The state Department of Transportation favors a proposed project to add a fourth lane for slow-moving trucks on an uphill portion of the westbound Simi Valley Freeway from Chatsworth into Ventura County, a Caltrans official said Wednesday.
The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission has recommended that Caltrans transfer $1.7 million in its 1987-88 budget for the project, a Caltrans official told the Ventura-San Fernando Valley Freeway Improvement Committee.
The official, Jerry Baxter, Caltrans deputy director for operations, urged the group of civic, business and government leaders from Ventura and Los Angeles counties to also seek funding to add a lane to the eastbound freeway.
"We certainly would support a project on the 118 Freeway," Baxter said.
The committee, which was formed six months ago to push for improvements on the freeway, first proposed the truck lane, which would run from Topanga Canyon Boulevard to Rocky Peak Road. The project also will include widening of the Iverson Road and Topanga Canyon Boulevard bridges.
Baxter said the project could be completed in about 18 months if approved by the California Transportation Commission in May.
His announcement Wednesday came as a surprise because Caltrans said last year that projects on the Simi Valley Freeway would have a hard time competing for state transportation funds.
"We're really excited," said Simi Valley Councilwoman Vicky Howard, who heads the freeway improvement group. "It happened almost overnight . . . We thought a project like this would be five years away."
State Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), the committee member who first suggested the truck lane, has asked state, developers and local governments all to come up with funds to widen the eastbound freeway as well.
The Simi Valley City Council is considering contributing to the project, Howard said.
Davis urged Caltrans to support the project in a letter to its district director, Don Watson. He said he is concerned that there will be additional congestion on the Simi Valley Freeway during the 2 1/2-year widening of the Ventura Freeway, which will begin in July.
"This project will benefit a lot of people," Howard said Wednesday. "We're already getting people taking the 118 as an alternate to the Ventura Freeway."
About 25 representatives of local governments, politicians and others attended the meeting of the committee, originally called the "Widen the 118 Committee."