Planners say more highways needed for more homes

Snow on hills near Gorman in February. photo by Jeff Zimmerman, for The Signal.


The people who plan the roads, approve the roads and build the roads are getting together next week to talk about adding major highways –  and secondary highways – in response to plans to build more than 19,000 homes near Gorman.

And, they want to hear about traffic, roads and development from you – and, particularly, property owners affected by the Centennial project.

People are invited to attend a public meeting of the Interdepartmental Engineering Committee on Tuesday May 24, two weeks ahead of a public meeting called for the Centennial housing project itself.

The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. in conference room 1385 of the Department of Regional Planning, 320 West Temple Street, 13th floor, in Los Angeles.

The talk will focus on the need for new highways that would, according to planners, “serve circulation needs of the proposed development.”

The committee is made up of county road officials who represent Los Angeles County, its Department of Public Works and Department of Regional Planning..

Their mission is simple: amend the master plan of highways as part of the proposed Centennial Special Plan.

And, in doing that, want to hear concerns people have about increased traffic spurred on by increased housing.

The heated issue of getting in and out of the Santa Clarita Valley in light of several emerging housing projects has only gotten hotter in recent weeks, as witnessed by comments made at similar public meetings.

Centennial roadways

Right now, the only two roads directly included in the Centennial Project are Interstate 5 and Highway 138 which runs and east and west, through Gorman.

Improving highway traffic through the Grapevine, to and from the Kern County line, however, remains a significant – if not at times pressing – concern for many Castaic residents.

One of the highway proposals likely to be discussed Tuesday is widening a stretch of Lake Hughes Road that winds north, a route known to insiders such as van pool operators as an I-5 alternative.

“One highway worth noting is the Castaic Cutoff,” Castaic Area Town Council member Jeff Preach told The Signal Friday.

“The best route is to take Lake Hughes north to the third cutoff at San Francisquito, turn that into a four-lane road,” he said.

Talk of augmenting the Castaic Cutoff gained traction a couple of years ago when Preach and others tried to revise a California Highway Patrol policy of shutting down I-5 at Parker Road in bad weather.

When big storms or bad accidents shut down the Grapevine, CHP officers typically shut down northbound traffic at Parker Road, right in the heart of Castaic, a move which sends hordes of drivers who don’t know the area onto the town’s main streets.

The sudden onslaught can gridlock the area and drive customers away from businesses, some community leaders and business owners say.

Preach, who in 2014 was putting together information about the problem to present to the Castaic Area Town Council, said the town becomes a “train wreck” whenever traffic is stopped at Parker Road.

Preach and others have pressed the CHP to instead shut down the freeway at Templin Highway — about two miles north of Castaic — in an effort to avoid choking local roads with truck and commuter traffic from one of the state’s most-traveled thoroughfares.

Asked Friday, what 19,000 new homes on the other side of the Grapevine would mean to Castaic ifthe CHP continues Operation Snowball, he said: “It’ll mean more stupidity.”

When you shut down the freeway, you shut down the whole town of Castaic, Preach said.

Centennial Plan

The Centennial Specific Plan Project sits on 12,323 acres just south of the Kern County line. It is expected to accommodate 19,333 homes on about 4,987 acres set aside for residential uses.

About 7.36 million square feet will be taken up by a business park—housing office, research and development, and warehousing or light manufacturing—on close to 600 acres.

More than one million square feet are to be used for stores on slightly more than 100 acres.

Land set aside for schools, medical facilities, libraries and “other civic uses” is expected to take up more than 1.5 million square feet on 110 acres.

The project also calls for four new fire stations and one new sheriff’s station.

It includes two wastewater reclamation facilities for the tertiary treatment of all wastewater generated by project uses. Recycled water from the plants is slated to be used for irrigation.

In terms of preserving the natural scenes commissioners looked at during a recent tour, the project promises to keep 5,624 acres of onsite open space.

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