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Agoura Hills Ready to Ease Congestion

Congressman is feted for getting funds to start project on Ventura Freeway interchange.

October 11, 2005|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Agoura Hills officials held a ceremony Monday thanking Rep. Henry A. Waxman for landing federal money for a project that will ease congestion at a Ventura Freeway interchange.

The $4 million that Waxman (D-Los Angeles) was able to get inserted in a transportation bill signed last summer by President Bush will enable motorists to enter the freeway from both directions of Kanan Road without making traffic-clogging left turns and will widen freeway exit ramps that back up at peak hours.

City officials gathered with Waxman at the site to hand him an appreciation plaque, capping a 14-year quest for money to improve the interchange.

"Financially, for the longest time it was out of the city's grasp," said Jim Thorson, assistant city manager. "It's the highest-priority project the city has ever undertaken."

The town of 22,000 residents has a general fund of only $9 million, and Caltrans has not been willing to fund the improvements, Thorson said. "The state is short of money and they have not identified this for state funding, which is why we're so thankful for Rep. Waxman's $4 million."

About 40,000 motorists drive daily across the interchange, which traffic planners have graded with an F based on congestion levels.

"The ratings are like letter grades," Thorson said. "The ability of the interchange to handle the traffic is at failure level."

Residents of the area have been complaining about the choked interchange for years with petitions, letters and complaints to the City Council, Thorson said.

Construction is expected to begin by early 2006, after a contractor is chosen, and be completed in about a year.

The total cost is estimated at $15.5 million. After obtaining a $10.5-million grant from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1999 and a $1-million federal beautification grant, the city needed $4 million to close the gap.

Two clover-leaf ramps will be built, allowing drivers to curve onto the freeway without having to turn left. The money will also be used to reconfigure traffic signals and add landscaping, irrigation and drainage.

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