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MTA to Aid North County

Traffic: Agency seeks public comment on a plan to widen freeways and boost mass transit.


To relieve traffic congestion in Los Angeles County's rapidly growing northern region, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is proposing expanding freeways and improving public transit over the next several years.

The projects include adding carpool lanes and a regular traffic lane to the Golden State Freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley between Calgrove Boulevard and the Antelope Valley Freeway.

The Antelope Valley Freeway also would be widened between Sand Canyon Road and Avenue P so that the entire stretch would have three continuously flowing lanes in each direction.

To encourage the use of mass transit, the MTA proposes increasing Metrolink service from the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys to downtown Los Angeles from five trains with a total of 17 cars to seven trains carrying a total of 47 cars.

With an envisioned completion date of 2010, the projects require approval from the state Department of Transportation and Metrolink--as well as funding, said Brian Lin, project manager for an MTA study of the north county.

The agency is seeking public comment about these projects and other transportation issues through meetings this week in Palmdale and Santa Clarita.

The transit proposals were suggested in a $4.4-million MTA study, begun last August, that will also examine ways to improve the Pearblossom Highway.

That phase of the study is expected to conclude in another year and half.

The total cost of these projects has not been calculated, but transportation planners say they are sorely needed to accommodate the region's explosive growth.

Population in the Santa Clarita Valley, currently about 200,000, may balloon to more than 350,000 by 2025, according to estimates by the Southern California Assn. of Governments. Over the same period, the Antelope Valley is expected to grow even faster, from about 380,000 to nearly 900,000 residents.

The MTA is also considering longer-term projects that could include adding more carpool lanes to the Golden State and Antelope Valley freeways by the year 2025, in addition to those already proposed.

Despite the long time frame, north county residents say they are eagerly awaiting any relief from their horrible commutes, made worse by the many big-rigs crowding the freeways.

"The trucks will often shut commuter traffic to a standstill," said Frank Ferry, mayor of Santa Clarita and co-chair of Santa Clarita Valley Transportation Alliance. The MTA will hold a meeting tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Palmdale Cultural Center, 38350 Sierra Highway in Palmdale.

A second meeting will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. inside Santa Clarita City Hall's council chambers at 29920 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita.

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