The traffic volumes aren’t the only things that have changed on Santa Clarita roads in the last 25 years.
Nowadays with the use of cellphones, apps and very fast internet, members of the city’s Traffic Division are able to monitor, communicate and respond to traffic emergencies with their smartphones in real time, said Cesar Romo, Santa Clarita’s traffic signal system administrator.
“Everything we do is right here,” he said, pointing to his iPhone as he stands in front of a bank of monitors Thursday displaying live feeds for some of the city’s busiest intersections.
The city has a feed on just about every intersection, Romo said, but it doesn’t record or store the footage, for legal purposes. He alluded to a constant stream of hypothetical subpoena requests the city would have to address from insurance attorneys if traffic engineers had such footage — never mind the storage-related considerations for that much data.
The city’s Traffic Operations Center is a relatively small room on the third floor of City Hall.
However, through using miles of fiber optic cabling connected to traffic lights that can send hundreds of gigabytes of information per second, if an adjustment is needed at an intersection because a sheriff’s deputy activated the emergency panel for a crash — now there’s an app for that.
Santa Clarita uses a number of means and spends tens of millions of dollars every year in an effort to keep its roads moving as safely and efficiently as possible, according to a group of analysts and engineers who help manage the city’s safety numbers, traffic volumes and road projects.
“We went through the entire city a few years ago and identified the most congested areas … areas where we have a right of way and the permits so we wouldn’t have to take any private property, and identified about 20 locations that could benefit from either additional lanes or extending left-turn pocket lanes to eliminate queuing or spill-out into the adjacent lanes,” said Ian Pari, a senior traffic engineer. “And so each year, as funding allows, we do a number of these projects and we’re just kind of working down the list.”
One of the city’s biggest and most regular annual investments in road safety is the overlay and slurry seal program, which spent $23 million in 2021-22, another $19 million this past year and is budgeted for $24 million for next year, to “reconstruct streets citywide,” according to Ramiro Fuentes, project manager for the city’s capital improvement projects.
In determining where to pave each year, Fuentes said the city works off five-year plans for citywide improvements that take a number of factors into account, including where other work is being planned already by developers and utilities.
“We prioritize arterials, because they have the (highest vehicle) load,” he added. “It’s all based primarily on structural integrity.
“We care about aesthetics,” he added, “but structural integrity is what we focus on the most.”
While the city employs state-of-the-art traffic-signal technology that provides real-time notifications, it also utilizes field observations, studies on signal timing and pen-and-paper research to look for patterns, down to evaluating witness statements in crash reports.
Mark Hunter, transportation planning analyst for the city’s Traffic Division, looks at every single report that gets filed by a California Highway Patrol officer and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station patrol deputy in city limits, just over 1,380 last year, he said.