After a unanimous decision by the Santa Clarita City Council to award a design contract for the Dockweiler Drive extension Tuesday, city engineers offered a closer look at the project and what residents can expect as it progresses.
The council members’ vote, which was 4-0 (Councilwoman Laurene Weste abstained due to her ownership of land adjacent to the city road), gave the green light to start a $3 million design process for the road extension, one of several steps to come in the city’s plan to connect Dockweiler Drive to Railroad Avenue at 13th Street in Newhall with an ultimate goal to improve traffic issues in the area.
“The purpose of this project is to alleviate congestion on Newhall Avenue,” said city Senior Engineer Carla Callahan, who broke down details on the project and Tuesday’s decision with City Engineer Mike Hennawy.
Why extend the road?
The proposed project is a multiphased capital improvement project in coordination by the city and The Master’s University, located in Placerita Canyon, to improve circulation and access to the Placerita Canyon and Newhall communities, as stated in the project’s final environmental impact report.
The connection and extension, as outlined in Santa Clarita’s general plan, was identified as one of the primary east-west arterials through the city that would offer a connection from Sierra Highway to Railroad Avenue.
“The potential growth in this area could trigger the road to pass its capacity, so we had to look at alternative roadways to accommodate the cars that will be traveling through the area,” said Callahan.
A traffic study completed in 2018 reported that by the year 2035, if no extension is created, travel time for a single car going northbound on Newhall Avenue would be just more than 11 minutes, whereas that time was nearly cut in half with either an extension on 13th Street or Lyons Avenue, which was an alternate road considered at the time, according to a presentation by Hennawy at the Feb. 27, 2018, City Council meeting.
The final EIR identified that 13th Street would be the “environmentally superior option” for the connector versus Lyons Avenue or Market Street — options residents in the area suggested — due to having less of an impact financially, less of a challenge to build and having no impact on the creek.
The Dockweiler Drive to Railroad Avenue at 13th Street connection was approved by the City Council on April 10, 2018. A separate 0.64-mile extension of Dockweiler Drive has already been approved as part of a project by The Master’s University to expand its campus and have its main entrance on Dockweiler Drive, said Callahan.
The design contract
Tuesday’s decision awarded a design contract for design services to Thousand Oaks-based MNS Engineers Inc. for $3.04 million.
More than $241,000 was also authorized to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority for services, such as permit processing and design for the signal communication and train control system for upgrades to the 13th Street rail crossing.
Though the actual design of the project has not yet been developed, agencies such as the California Public Utilities Commission and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority have reached a consensus on needed improvements for the alignment of Dockweiler Drive to Railroad Avenue at 13th Street.
Improvements would be needed for Arch and 13th streets, along with a fully upgraded railroad crossing at 13th Street and Railroad Avenue, which include widening the existing two-lane street to include three outgoing and two incoming lanes, a median and two sidewalks, installing pedestrian and vehicle gates, adding signal lights and removing a billboard at the intersection, according to Hennawy.
The proposed roadway improvements would consist of a four-lane roadway with a 12-foot raised landscape median, a 13-foot-wide sidewalk and a 5-foot-wide bike lane on each side, according to the city agenda report.
The design stages would take approximately two years, said Callahan. While there will be no public hearings for this portion of the project, public meetings for residents to offer feedback will be held in the future.
The extension project has garnered significant opposition from residents in the area over time, with some concerned over parking and the disruption of the rural and equestrian life of the Placerita Canyon community.
Others have questioned Weste’s property role in the matter, to which Callahan said: “The city has the right of way through her property.”
Supporters of the project, many of whom include students and faculty of The Master’s University, have said that the road would improve safety conditions and vehicle circulation.