Reason Behind the Madness at Troublesome Intersection

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Street Smart:

I travel from Simi Valley to Ventura via California 118 in the morning.

A traffic signal that perplexes me is at the T-intersection where Somis Road meets the 118.

The only time westbound traffic can cross straight through the intersection, staying on the 118, is when a green arrow also allows westbound cars to turn left, going south on Somis Road.

Then the light turns red for both westbound lanes, as traffic coming east on the 118 toward Simi Valley proceeds through the intersection.

I see no reason why the westbound traffic going straight ahead must stop. Is there an explanation for this? Can it be changed?

David Keefer

Simi Valley

Dear Reader:

Nestled in the scenic farm country west of Moorpark, this congested intersection has created quite a few headaches for the traffic experts at Caltrans.

The problem is the short 120-foot-long left-turn lane, which is used by many cars and trucks that are moving south from the 118 toward Camarillo. The pocket only has room for five passenger cars. Large trucks devour an even greater share of the space.

If the left-turn traffic were stopped by a red light, but other cars could continue moving straight ahead, Caltrans fears that the turning pocket would quickly fill up and spill out into the straight-ahead lane.

This would block the cars trying to move straight ahead.

That would lead to lots of nasty horn-honking. The jam-up could also block cars trying to turn onto the 118 from Donlon Road, just east of this intersection.

The bottom line, says Peter Wong, a Caltrans traffic design engineer, is that the present signal-light sequence is the best way to keep the left-turn traffic moving at the same pace as the straight-ahead traffic, even if it does inconvenience a few westbound motorists.

Caltrans spokesman Russell Snyder adds that the county could relieve a lot of these problems by realigning Donlon Road to form a more traditional four-way intersection at this location.

Dear Street Smart:

It appears that the painted white lines denoting crosswalks and bicycle lanes are only refurbished once a year.

It's usually done in September when the traditional school year begins, even though the lines become almost impossible to see much earlier than that, especially on heavily traveled streets.

Protection of pedestrians and bicyclists should be a high priority all year long.

Would painting at least twice a year be cost-prohibitive? School children aren't the only ones who benefit from this added safety.

Mary Barnes

Oxnard

Dear Reader:

If you think those white lines are fading faster than they used to, it's not your imagination.

In recent years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has outlawed the oil-based paints that street crews commonly used to define crosswalks and bike lanes. The agency was concerned that fumes from these paints were fouling the air.

As a result, city crews have switched to a water-based paint that is far less durable, local officials say.

"I can redo a crosswalk, and 30 days later I can take you back there, and you'll say I didn't do any work," laments Jim Weeks, Oxnard's public works operations superintendent.

Because of budget constraints, Oxnard and other cities can't repaint all of the lines as often as they'd like to.

Simi Valley repaints crosswalks more than once a year mainly at busy intersections, where the paint wears out particularly fast, says Bill Golubics, the city's traffic engineer.

In place of paint, Thousand Oaks is experimenting with a more expensive white plastic tape that sticks to the pavement. At some locations, however, the tape has lifted or moved from its original position, says Joseph Bravo, Thousand Oaks' street supervisor.

Until the perfect crosswalk marking material is found, traffic officials say you should alert your local street department whenever those white lines become too tough to see.

Dear Street Smart:

The people who live in the neighborhoods north of Ventura High School are very concerned about the closing of Poli Street and the barricading at one end of Palomar Avenue.

When they closed Poli, we told the city the traffic would come into this neighborhood. There are no curbs along these narrow winding streets. And you have to back out onto the street from many of the garages.

We're worried that in an emergency, we'd only have one way to get out.

We are taxpayers--law-abiding residents--and we can't see why our streets have to be blockaded because the students at the high school aren't taught how to cross and how to behave.

Why can't they open Poli?

Dorothy Goodman

Ventura

Dear Reader:

Be patient. Your question will be addressed soon by the Ventura City Council.

Last February, after a popular Ventura High School student was fatally stabbed near campus, local parents urged city leaders to curb gang-related violence.

The council voted to close Poli between Catalina Street and Seaward Avenue. It cuts through the campus, and some residents fear that a drive-by shooting could easily take place along this stretch.

But this street closure caused many motorists to begin using narrow Palomar Avenue as an alternate route. To halt this, the city blocked part of that street during school hours.

Some residents say these moves just created new detours and shifted the traffic problems to other streets.

These temporary road closures ended with the school year in June. Meanwhile, the city has conducted a traffic study to determine what impact these steps had on nearby streets.

The study recommends that if the council opts to close Poli again when classes resume, it should also put barricades on Palomar and Sunset Drive.

You can review this traffic study at the planning counter in Ventura City Hall.

You can also express your opinion to the City Council at a public hearing on Aug. 30. In deciding whether to close Poli again, the council will have to weigh the students' safety against the traffic problems this closure creates.

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