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Traffic Fuels Debate Over Measure A

Two studies offer contradictory findings over whether hillside development in Ventura would worsen crowding on the city's roads.

October 26, 2002|Jenifer Ragland | Times Staff Writer

Traffic has emerged as the hot-button issue in the Measure A campaign over future growth on Ventura's hillsides, prompting the release of dueling reports this week.

But the contradictory findings of the studies -- released less than two weeks before the Nov. 5 election -- may end up causing more confusion for Ventura voters, who must decide how their city will grow over the next 20 years.

Sponsored by landowners in the sprawling development area, Measure A seeks voter approval for a plan that would add 1,390 homes in six neighborhoods to the hills and canyons north of town.

According to the landowners' study, the project would add no more than 3,000 car trips on Foothill Road each day when completed in 2020. By contrast, a report by opponents of the housing plan predicts that as many as 8,760 trips would be added to the road.

Projections of total daily trips on all roads leading to and from the project also vary: Proponents say it would be 9,900, while opponents counter with a figure of 14,600.

Initiative foes calculated the higher numbers using data from the city, an engineering book and the Measure A plan, said Brooke Ashworth, a planner and member of Citizens for Hillside Preservation.

According to the opponents' report, Measure A would cause traffic on twisting Foothill Road to become severely congested. The only way to solve that problem would be to widen the street, the report says, which is not part of the project.

Though Ashworth is not a traffic engineer, she said a "qualified professional" helped her group come up with the numbers.

She would not reveal the name of the traffic engineer, saying the person fears retaliation from the city for speaking out against the project.

But Measure A proponents, including a team of lawyers and consultants hired by the family that has owned the hillside land for generations, said the opponents' report is flawed.

Camarillo consultant Jeff Palmer said his firm was hired by Lloyd Properties to conduct the kind of traffic study that a formal environmental report will require if the project is approved by voters.

On Foothill Road, traffic would increase by about 160 trips during morning rush hour, and by about 209 trips during peak times in the evening, according to traffic engineer Bob Matson in a summary of his findings released Wednesday.

No portion of Foothill would have to be widened, Palmer said, and traffic flow would not change significantly.

Part of the reason there would be so few new trips from nearly 1,400 new houses is because much of the traffic would be routed onto other main arteries running directly to freeways, Palmer said.

On those streets, such as Victoria Avenue, Palmer said the report shows traffic flow would not reach road capacity or exceed recommended use levels in city plans.

In response, opponents object to assumptions in the landowners' study, particularly the finding that only 30% of peak-hour traffic from the development would use Foothill.

Palmer said such assumptions are the norm in traffic studies.

"There are various reasons why these studies are done by a registered engineer and not just by calculations," he said.

Although Measure A backers did the traffic study months ago, they said they were reluctant to release it without prior city review.

At the urging of Measure A opponents, the Ventura City Council in May decided not to review several studies the landowner offered, including traffic, fiscal and environmental analyses.

"In that kind of environment, why would we release [the traffic study], just so it could be picked apart with rumor and innuendo?" said Amy Forbes, the landowners' attorney.

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