YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Region

Two Ways About It for These Truckers

Moorpark pursues alternate routes to divert big rigs from its congested downtown.

March 19, 2004|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Few people look forward to getting 18-wheelers off Moorpark streets more than City Engineer Brad Miller.

Last Christmas Eve morning, after less than a month in his new job, Miller was startled by what sounded like a minor explosion. A double-axle flatbed truck heading south on Moorpark Avenue -- California 23's name as it winds through downtown past City Hall -- lost one of its dual wheels. The rear wheel smashed into an entryway handrail in front of a converted two-bedroom residence that houses the city's public works offices.

"It shook the whole building. I wasn't sure what had happened, but it made a loud crashing sound," Miller recalled. "If it wasn't for that handrail, that tire would have very possibly smashed through the wall."

For years, Moorpark officials have sought ways to separate truck and passenger traffic on city roadways, especially California 23, which, after a stretch of four-lane freeway, meanders through Moorpark and Grimes Canyon north to the city of Fillmore.

Dave Bobardt, the city's planning manager, said that on an average day about 14,000 vehicles travel through downtown and past City Hall. Of those, an estimated 20% -- or 2,800 -- are trucks.

But California 23 isn't the only traffic challenge.

Earlier this month, the Moorpark City Council instructed city staff to begin an environmental review of plans to grade the initial portion of an east-west arterial road to be called the North Hills Parkway, which officials hope one day could substitute for California 118 through town.

The grading will be done by the developer of Moorpark Highlands, a subdivision of 554 upscale homes and condominiums planned on 445 acres in the northern portion of the city.

Nearly all of the Pardee Homes' site was burned during October's wildfires, so the company recently asked the city's permission to move up its grading schedule to create sufficient erosion controls before winter rains return.

The company's grading also includes work on early portions of a proposed California 23 bypass, which would take northbound trucks around the city in a westerly arc connecting to Broadway, which intersects with Grimes Canyon Road -- the continuation of California 23.

"I'm very excited.... It's necessary for improved traffic flow in the city," said Moorpark Councilman Keith Millhouse, former chairman of the Ventura County Transportation Commission.

Truck traffic generated by four quarries in Grimes Canyon is expected to intensify. Scott Ellison, a senior planner for the county, said the sand and gravel operators wanted to modify their permits to go from an average of 1,285 daily truck trips to 2,556.

Cost estimates for the 1.66-mile bypass of California 23 range from $30 million to $80 million, and officials say it could take 10 years to complete.

Even more congested is the continuation of California 118 through town, a popular route for truckers hauling cargo from the east end of the county to the west who want to avoid the steep terrain of the Conejo Grade and the truck scales at the top of the hill. About 6,000 trucks are among the 40,000 vehicles that travel California 118 daily through town, according to city studies.

North Hills Parkway at first would be constructed as a two-lane road but would include easements so it could eventually be expanded to a four-lane roadway and accommodate about 38,000 vehicles daily, according to Miller. The route would begin near where California 23 and 118 merge and head west through the northern end of the city to west of Walnut Canyon Road. It would then begin a southerly angle until it reaches the city's western border, before traveling south until it reconnects with Los Angeles Avenue/118.

Jim Bizzelle, vice president of community development for Pardee Homes, said the North Hills Parkway would cut across the southern portion of his company's property, while the California 23 bypass would travel along the eastern edge of the development.

To allow for a main route into the housing development, Pardee is responsible for grading and paving a northern extension of Spring Road.

Los Angeles Times Articles