The Old Road Saga Continues: Castaic continues fight over heavily congested road

The Interstate 5 Freeway northbound lanes are empty in Castaic due to heavy rain and snow on the grapevine on Thursday morning. Dan Watson/The Signal

A portion of The Old Road in Castaic residents have been calling a “choke point” and “major issue” for over a decade was skipped in a recent review of the road by county engineers, drawing the ire of residents at Wednesday’s Castaic Town Council meeting.

During a presentation given at the meeting, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works officials informed residents there are currently no official plans to expand areas of The Old Road in Castaic in certain sections where two lanes become one, creating regular congestion. 

Currently, The Old Road goes from being a multi-lane road between Magic Mountain Parkway Henry Mayo Road to a road that varies between two lanes and one after Henry Mayo Road, all the way passed Lake Hughes Road. In the past, the one lane section of the road, which absorbs I-5 traffic like a safety valve for the area, has become gridlocked during Operation Snowflake (when snow in the Grapevine shuts down the I-5 north) or during holidays.

Thanksgiving 2018 saw holiday traffic, bad weather and construction cause bumper-to-bumper traffic, gridlock on that portion of the I-5 and the surrounding community.

“We keep hearing that nothing is happening because there is no money,” said Bob Lewis, a member of the Castaic Town Council, in addressing the Public Works officials in attendance at the meeting.

During the meeting, county officials said they’d be widening The Old Road from four to six lanes between Henry Mayo Road and Magic Mountain Parkway, with a total project cost of approximately $115 million, with construction to tentatively begin in fall 2024. 

Lewis took issue with this, as he said he believes widening this portion of the road to six lanes, without widening the Hasley-to-Parker portion, is irrelevant, and potentially detrimental.

“You’re taking three lanes each direction, you get to Henry Mayo, it becomes two lanes; you get to the bridge to Pitchess Center, and it’s one lane in each direction,” said Lewis. “This is not going to make traffic better, it’s going to make it worse, because you have three lanes becoming one.”

County officials said they had recognized that there was a study done on this portion of the road some years back — with the survey looking at how to build the road — but said they were not prepared to comment on whether that study could be used or why nothing had come of it once the survey had been completed.

Department of Public Works officials said they plan to work with Stephanie English, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s Santa Clarita field deputy, to possibly set up a visit to the areas council members to see what could be done.

In other areas of improvement, due to traffic congestion on the I-5, the county has planned other projects. In addition to various resurfacing projects and improvements to the Hasley Canyon roundabouts, Caltrans and county engineers plan to install a gate to close the northbound I-5 during Operation Snowflake along with providing a two-lane U-turn north of Lake Hughes Road.

“This has the flexibility for opening and creating this opportunity to have two lanes of traffic (heading northbound) to make a U-turn on the freeway to head southbound,” said Jeff Archer, with the Department of Public Works. “At no point will the traffic need to use the street system.”

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