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CALABASAS : Shortage of Steel Blocks Renovations

After two decades of painstaking groundwork, a planned $15-million renovation of a crowded 1950s-era interchange between the Ventura Freeway and Valley Circle Boulevard has been postponed until at least January, due to a shortage of steel.

“We have no choice about this,” said Patricia Reid, a spokeswoman for Caltrans. “If you can’t get the materials delivered that you need to start the project, you have to call it off.”

The long-awaited improvement of two freeway off-ramps and an often-congested overpass near the 149-year-old Leonis Adobe in Old Calabasas was scheduled to begin last week.

But the project was delayed at the last minute, after the construction company was unable to get a custom-made section of 48-inch pipe to replace a Department of Water and Power line--the first phase of the project, Reid said.

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The improvements have been the subject of 20 years of study and four years of haggling between Caltrans and local residents, who were concerned that the expanded off-ramp system would wreck the picturesque nature of the city’s historic core. But after winning several key design changes, most residents supported the project.

“We need to have it improved, and we’ve been waiting a long time for it,” said Calabasas Park Homeowners Assn. President Mike Fichera. “So, the sooner the better.”

Ramps on both sides of the freeway will be altered to smooth the flow of traffic, and the Valley Circle overpass will be expanded to include five traffic lanes, two five-foot bike lanes and a 10-foot equestrian pathway, Reid said.

Renovation of the 1950s-era interchange will require the removal of several oak trees near the Leonis Adobe. The project will include sound walls and the planting of eight new oaks, to preserve the historic site as much as possible, according to a Caltrans report.

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