County supervisors motivated by the “nightmare” traffic jam witnessed Thanksgiving weekend through the Grapevine and along Interstate 5 have called for an emergency mobility action plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by Supervisor Kathryn Barger for agencies to devise emergency mobility action plans that would be used whenever the I-5 shuts down due to crashes, weather or construction.
The affected agencies — including the Department of Public Works, Department of Regional Planning, Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department — are to report back to the board in the interim monthly status reports.
“We appreciate CHP and Caltrans for coming before this board at Supervisor Barger’s request to offer assistance and cooperation to improve the situation on the 5 in Castaic to prevent the nightmare scenario we saw over Thanksgiving weekend from recurring as the holidays approach, and thereafter,” Barger spokesman Tony Bell said Tuesday.
The “nightmare scenario” that played out in Castaic and Valencia over the Thanksgiving long weekend did not go unnoticed by county officials.
Larger delays along I-5 and through the SCV threw residents into a frenzy over the Thanksgiving weekend as traffic grew increasingly worse, Bell said at that time.
Barger’s office received a large volume of calls, he said, from distressed residents who had experienced a very frustrating weekend.
“One even said it took her over an hour and a half to go eight miles right by Hasley Canyon,” Bell said.
In response to the gridlock, Bell said the county was working with California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Transportation to figure out the best way to help alleviate holiday traffic jams.
On Tuesday, county supervisors made the push to find a better way around holiday traffic jams official.
In her notes to fellow supervisors explaining her recommendation, Barger called the holiday traffic jams “a critical choke point in California’s highway system.”
As she pointed out in the expanded version of her recommendation, the “I-5 serves as the backbone for goods movement between Mexico and Canada and for motorists traveling north-south within the state and beyond.”
This segment of the I-5 also provides a vital link to job centers for tens of thousands of daily commuters.
In normal times, she said, these factors create challenging traffic conditions for those who use the corridor.
But the problem has been exacerbated due to ongoing construction activities in the area, she said.
Currently, Caltrans is implementing a roadway surface rehabilitation project between Newhall and Castaic on the I-5. Barger added that “an important capacity enhancement project will begin shortly thereafter.”
“This past weekend saw the highest number of holiday travelers in the metropolitan Los Angeles area in the past 15 years, which proved to be nearly impossible to navigate through the I -5 corridor in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Barger wrote, explaining her recommendation
“Additionally, during the coming winter months there will likely be increased impacts due
to weather-related freeway closures north of Castaic.
The residents of unincorporated Castaic are heavily impacted during these situations as the only way to get in and out of Castaic is via the highly constrained Old Road.
The Old Road becomes a two-lane road north of Hasley Canyon and is unable to handle increased traffic volume when issues arise on the I-5.