The Old Road’s saga continues

Stenciled image of a gnome on road sign at "Gnome Island" in Castaic. Signal photo by Ryan Mancini.

Castaic Area Town Council officials have revisited a discussion about funding for The Old Road in an effort to address what officials consider a public-safety issue, due to recent traffic gridlock during emergencies. 

However, support for The Old Road’s expansion was debated by Town Council members, who questioned the cost of the project and its funding source during their meeting earlier this month. 

In December, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, introduced a motion calling for emergency traffic-circulation plans for Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita Valley, which the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously. Part of these plans include looking into expanding The Old Road, according to Stephanie English, field deputy for Barger. 

Two-lane road

North of Hasley Canyon Road, The Old Road becomes a two-lane road unable to handle increased traffic volume when issues arise on the I-5, according to a recent report at a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting.

English’s presentation to the Town Council discussed the funding needed for the expansion of the road. Though some funds were previously allocated to expand the south side of the road, there’s still more need, English said.

While English said most of the correspondence received by Barger’s office favored expansion, there were questions about the plan from Town Council members.

Adequate funding?

Jeff Preach, one of two council members for Region 4, which includes Castaic east of Interstate 5 and south of Lake Hughes Road, questioned English over whether there was enough funding for the project, and if that was the best use of funds. After a back-and-forth discussion, English asked Preach to write down his concerns so she could present them formally to the office, which Preach left the dais to do. 

When asked what he wrote down for Barger’s office to consider, Preach refused to divulge what he’d written, saying it was premature to announce his concerns publicly. When reached for comment following the meeting, English said Preach never ended up giving her the note. 

Council President Jessica Chambers also questioned whether there was adequate funding to expand the road. 

“There is no funding and there are no answers,” she said, in response to questions about the source of the tension for some council members.

Ultimately, the discussion was expected to be continued at the next Castaic Area Town Council meeting Nov. 20. 

“(Barger) has directed staff to continue the work to complete the emergency mobility traffic plan,” English stated in an email regarding the outcome of the meeting’s discussion, “as well as securing funding to ensure the expansion project continues.”

Help from CHP

The situation on The Old Road and the I-5 gridlock inspired help from California Highway Patrol officers, who initiated and worked on a now-operational plan with Caltrans, which allows traffic during road closures to be turned around on Interstate 5, at the Lake Hughes Road exit, according to Josh Greengard, spokesman for the CHP-Newhall area office. 

CHP officers already have tested the gate, which is located on the median, so cars can be turned around on the freeway.

“In theory, it should mitigate 90% of traffic,” Greengard said, noting cars now would be directed to turn around on the freeway, as opposed to being diverted to get off the freeway at Parker Road or Lake Hughes, which packs local roads with out-of-town traffic and stymies any local commute.

This year is expected to be the first opportunity to use the new turnaround gate, Greengard said, and  the median gate should help significantly.

“Most times, the traffic is flowing through there — it’s just in emergency situations,” Greengard said. “It does create challenges, whether it be for an evacuation when we’re trying to get people out of there. … Hopefully, that turnaround will mitigate some of that traffic.”

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