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Safety First on Borchard Road

May 07, 2000

There's probably no solution that would make critics of the Borchard Road extension entirely happy. Much of the opposition to the road--approved by the Thousand Oaks City Council despite being more than twice as steep in places as city codes allow--is in fact opposition to the large Dos Vientos housing development the road is intended to serve.

Even if the road vanished overnight, or were redesigned to zigzag more gradually down the hillside (causing substantially greater environmental impact as well as expense), the 2,350-unit Dos Vientos project would remain.

We believe the safety measures proposed by the city would do much to reduce the road's potential to be a speedway in dry weather and a water slide when it rains. The safety measures should be installed before the road is allowed to open.

Thousand Oaks construction standards limit road steepness to a grade of 5%. The Ventura Freeway's hair-raising Conejo Grade is a somewhat steeper 7%. Yet in 1996 the City Council approved a half-mile extension of Borchard Road that would in places climb at 12%. That bending of the rules reduced visual scarring of the hillsides and also saved the developer the expense of moving 3.5 million cubic yards of dirt, estimated at $1 million to $4 million. But after the route was graded and its steepness became obvious, area residents asked the council to reconsider.

Amid dueling lawsuits between developers and the city, work has continued. It is expected to open in late June or early July.

To limit the hazard, the city in January approved half a million dollars worth of safety improvements. One is a traffic light at the bottom of the hill that would turn red if an automatic sensor detected a car approaching in excess of the speed limit. In addition, a center divider would separate uphill and downhill traffic and a lighted crosswalk system would give pedestrians a better chance of crossing safely.

The road will still be steep; it will still demand caution from drivers and pedestrians alike. But if these safety features are installed before the road opens, they should help make the best of an unfortunate situation and ensure safe access for the occupants of all those new houses.

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