By The Signal Editorial Board
Local infrastructure decisions can be tough. Take, for example, the debate over the Wiley Canyon bridge.
Back in the early 1990s, when the city of Santa Clarita was in its infancy, one of the new City Council’s early dilemmas was whether to approve construction of a bridge connecting the Circle J neighborhood to Wiley Canyon Road via a bridge crossing over what was then known as San Fernando Road — now Railroad Avenue.
It was, at the time, a divisive issue. On one side were the area residents who saw the new bridge as a valuable new access route that would improve emergency response times and traffic flow. On the other hand were Circle J residents who believed the new bridge would bring unwanted traffic to their neighborhood.
The council approved the bridge. And it was built. And all these years later, it’s a pretty good bet that some of the very people who objected to it drive on it routinely.
Fast forward to 2019, and we have a similar issue with the Dockweiler Drive extension.
What’s different at this point is the council has already approved the new road connection in concept. What’s come before the council in 2019 are the details — awarding of design contracts and so forth. But there remain those who oppose it.
Now, as with the Wiley Canyon bridge, we have residents who understandably fear the impacts the new connection will have on their neighborhood. This time it’s Placerita Canyon, a rural enclave whose main road, Placerita Canyon Road, is gated at one end after the canyon’s homeowners decided to close off to public access from its south end in the 1990s.
The new Dockweiler extension would run roughly parallel to Placerita Canyon Road, connecting to Arch Street and then 13th Street in New-hall — ironically, providing a connection that has been lacking since the winding Placerita Canyon Road was closed by homeowners.
This new road, though, will be no meandering country road. It will be a pretty straight shot from Dockweiler to Arch and 13th, providing an alternative from Sierra Highway to Newhall and Railroad Avenue.
And there’s this to add to the mix: The Master’s University, located in Placerita Canyon, would then connect to the new Dockweiler extension, improving access to the campus and perhaps facilitating its future growth,
It’s easy to understand why Placerita Canyon residents would be skeptical. And, Placerita Canyon is a unique, rural neighborhood whose character should be preserved.
Similarly, some residents of the newer developments on the existing stretch of Dockweiler are worried about additional traffic.
Some of the project’s opponents, too, have noted that a member of the City Council could somehow benefit from the Dockweiler project: Councilwoman Laurene Weste owns property in the area. Due to that, as she is required to by law, she has recused herself from the council’s decisions on the project.
In any case, the city has to look at the whole picture. This isn’t to say the opponents’ concerns should be dismissed out of hand — they should be considered and accommodated to the extent possible without leaving the city hamstrung.
Hopefully, what emerges from the council’s latest decision — authorizing design work to proceed — will result in a new local connection that will benefit the greatest number of local residents and motorists, without causing undue impacts on the neighborhoods in that specific part of the city.
Just as it did with the Wiley Canyon bridge, the city is obligated to balance those very localized concerns with the reality that the city has grown and changed, and we need more ways to get around this town, not fewer.