During a special meeting held a week before their regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the Castaic Area Town Council hosted a panel of county, transportation and law enforcement officials Wednesday in order to give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns regarding Interstate 5 construction and traffic.
The special meeting comes on the heels of a motion by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th Supervisorial District, in December that instructed transportation officials to look into ways to relieve Castaic residents who see millions of commuters drive through their area in a single holiday weekend, according to officials.
“I had never seen that many cars backed up … like it was on Thanksgiving,” said Susan Evans, a Val Verde resident, during her public comment. “It was bumper to bumper, with people driving down the wrong side of the road. I didn’t know if I should be afraid for my life while driving.”
Residents say the amount of traffic that comes through the I-5 corridor was already impacted enough, but the recent construction projects and temporary signage on the freeway have increased the amount of issues commuters to and through Castaic are facing.
“We understand the bypass lane really isn’t all that effective in this area because of its length. By June we’ll be removing the bypass lanes and things will be returning to normal,” said John Yang, Caltrans’ construction corridor manager for the project. “But we need the community to bear with us … because we would not do it if we did not have to.”
The 15.8-mile stretch of I-5 under construction cuts through the Santa Clarita Valley and affects the stretch of The Old Road between Hasley Canyon Road and Parker Road that leads out of Castaic.
In the past, Castaic residents say they had asked for the county to do an assessment on a section of The Old Road that becomes a one-lane road running parallel to the I-5. Residents argued that The Old Road is unable to handle increased traffic volume and government officials have failed to make any progress since the initial assessment.
“The only release valve (for freeway traffic) is The Old Road,” said Castaic resident Richard Humanic. “It became an emergency 10 or 12 years ago.”
State officials told the approximately 50 residents in attendance they are aware of the issues the Castaic community has been facing, and have made them a priority in their individual departments and offices.
“These are complex problems with complex challenges,” said Stephanie English, Barger’s Santa Clarita Valley field deputy. “Even if there were unlimited resources it would still take some time. There’s no easy, quick six-month solution.”
However, for the immediate future, county officials said they would work to improve the freeway signage and the communication indicating new construction zones.
The agencies affected by Barger’s motion — including the Department of Public Works, Department of Regional Planning, Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department — said they plan to report back to the board in the upcoming months.