When the Antelope Valley Freeway opened in 1963, it drained traffic from the nearby Sierra Highway, turning a once busy and dangerous thoroughfare into a sleepy country road.
But today, with thousands of commuters clogging the freeway each morning and evening, hundreds of motorists are returning to Sierra Highway, restoring its reputation as a route so hazardous that a section of it that was once three lanes was described by a retired California Highway Patrol officer as “one up, one down, one suicide.”
Pat Allen, an Agua Dulce resident whose car was destroyed in a collision on Sierra Highway Nov. 13, has resolved to do something. On Tuesday night, Allen presented petitions signed by nearly 500 people who urged the Santa Clarita City Council to install left-hand turn lanes to prevent accidents.
“There’s always squealing brakes,” said Kathy Duer, a cashier at Larry Bob’s Mini Mart in Santa Clarita. “The freeway’s so congested they’re skipping over and using this street.”
“In the morning it’s terrible,” said Jerry Fox, manager of Fox Hay & Grain. “Everybody drives so fast. I’ve seen lots of my customers rear-ended going in here.”
The signatures were collected at Fox Hay & Grain and Larry Bob’s, where customers often talk about their close calls on the roadway.
The City Council ordered city traffic engineers to investigate the complaints but said the California Department of Transportation may have to oversee any improvements because the road is a state highway.
Sierra Highway roughly parallels the Antelope Valley Freeway from Santa Clarita to Acton. For much of its length, the road passes through rural country. When drivers reach a collection of businesses on Santa Clarita’s eastern border, they are often unprepared to slow down, CHP Sgt. Mark Lunn said.
“It’s a really tough area,” Lunn said Wednesday. It’s not unusual to stop drivers racing along the two-lane road at 90 m.p.h. “We start to see extremely high speeds about 4 in the morning.”
Statistics were not available Wednesday, but Lunn said officers log a high number of speeding violations along the route. The accident rate has not been as high, although serious accidents do occur, he said.