The county Transportation Commission will consider giving higher priority to a proposed widening of the Antelope Valley Freeway, as well as a recommendation to almost double the size of the project, officials said Monday.
That decision came after county Supervisor Mike Antonovich and representatives from Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita lobbied the finance and programming committee of the Transportation Commission Monday. They urged top priority for the proposed widening of the freeway, citing increases in traffic accidents and major rush-hour congestion on the main route to the fast-growing Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.
County officials had initially ranked the project near the bottom of 96 freeway improvement projects recommended for state transportation money. But a spokeswoman said the project's status was changed after further study and complaints from Antonovich and others that officials had used outdated traffic counts.
"We definitely agree that it deserves higher priority," said Transportation Commission spokeswoman Erica Goebel.
In its current form, the $25-million project would widen the rugged mountain route from San Fernando Road north to the Agua Dulce area. But committee members directed staff Monday to consider an expanded recommendation: that the widening from four to six and six to eight lanes extend north to Palmdale, encompassing more than 30 miles and costing about $50 million, officials said.
"We feel like we were heard," said Lancaster Public Works Director Jeff Long, who estimated that use of the freeway has increased up to 40% in two years. "They listened, and they responded very well. We basically came out with what we asked for."
The committee will meet July 25 to decide on those recommendations and others on an advisory list of freeway improvements to be considered in the fall by state officials. The funding will come from Proposition 111, a gasoline tax approved by voters last month.
An Antonovich deputy cautioned that the future of the freeway project still depends on decisions by county and state officials over the next several months.
"It's definitely a step," said the aide, Rose Kortizija. "We're encouraged. But it's not over yet."