Oxnard Seeks Outside Aid for Road Repairs : Highways: Tax was initially considered for freeway improvements, but public outcry and sluggish economy forced officials to reconsider.


After protests from developers and landowners over a proposed assessment district, Oxnard officials are seeking state and federal funding to help rebuild two overburdened Ventura Freeway exchanges.

The freeway ramps at Rose and Rice avenues, built more than 30 years ago to accommodate farming traffic, are now jammed constantly with people visiting the Shopping at the Rose complex, Oxnard Outlet Center, Oxnard Auto Center and other new developments.

City officials had sought to create a large assessment district for developers and homeowners to pay collectively for needed road improvements in northern Oxnard--including the Ventura Freeway-Pacific Coast Highway interchange and a new bridge over the Santa Clara River.


But the sluggish economy has forced a change in plans, said Development Services Director Tim Nanson.

Under the original proposal, a special tax would have been levied on much of the city to raise $100 million for the projects. New developers and homeowners would have had to pay a portion of the road improvements when they broke ground, reducing the burden on the older landowners.

“In an average economy, that works well because you can count on a number of developments each year,” Nanson said. “But it wouldn’t have worked well the way things are going now.”

Oxnard officials currently are searching for federal and state grants and other outside funding for the freeway improvements, after protests from local homeowners, who were asked to pay 2% of the assessment fees, and developers, who said they could not afford to take on the costs of financing the rest.

The city has not done away with its assessment plan altogether, however.

The large assessment district will be broken up into three smaller ones--Rice Avenue, Rose Avenue and the Ventura Freeway-Pacific Coast Highway Interchange--to make the road repair projects easier to deal with.

“It was a work of art,” Nanson said of the large district. “But it took a lot to explain, and it became unmanageable.”


The Rose Avenue project, expected to cost about $18 million, will still be primarily funded by Oxnard, Nanson said.

But city officials are looking for state and federal funds to pay for the majority of the Rice Avenue improvement plan, which should cost about $30 million.

“Rice avenue is of fundamental importance to Oxnard and even has county significance,” Nanson said.

He said the road could become a main artery if proposals to build a large regional airport at Point Mugu come to life.

An aide to Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) said the congressman will try to secure $18 million in federal funding for Rice Avenue in a public works appropriation bill scheduled for consideration next year.

The new Ventura Freeway-Pacific Coast Highway connector, expected to cost more than $100 million, will be funded by Oxnard, Ventura and Caltrans.


Despite the uncertainty over funding, all three projects should be completed before 2000, officials said.