NAME: LAEL BENSON
OCCUPATION: Executive director, American Heart Assn., Ventura County chapter
COMMENTS: As a twice-daily crosser of the Saticoy Bridge, Lael Benson knows only too well the health hazards of stop-dead traffic. The tension level rises and the heart muscle stiffens to where a pulse can be measured by steam blasts out the ears.
"I saw a man virtually beat his steering wheel to pieces," said Benson, who endures one of the county's worst commuting jams between her Santa Paula house and her Camarillo office.
In traffic terms, the Saticoy Bridge is a troll that eats billy goats for breakfast. Some humans have no choice but to cross it.
"If you live in Santa Paula and want to get to Camarillo, you end up in the same bottleneck no matter what you do," said Benson, who commutes in a 1986 Mazda pickup. "You learn to live with it, but it's sure an incredible waste of time sitting in a metal container trying to inch your way along."
NAME: KEITH TURNER
OCCUPATION: Ventura County planning director
COMMENTS: After years of studying how to build cities, Keith Turner learned that the path to commuter nirvana is living near work.
While other commuters are constantly braking and accelerating, Turner coasts down from his Ventura house off Foothill Road to the nearby county government center on Victoria Avenue.
Backups are still unavoidable.
Turner especially dislikes the intersections at Main Street and Mills Road next to the Buenaventura Plaza and Five Points in Oxnard.
"My main problem with Main and Mills is during rush hour and the Christmas season, which is rapidly approaching. It just gets overloaded," Turner said. "When I have occasion to return from Los Angeles, I take the coast route. Five Points gives me similar fits."
As for a solution, Turner said, it's all been mapped out. Only thing is, it takes money to produce the cure for traffic-induced acid indigestion.
"The real problem is that we've got a lot of good plans, but we don't have the money to implement them," Turner said. "That's the sad note in the failure of Measure A."
NAME: RICH GUALANO
OCCUPATION: Skywatch reporter KVEN-AM
COMMENTS: Rich Gualano has compiled a list of the county's 20 worst traffic spots based on his aerial observations of countless standstills in the wheel world.
"If they don't fix the junction at 101 and Wagon Wheel you're going to have people shooting at each other there," said Gualano, the station's morning rush-hour reporter for two years. He said the nastiest freeway off-ramp leads onto Main Street in Ventura from the Ventura Freeway north or California 126 west. "Cars converge from the two freeways at a high rate of speed and fight to cross each other to turn on Main Street."
Gualano's two-step commute begins at 5:40 a.m., taking him from his Pierpont Boulevard house to the east Ventura studio, and then out California 126 to the Santa Paul Airport for a 6:15 a.m. takeoff. It is on his return home in his 1987 Pontiac Grand Am that Gualano encounters his most dreaded motoring nemesis--the left-hand turn onto Seaward Avenue from the Ventura Freeway north exit ramp.
"The off-ramp backs up onto the freeway," Gualano said. Testier motorists dodge the backup by taking two rights and turning around in a restaurant parking lot, he said. Has Gualano ever tried it? "Me? Oh no, I would never do that.
"The traffic problem in Ventura County is not nearly as bad as we think it is," said Gualano, before cautioning motorists to stay tuned for asphalt nightmares yet to come. "Pilots say flying is hours of boredom broken up by moments of terror in taking off and landing. The same is true of driving here, but the moments of terror are getting longer."
NAME: KEN CORNELIUS
OCCUPATION: Owner, Ojai Taxi
COMMENTS: Traffic delays on California 33 are an accepted occupational hazard to Ken Cornelius, who has taxied hundreds of passengers in and out of Ojai along the narrow byway.
Cornelius' beef about traffic is not so much California 33--"It's usually a three- to five-minute delay, though it always seems worse when you're in it."
His beef is with the onset of bumper-to-bumper traffic in Ojai proper.
The intersection of Ojai Avenue and Montgomery Street is Cornelius' most dreaded.
He said he would sooner wait out the traffic light at Signal Avenue than attempt to turn left onto Ojai Avenue from Montgomery.
"There are, of course, secret taxi routes not to be revealed to the public, unless they want to send small donations," said Cornelius, who runs a fleet of four Oldsmobile and Pontiac station wagons.
"My feeling is they should outlaw private cars in the Ojai Valley and let taxis take people to and fro."