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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Work to Begin Next Year on Freeway Interchange

Transportation: Camarillo is planning and paying for new ramps and road to serve residential area and handle traffic expected from the proposed CSUCI campus.

September 20, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

CAMARILLO — Ventura County will get its first new freeway on- and offramp in nearly two decades, one that traffic engineers say will help cut congestion at another interchange in this city when the proposed Cal State Channel Islands campus opens for business.

Construction of the $7.7-million interchange--located roughly halfway between Central Avenue and Las Posas Road--is expected to begin in spring. It is being planned and paid for by Camarillo as it prepares for growth along the city's western fringe.

Along with a planned new road that will cross over the interchange to serve upscale residential neighborhoods to the north and a planned commercial and industrial development to the south, the interchange will help relieve traffic on the heavily traveled Los Posas Road exchange one mile east, city officials say.

That is crucial as Camarillo prepares for the planned 2002 opening of the county's first public university just south of the city at the site of the former Camarillo State Hospital. Traffic analysts predict that without a new offramp, the Las Posas interchange would become overloaded with students and others using it to get to the university.

About 15,000 students are expected to attend Cal State Channel Islands at peak enrollment, many of them commuters. Even without the students, the interchange has seen its use grow from 18,000 cars a day to 28,000 over the past 12 years, officials said.

Construction should take about 18 months.

Freeway interchanges historically are financed and planned by Caltrans, but Camarillo leaders decided the city should map out and pay for this one to deal with anticipated growth.

The three-lane road over the freeway will connect to Ponderosa Drive to the north and Ventura Boulevard to the south. Ventura Boulevard will be moved about 500 feet south to connect with Verdulera Street to provide better access to the commercial and industrial development planned for that region.

The area south of the freeway is mostly farmland, and some landowners have expressed interest in selling to developers, said city transportation engineer Tom Fox. But the city advised that developers would have an easier time getting a permit if they waited until the road was constructed.

"There have been a variety of projects talked about there--but no one has applied to the city yet," Fox said.

The exchange is also expected to lighten traffic to the 650-acre Camarillo Airport immediately south of the planned commercial area. Airport administrator Scott Smith said commercial or light industrial development is compatible with airport uses.

Camarillo Mayor Bill Liebmann said he was opposed to the intersection and road construction initially because he feared it would induce growth in the area north of the Ventura Freeway. That sliver of land is zoned for agriculture.

"Basically what changed my mind was without [the interchange], properties that had been planned and zoned before I came to the scene could not develop," he said. "I felt an obligation to fulfill commitments that were already made."

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