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5 Intersections Get Failing Marks for Congestion

Traffic: Official calls increase in trouble spots since 1998 dramatic, but not surprising. The locations are expected to be improved.


Traffic congestion in Ventura County has increased so much in the last two years that five intersections now receive the state's lowest rating--compared with only one in 1998.

Every two years, the state asks the Ventura County Transportation Commission to grade 190 intersections and stretches of freeway on an A through F scale, based on congestion.

"The increases are dramatic . . . but they are not at all surprising, because anyone who drives has seen that traffic is getting worse," said Chris Stephens, deputy executive director of the commission.

The problem spots are:

* The intersection of California 118 and Santa Clara Avenue, near Nyeland Acres.

* The intersection of California 118 and 34 in Somis.

* The so-called five points intersection in Oxnard, where California 1, Wooley Road and Saviers Road converge.

* Moorpark Road and Santa Rosa Road, near Thousand Oaks.

* Moorpark Road and Tierra Rejada Road, near Moorpark.

Although state law requires counties to fix "failing" locations, those requirements are waived if roads are congested for reasons such as commuters traveling outside the county, construction or traffic generated from lower-income housing.

This year, the county's five "F"-rated intersections were upgraded to "E," because of the commuter traffic exception. Despite the exemptions, all five hot spots will be improved in coming years, county and city officials said.

The grades are based on one-hour traffic studies taken during the most congested travel times.

Every stretch of road has a predetermined number of vehicles that should be able to pass through in an hour. When traffic increases past a certain point, fewer cars can pass and the intersection's grade drops.

The two intersections along Moorpark Road are congested mainly due to commuters traveling between Camarillo and Simi Valley or Moorpark, local traffic analysts said.

"The intersection [at Santa Rosa] is now being heavily used after the improvements on Santa Rosa," said Thousand Oaks traffic analyst Roy Myers. Because the intersection is on the border of Thousand Oaks, it affects only a small percentage of the city's residents, he said.

The county intends to realign Moorpark Road in that area, most likely connecting it with Science Drive. But Moorpark traffic engineer Ken Gilbert said that wouldn't necessarily relieve the congestion.

"We would just move the problem," he said. "But the new intersection might have longer [turn] lanes, and maybe the level of service will improve a bit."

The rating results will be presented to the Ventura County Transportation Commission during its monthly meeting at Camarillo City Hall on Friday.

Stephens said there sometimes is no explanation for the results. For instance, traffic counts were higher in Simi Valley two years ago than they are now. And this year, 1998's big loser--the junction between California 23 and the Ventura Freeway--escaped a failing rating.

However, there is one thing Stephens is sure about. "At the rate we are going, I wouldn't be shocked if we had 'F' on the freeway from Ventura to the L.A. County line next time around."

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