Stretch of Freeway to Get Healthy Sprinkling of Funds


State road officials saw green recently in deciding how to spend your tax dollars in Ventura County.

During a May 6 meeting in Sacramento, the California Transportation Commission agreed to send nearly $1.2 million south to improve a 4.5-mile stretch of the Ventura Freeway in Ventura.

Will it be used to fix potholes? To widen the highway?

Nope. The money is for sprinklers.

Caltrans plans to put an automated irrigation system in 95 acres of freeway landscaping, roughly between Telephone Road and California Street.


At a time when state dollars are so scarce that police, fire and library services are in jeopardy, do we really need to spend more than a million dollars on freeway sprinklers?

“It’s primarily a matter of perspective,” insists Bill Koval, a Caltrans landscape architect.

First, Koval says, keep in mind that landscaping projects account for less than 1% of the budget for state highway improvements. And by reducing maintenance costs, this project is expected to pay for itself within 12 years.

Koval says this seemingly insignificant irrigation upgrade will save water--and possibly some lives.

Caltrans workers now pull onto the shoulder of the freeway at least once a week and operate the sprinklers by hand. They distract passing motorists and makes themselves a target for any drunk driver who veers off the pavement.

“That’s one of the primary purposes--to get our maintenance workers off the freeway shoulder,” Koval says.


His explanation may or may not sit well with the Street Smart readers who sent in their traffic gripes this past week. Surprisingly, none of the people who telephoned or wrote to us were concerned about freeway sprinklers.

Instead, they asked about potholes, freeway ramp repairs, hazardous city streets and aggravating traffic jams.

Street Smart welcomes more inquiries. Even if you’re that rare reader who does care about freeway sprinklers.

Dear Street Smart:

Many streets in our county are not “pedestrian friendly.”

I often walk my dog several miles at a time and find the lack of sidewalks not only inconvenient but often dangerous.

Why, for example, are there no sidewalks on Channel Islands Boulevard, just west of Ventura Road in Port Hueneme? There’s a block wall surrounding a housing development and some shrubbery next to it, but no sidewalk. It forces walkers to traverse in traffic. This is a nuisance and a hazard to drivers.

Mary Barnes


It’s certainly true that some streets are not pedestrian-friendly when you’re walking your dog. It’s also true that some dogs are not pedestrian-friendly when you tread too close to a taut leash. But that’s an issue for another column.

To answer your query about that unfriendly stretch of Channel Islands Boulevard, the problem is one of timing. Today, Port Hueneme requires most home builders to put in sidewalks. But that was not the rule when this neighborhood was developed.


The missing sidewalk is next to the Hueneme Bay senior citizen housing complex.

“That project was built almost 30 years ago,” says Jack Duffy, the city’s public works director. “There was basically no traffic out there at that time. It was all farmland. Vehicular traffic was low. Foot traffic was almost nil because there was no place to go.”

As a result, the city did not require the developer to install sidewalks. Duffy says city leaders have no immediate plans to put in the sidewalk themselves, but they are keeping an eye on this stretch.

“We don’t think it’s a safety problem right now,” he says.

The best advice might be to walk your dog in a more pedestrian-friendly area where sidewalks are already in place.

Dear Street Smart:

Why aren’t the Thousand Oaks traffic signals more responsive to sensors in the road? The particular problems are along Moorpark and Lynn roads.

If you want to turn left off one of the cross streets, and there’s no opposing traffic, you can sit there for up to 30 seconds because the computer says it has to give Moorpark Road a green light for this amount of time.

Bob Rosenblum

Thousand Oaks

Your aggravation is understandable. But don’t blame the road sensors.

According to Thousand Oaks Public Works Director John Clement, your gripe is with the computer system that tells each light how long to stay red or green.


In years gone by, each traffic light operated independently, and if there was no cross traffic ahead, you’d quickly get a green light.

But today, the traffic lights in Thousand Oaks are “interconnected.” Or as Clement says: “They start talking to one another.”

The computer that manages this network is designed to move traffic most smoothly along the busiest arteries, such as Moorpark Road.

Sometimes, the light on Moorpark Road stays red a bit longer to make sure you’ll see green just as you reach the next light, thus avoiding a second stop. Sometimes, cars on the side streets have to wait a little longer because busy Moorpark Road takes priority.

Take heart. The city continually fine-tunes this system to weed out unnecessary delays.

But at the same time, Clement cautions, “No matter what we do, we’re going to make some people unhappy. . . . At best, signal timing is a compromise.”

Dear Street Smart:

I’m concerned about a traffic situation in Moorpark. I get stuck driving southbound on Los Angeles Avenue next to the Simi Valley Freeway, between Princeton Avenue and Condor Drive.


At 8 a.m., noon and late afternoon, local residents and Moorpark College students driving south may have to wait 10 to 15 minutes to get through this quarter-mile stretch.

The problem is that cars making a left turn from the freeway onto Los Angeles Avenue get stuck behind the red light on Condor, backing up the cars behind them.

Can’t the signals be adjusted to eliminate this bottleneck?

Ron Arnone


As that old saw goes, do you want the good news or the bad news first?

The good news is that this traffic tie-up is a temporary situation. The bad news is that it probably will not disappear until next fall.

The traffic lights on Los Angeles Avenue, just west of the freeway, sometimes create “a logjam,” acknowledged Robert Joe, a Caltrans construction engineer.

The culprit is the long-awaited linkup between the Simi Valley and Moorpark freeways, which is still under construction.

As an interim measure, Caltrans has set up a two-way ramp connecting the finished portion of the Simi Valley Freeway with Los Angeles Avenue. Normally, two-way traffic on a freeway ramp is a no-no.


When this project is finished, the off-ramp will be moved to the north side of the freeway. That will eliminate the left turns that are causing problems now. Another signal will be installed at the new off-ramp.

The congestion should ease later this month when Moorpark College’s spring term ends, the Caltrans engineer says. And it should be eliminated when the new freeway connection is finished in October or November.

“Bear with us during the construction period,” Joe says.