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Residents Signal OK for Traffic Light Tax

Supervisors approve creating an assessment district after voters endorse improvements along accident-prone part of Santa Rosa Road.

November 16, 2005|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

After years of trying to make the roads safer, Santa Rosa Valley residents have agreed to tax themselves to pay for street improvements aimed at better controlling traffic through their rural community near Camarillo.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to form an assessment district into which property owners will pay to add four signal lights to Santa Rosa Road, a two-lane, six-mile stretch of road in an unincorporated area bordered by homes, farms, nurseries and ranchettes.

Residents in the bucolic valley have complained for years about rising traffic and an increased number of accidents and near-collisions that have plagued the heavily traveled thoroughfare that connects Camarillo with Thousand Oaks. A teenage girl was killed three years ago as she jogged with her father along the road.

"This is 10 years in the making and I'm so thrilled," said Rosemary Allison, chairwoman of the Santa Rosa Valley Community Assn. "This is about safety for all."

The board acted after learning Tuesday that nearly 70% of property owners who cast ballots by mail over a 45-day voting period this fall agreed to help pay for the road improvements. About 1,000 property owners will each pay on average an annual assessment of $65 toward the $990,000 project.

The board voted 4 to 1, with Supervisor Judy Mikels dissenting. The assessment is subject to supervisors' approval each year, and officials expect the project to be paid off in about 18 years.

Supervisors agreed to pay for a portion of the roadwork, earmarking $276,437 for the signal installation and $25,000 annually for the first four years of maintenance. An anonymous Santa Valley Rosa resident donated $250,000 to help offset the county's costs.

"I've always felt that government is best when it helps people help themselves," Supervisor Steve Bennett said of the community's willingness to pitch in. "I love this kind of thing."

Mikels said she voted against the project because county transportation officials had recommended against it. The project will add four traffic lights to a road where four now exist and synchronize all the signals to regulate traffic flow, reducing speed from the posted 55 mph to 45 mph. Transportation planners, however, have said they don't believe the signals will improve safety or slow traffic to desired speeds.

California Highway Patrol numbers show there were 25 accidents along the stretch of road in 2004. As of Sept. 7, there had been 23, including one fatality. Capt. Cliff Williams, commander of the CHP's Moorpark office, said "unsafe speed is the No. 1 culprit" in accidents along the road. He said that since 1999, when the CHP began collecting statistics for the road, there have been 188 accidents, three of them fatal. Sixty-three accidents were attributed to unsafe speed.

"Our department of transportation has said this isn't the right thing to do," Mikels said.

Of the 862 property owners who participated in the balloting, 582 voted in favor of the assessment. Some attended Tuesday's board meeting and applauded the supervisors' action.

"It will help with the safety of not just the residents, but commuters and farmworkers who use that road," said Janis Gardner, chairwoman of the community's advisory council.

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