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Supervisors to Again Debate Widening Santa Rosa Road

Commuters seek relief from congestion, but residents fear a possible loss of their area's rural feel.

March 23, 2004|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors today are expected to again debate whether rural Santa Rosa Road can be widened to more easily handle commuter traffic without destroying the rural lifestyle of the surrounding valley.

County transportation staff last year recommended that supervisors begin the process of converting a stretch of the road from two lanes to four.

The $38-million project, which would include landscaped medians and a horse and pedestrian trail, would take at least 15 years to complete, said transportation director Butch Britt.

Britt also recommended that a restriction on right turns at the busy intersection with Moorpark Road be eliminated to ease a traffic backup that builds during peak commuter hours.

After hearing protests from nearby residents, however, supervisors in October ordered Britt to return with other options for dealing with the problem and cost estimates to implement them.

In a report that supervisors will consider today, Britt again is recommending that the road be widened. But he also includes an array of alternatives, from adding more traffic lights to doing nothing.

The recommendations are expected to meet stiff resistance from some supervisors and residents of the Santa Rosa Valley. A local advisory group voted earlier this month to reject any attempt to widen the road but to push for construction of a horse trail.

The Santa Rosa Municipal Advisory Council also recommended that up to four traffic lights be installed along the road to slow traffic, creating gaps in vehicle flow that would allow residents to safely cross the road.

If that happens, residents will agree to do away with the no-right-on-red signal, said Supervisor Linda Parks, who supports the residents' recommendations.

Parks called it a good compromise.

"I know commuters would like to see that no-right-on-red removed," Parks said. "That should be done, but not until we make some improvements to that road so that residents aren't trapped."

The two-lane road runs the length of the valley, connecting the eastern Ventura County cities of Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley with Camarillo. East county commuters use the road as an alternative to the heavily clogged California 23 connector to the Ventura Freeway.

But many commuters are fed up with their morning wait at the no-right-turn signal at the Moorpark Road intersection. A study by the county transportation staff last year found that motorists idled for eight to 10 minutes waiting to get through the intersection.

The right-turn restriction had been approved by the Board of Supervisors at the urging of Santa Rosa residents. Before, traffic whizzing by made it difficult for pedestrians to cross safely, residents said.

"I really enjoy the country feel out here," said Claudia Dempster. "If they make it a four-lane road, we are just going to lose that feeling. It's already starting to feel like a freeway instead of a residential road."

Like many other residents, Dempster rides a horse and hopes that the county will agree to build a multiuse trail along the roadway. Dempster said many residents would be willing to tax themselves to pay the estimated $3.4-million cost of the trail.

The local advisory group said it would consider an assessment district to cover the costs of a trail and additional traffic lights.

"We were all taxed to improve this road to make it straighter and faster," Dempster said. "So we certainly would be willing to be taxed to make it better and more beautiful."

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