Road Projects Added to List

Times Staff Writer

The Ventura County Transportation Commission has begun updating its long-term wish list, adding half a dozen road projects it hopes will ease traffic and help commuters from Thousand Oaks to the Santa Barbara County line.

The county's current priority list of major highway improvement projects dates back to the 1980s and, with only four projects remaining, transportation planners think it's time to begin reevaluating the lineup, officials said.

But Ginger Gherardi, executive director of the commission, warned the commission during its meeting Friday that when specific projects would actually be built depended largely on when state and federal funding was available.

"There is no funding to do any of this right now," she said, adding that "projects will sometimes be built in the order of how they can be built."

Although commissioners will discuss the final order of the priority list next month, transportation staff members suggested the following projects:

* Expanding the Ventura Freeway by one lane in each direction from the Los Angeles County line to California 33 in Ventura.

* Upgrading and extending the railroad tracks on the Santa Paula branch line to permit future commuter train service to the Los Angeles County line.

* Widening the Ventura Freeway north of California 33, but only to a six-lane conventional highway, to maintain roadside parking and beach access.

A pedestrian tunnel is slated in the Mussel Shoals-La Conchita area.

* Adding an extra lane in each direction to California 126 in Fillmore.

* Realigning California 23 to reduce the number of gravel and cement trucks traveling through Moorpark. The new route would begin where the Ronald Reagan Freeway and the 23 connect and continue north and west to join Broadway near Walnut Canyon Road.

"Let's focus on funding these and getting the money we need to get them built," urged Commission Chairman Keith Millhouse, saying more of California's tax dollars should be funneled back to local communities for highway enhancements.

A contingent of Casitas Springs residents attended the meeting to ensure the long-anticipated rerouting of California 33 -- which now splits the tiny community in half -- would not experience further delays as new priorities are considered.

"I'm just asking that you don't forget us," said Bill Newton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Casitas Springs. "We need to be near the top of the priority list when you can't get out of your driveway most hours of the day."

John Duncan, representing the Assn. to Bypass Casitas, said he hoped commissioners would not wait until they or a loved one was hurt on the busy roadway before making it safer.

"Please weigh everything in terms of safety," he said.

"Balance a child's life versus placing another bike lane somewhere."

The Casitas bypass project is fourth on the priority list, behind plans to widen California 23 through Thousand Oaks, expand the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Simi Valley and widen it between Moorpark and Saticoy.

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