A quarter-century ago, Santa Clarita’s most-trafficked road was Bouquet Canyon Road between Newhall Ranch and Seco Canyon roads, which saw 56,000 vehicles pass by per day, according to an Aug. 30, 1998, front-page article in The Signal.
According to data released by the city this week, almost 25 years later, those roads still see the most traffic.
The intersection of Newhall Ranch and Bouquet Canyon roads sees approximately 116,000 cars per day, which makes it the busiest intersection by about 25,000 vehicles, next to No. 2, Bouquet Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road/Valencia Boulevard, which many call Bouquet Junction.
The other three busiest intersections by traffic volume: Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway see 87,000 vehicles per day; McBean and Valencia see 81,000 vehicles; and leading the east side, Soledad and Whites canyon roads see 76,000 vehicles per day.
Of course, Newhall Ranch Road was still in its infancy in 1998, a T-intersection with Newhall Ranch Road not connecting to Interstate 5. The road would see big growth thanks to the city’s most significant capital improvement projects for its roads, the $245 million Cross Valley Connector, which opened in March 2010, joining the I-5 and Highway 126 on the west and Highway 14 in the east through Golden Valley Road and Newhall Ranch Road.
Newhall Ranch Road and Copper Hill Drive also was a T-intersection when the 1998 data was reported, said Joel Bareng, a city traffic engineer, and both intersections now connect to the freeway.
Using the numbers
And then just as now, the highest volume of traffic doesn’t always equate to the highest number of collisions — although two of the five busiest also have the highest number of reported collisions. And not all of the traffic volumes have gone up over time, due to a number of capital improvement projects the city regularly undertakes to adjust traffic, such as the Cross-Valley Connector, which connected Golden Valley Road to the west side of the Santa Clarita Valley, or the Dockweiler Drive extension, a project expected to begin next year that will “provide a through connection from Sierra Highway to Railroad Avenue,” according to the city’s website.
A couple examples of projects that have come from the city’s constant study of data include the upcoming median modification at Rio Norte and Copper Hill drives and a third left-hand turn lane, said Cesar Romo, traffic signal system administrator for the city of Santa Clarita.
Both reflect the city’s strategy to accommodate growth with the least amount of impact for residents, he added, noting the city looks at intersection data and annually creates revisions and possible improvements for the city’s circulation plan, and once the plan is mapped out, it’s submitted for approval from the city’s capital improvement plan budget.
One of the reasons the Rio Norte-Copper Hill project was chosen is because the planned change is an extension of the queuing lane for those turning left onto Copper Hill from Rio Norte Junior High School, and the existing road has space, and the pattern would be a natural accommodation for the area’s growth.
Similar changes are planned at Golden Valley Road and Plum Canyon Road, according to Ramiro Fuentes, project manager for the city’s capital improvement program.
The city also looks at data points including a threshold for cars turning at an intersection, Romo said, which is currently 300 cars per hour. When an intersection begins to reach that volume, the city looks for ways to address it, and that’s part of what prompted the triple-left at McBean and Valencia, Romo said.
There are also certain space limitations the city has to deal with the best it can, Romo said, noting at peak evening rush-hour traffic, the traffic volume for left-hand turns at Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads might exceed 1,100 cars in an hour, but there’s no space for the city to put in a fourth turn lane, even though the numbers at times could support it.
Turning up, down traffic volumes
Two intersections tied for the most collisions reported in the previous year: The second-busiest intersection, Bouquet and Soledad canyon roads, had 20 collisions from June 30, 2022, to July 1, 2023, which was the same number as Sierra Highway and Via Princessa, which was the eighth-busiest intersection.
That put Sierra Highway and Soledad in third place for having 18 collisions and being the sixth-busiest intersection.
McBean Parkway and Valencia, which is the fourth-busiest intersection, took fourth with 16 crashes. The additional left-turn lane is expected to help with congestion there.
Sierra Highway showed up again on the list for most collisions at Golden Valley Road to round out the top-five intersections, averaging one crash a month last year, while being the 10th-busiest intersection by traffic volume.
The front-page story in The Signal 15 years ago reported that Bouquet Junction had recently passed the 100,000 vehicle-per-day threshold as the city’s busiest intersection. At that point, Sierra Highway and Soledad was No. 2, with 90,000 vehicles per day. The intersections of Valencia and McBean as well as Soledad and Whites canyon roads also reported close to but not quite 90,000 vehicles per day at that time, which are higher than their volumes now.
During the discussion over the summer of a major studio project being planned for North Newhall and Placerita Canyon Road, city traffic engineers reported citywide traffic volumes have not yet returned to their pre-pandemic levels.
A look back at the 2020 data indicates it has at some intersections, but not at others. In March 2020, just before the pandemic, city traffic engineers reported that Newhall Ranch and Bouquet was seeing 105,000 cars per day, while Bouquet and Soledad was seeing 96,000 vehicles, about 5,000 per day fewer than were reported in May of this year.
An estimate from a city transportation analyst in 2020 indicated the average volume for the city’s busiest intersections increased about 1.5% per year over the previous four years.