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Ventura Freeway Repairs Put Drivers in a Fix

Times Staff Writer

Spring vacationers, beach-goers and other motorists crawled along the Ventura Freeway in Woodland Hills this weekend, at one point spending two hours to drive 10 miles because of lanes closed for freeway repairs, officials said Sunday.

From Saturday night through Sunday afternoon, Caltrans shut down all but one lane of the freeway in both directions for about quarter of a mile between Fallbrook Avenue and Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Two eastbound lanes were closed and one was left open in the same area Friday night and Saturday morning, state Department of Transportation officials said.

Workers were pouring concrete on freeway overpasses at Topanga Canyon, Ventura Boulevard and Shoup Avenue, said Larry Hathaway, Caltrans traffic coordinator for the freeway-widening plan. The 16-month, $23-million project between White Oak Avenue and Topanga Canyon Boulevard began early last year.

Adding to the weekend snarl was the closure of several on- and off-ramps, including those at Topanga Canyon and Ventura boulevards and Shoup Avenue.

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Stop and Go

It took nearly two hours to travel about 10 miles late Sunday morning, California Highway Patrol Officer Monty Keifer said. He said eastbound drivers were running into stop-and-go traffic before Parkway Calabasas. But, Keifer said, many drivers insisted on staying on the freeway until they reached Fallbrook Avenue.

The backup for westbound motorists Sunday started near the San Diego Freeway, CHP Officer Andy Gutierrez said.

“We think these people are vacationers--due to spring break--who are unfamiliar with the project and are just sticking it out,” Keifer said. “They have suitcases in their cars.”

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Caltrans and the CHP were advising motorists to use the Simi Valley Freeway, Pacific Coast Highway and Ventura Boulevard as alternates to the Ventura Freeway.

In an effort to ease problems, Caltrans posted service trucks on the freeway and traffic officers on surface streets, Hathaway said.

Overheating Common

“We gave service to a lot of people both days,” Hathaway said. “Anytime people have to wait in traffic, some cars overheat because people don’t shut off their air conditioners.”

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People living near the Ventura Freeway said their neighborhood streets were busier that usual with drivers seeking relief from the freeway jams.

Laureen Komma, 27, of Woodland Hills said that on Sunday around noon, it took 20 minutes to drive from her home on Del Valle Street near Fallbrook Avenue to church at Ventura Boulevard and De Soto Avenue. Usually it’s a 10-minute trip, she said.

Ventura Boulevard was “all backed up,” Komma said. “We tried to take alternate routes around it. . . . There were traffic officers, but tons of cars, so there’s not much they can do.”

Surface Streets

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Larry Frey, a security guard at an automobile dealership on Calabasas Road, said he has been taking city streets rather than the freeway to work from his Woodland Hills home. Before, he said, he would get on the freeway at Topanga Canyon Boulevard and get off at Parkway Calabasas.

“It’s a joke,” he said of the construction project. “Why are they adding a lane onto the freeway when there’s all this talk about air quality?” He suggested that some sort of light rail transit system or monorail be built instead.

Repairs of the overpasses at Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Shoup Avenue and Ventura Boulevard are not finished and will probably continue next Friday and Saturday nights, Hathaway said. Work will not be done on Easter Sunday, he said.


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