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New Bridge Speeds Travel Time on the 101

Caltrans shifts traffic to a completed portion of the structure over the Santa Clara River. The freeway project will be finished by 2007.

August 10, 2004|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

Commuters on the Ventura Freeway in Ventura County may find their drive a bit easier now that Caltrans has opened a completed portion of the new Santa Clara River bridge to northbound traffic.

The rerouting is part of a five-year, $100-million improvement project on the freeway, at the Santa Clara River between Ventura and Oxnard.

The bridge and freeway project, which was funded before the state ran out of money for highway improvements, is on track to be completed in 2007, said Judy Gish, spokeswoman for Caltrans District 7. More than 160,000 vehicles use the bridge daily.

In addition to shifting northbound traffic to the new bridge, Caltrans opened the northbound ramps on Johnson Drive at Montalvo Drive on Friday.

The reopening pleased nearby merchants, some of whom reported a 25% to 50% drop in business when northbound access was closed in mid-April.

"The impact on businesses is hard to measure," said Zoe Taylor, president and chief executive of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce. "It's affected some more than others, but it continues to be a real challenge for them."

With the southbound Johnson Drive onramp scheduled to close by the end of next week, and the southbound offramp in January, businesses such as the Ventura Auto Center will continue to feel the squeeze, Taylor said.

In coming weeks, Caltrans will also be rebuilding exits at Oxnard Boulevard and Wagon Wheel Road, causing detours onto surface streets in Oxnard, Gish said.

Caltrans is closing the southbound Ventura Freeway from Victoria Avenue to Vineyard Avenue every night this week to install movable concrete barriers and temporary striping, Gish said. The southbound lanes will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. until Saturday morning.

At the same time, the north and southbound Victoria Avenue onramps to the freeway will be closed nightly from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., Gish said. Caltrans suggests using alternate routes this week because the southbound Vineyard Avenue offramps will be closed every day through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for ramp widening.

When completed, the Santa Clara River bridge will have six lanes in each direction, helping to alleviate traffic.

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