New Headlight Program Is Focusing on Highway Safety

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Dear Street Smart:

The intersection of California 118 and Balcom Canyon Road in Somis has become increasingly congested and extremely dangerous. Over the past 25 years, the growth of population has placed an appalling burden on this once-obscure country road.

Now, during peak traffic hours, it is all but futile to expect to enter the main flow of California 118 traffic in less than eight minutes or wait to make a left turn onto Balcom Canyon Road without fear for the recklessness of the drivers headed westbound.

The clock cannot be turned back or the growth of population reversed.

But the most dangerous component must be addressed. This critical element is the highway marking and the disregard that drivers of westbound traffic consider the double-yellow, no-passing stripes.

Would you be good enough to investigate this situation?

Adrienne P. Nater

Somis

Dear Reader:

Officials from the state Department of Transportation took four months to answer your questions, with few surprises in their brief response.

During that time, engineers studied the situation and concluded that a traffic signal or other traffic-control devices are not warranted at the intersection, spokeswoman Pat Reid said.

"All signings and stripings are in accordance with Caltrans standards," she said.

Caltrans officials do have a $75-million California 118 widening project on the drawing board. But there is no money to pay for it, Reid said. It is likely to be stalled for 25 years, while earthquake retrofitting and other projects get funded across California, she said.

Just three days ago, however, Caltrans launched a daylight headlight program aimed at increasing safety along that stretch of highway.

Dear Street Smart:

The westbound Simi Valley Freeway exits at Tapo Canyon Road in two lanes. Signs direct both lanes to turn left and also provides for right turns from the right lane.

This results in a waste of gas and time when those needing to turn right are behind those waiting to turn left. New developments and the nearby civic center also are increasing right-turn traffic.

Two solutions come to mind: Change the signs so the right lane is used exclusively to turn right or create a third lane exclusively for those turning right.

Your help in correcting the inefficiencies would be appreciated.

Sherwin D. Podolsky

Simi Valley

Dear Reader:

State Department of Transportation engineers last year changed the eastbound Tapo Canyon Road exit, just as you have proposed. But recent studies suggest that those same improvements are not yet needed.

Engineers counted traffic there for an hour during peak commute times last December. The result: 694 left turns and 324 right turns, said Caltrans spokeswoman Pat Reid.

"On the basis of these traffic volumes, the lane assignment is equitable," she said. "It would make the existing situation worse if they tried to change anything."

Reid concluded: "Basically, the motorists are just impatient through that area."

Dear Street Smart:

We own an ugly car, but our 1970 Toyota is duly registered, has a smog certificate and runs. It's parked on a street across from our home. There is only a blank wall there--no facing houses.

Our home is part of a planned unit development, with a homeowners association that has a 100-page document full of conditions, restrictions and bylaws.

City parking laws say that cars must be moved every three days: this is not in dispute. Penalties include a fine and towing.

We moved our car every three days to avoid a citation until one day we got sick and the car stayed put for five days. On the fifth day, it was towed and impounded, costing us $63 in fines and another $129 in towing costs.

Now the car is parked in our driveway, off the street, and we are no longer breaking the law.

Someone summoned the police as soon as the three-day limit was violated.

What we have learned is to watch our backs. What we have learned is that cowardly snitches live among us, and that our homeowners association will harass us rather than protect us.

Esther Cole

Ventura

Dear Reader:

Ventura traffic officials are quick to point out that they were simply following the rules, which you did violate.

Officials from the homeowners association you belong to said they do their best to accommodate each of their members, but they do not ignore violations.

"There have been numerous complaints given to the board about cars being parked where they're not supposed to be for a length of time," said association director Nadine Whalen. "One fellow had seven cars."

As for the allegation that snitches live nearby, Whalen said nothing had gone through the board of directors and that the call to police must have been made by a neighbor. "I will certainly look into it because it's a board matter and it reflects on the board."

Write to Street Smart, The Times Ventura County Edition, 93 S. Chestnut St., Ventura 93001. You may enclose a simple sketch if it will help Street Smart understand your traffic questions. Or call our Sound Off Line, 653-7546. Whether writing or calling, include your full name, address, and day and evening phone numbers. No anonymous queries will be accepted, and letters are subject to editing.

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