledged that planting trees will not prevent motorists from littering. But, he said, he has also sponsored a bill that would require convicted first-time drunk-driving offenders to choose between spending 48 hours in jail or six days picking up freeway litter. The Senate Judiciary Committee sent the measure to the full Senate on May 5.
Neither sentences of jail time nor of work time are now mandatory for first-time drunk-driving offenders, Davis said.
"I hope to produce a lot more volunteers to clean up highways and freeways," Davis said.