A Matter of Life and Death | Time for the Signal Light You Designed and Approved, Caltrans

 

 

By Debra Tash

We chose to publish this op-ed at 7:50 AM on August 17th to mark a very grim one week anniversary. Serious Accident Closes Los Angeles Ave., 118, Closes Highway from Somis to Moorpark

On August 10th, 2018 a gas tanker heading west T-boned a sedan making a left turn off of Balcom Canyon Rd. and into the east bound lane of Highway 118, Los Angeles Ave.in Somis. A severely injured nine year old boy, died at the hospital a short time after the accident. His seven year old sister clings to life at UCLA Medical Center while his 45 year old mother checked herself out of the hospital, against her doctor’s advice, to be by the little girl’s side.

Accidents happen, and misjudgments are made, some with irreversible consequences. However, what if some mistakes could have been mitigated with upgrades to infrastructure we all pay for and all use?

The residents and commuters out here in Somis have long sounded the alarm that this particular intersection is dangerous and has become even more so over time.  The complaints go back over a decade, at least, for myself, and for others, who have petitioned Caltrans, the largest agency in California, to install signal lights at Balcom Canyon and Highway 118.  Caltrans goes on warrants to justify a project like this.  Those are cross traffic counts.  In recent years, those counts have increased with commuters choosing to use Balcom as a North/South corridor.

The agency finally did set about designing this vital safety improvement as evidenced by this email exchange I had with Caltrans engineers beginning in March of 2017:

Date: March 31st 2017: From Debra Tash

Subject: Balcom Canyon Road Somis California – Please OPEN
Importance: High

Can you please tell me if there is a timeline regarding the installation light at the corner of Balcom Canyon Rd. and Los Angeles Ave. Hwy. 118?

Date: April 3rd 2017: From Dean De Leon

Hello Ms. Tash,

Mr. Kirk Patel, the Senior of our Office of Engineering is the person that can provide you this information. I have included him in this response.

Ms. Tash,

Date: April 12th 2017: From Debra Tash

QUICK FOLLOW-UP —RE: Balcom Canyon Road Somis California – Please OPEN

Please advise.  The corner is increasingly dangerous out here.  Thank you and all the best, Debra Tash

Date: April 12th 2017: Abdi Saghafi

The Project Manager informed me the project is in Design phase and it is [sic] ancipated the construction will commence in Spring 2018.

Thank you for your inquiry.

I was relieved. Finally – we would have signal lights controlling the heavy flow of traffic along Highway 118. The project would protect commuters using these roadways.  I received an email reassuring me on June 28th 2017 that project was being designed and still expected to be installed in the spring of 2018.

However, inquiring yet again, on July 19th 2018, as we were through the better half of summer when the project was supposed to have started – this is what I got from Mr. Abdi Saghafi:

Hello.

The bids for the project came in at $600,000 over the programmed amount.

We are working on re-packaging and re-advertising , possibly in 2019.

Thank you.

My one word reply, “Rats!”

I was never told what the “programmed amount” is or why the intersection, just three signal lights since the railroad tracks bound the project on the south, came in at $600,000 over budget. At this point, like Rhett Butler, “I don’t give a damn.”

We can’t wait for “possibly 2019” for this project to be completed.

Caltrans maintains a slush fund for safety issues, and this certainly is a safety issue and then some.  We are dealing with semis out here, tractors, speeding cars, and people queued up on Balcom Canyon morning and evening.  We need this intersection improved!

It’s time Caltrans make this a priority, and our elected officials to champion this project to its completion. I attempted to contact Supervisor Kelly Long’s office on the matter. Her district spans much of western Somis. Yet of this writing I have yet to hear back from her or anyone in her office.

I also was in touch with Supervisor Parks who I pointed out to how instrumental she had been in gaining approval for the Liberty Canyon wildlife overpass on the 101 Freeway. She wrote back to me:  “The tragic accident is terrible, and as you may know, I’ve been pushing for a signal at Balcom Canyon for quite some time.”

Push harder!  I love the mountain lions and other wildlife, but I cherish humanity, and even more so a nine year old boy’s life.

Yes, his mother may have made a misjudgment in turning left that terrible morning.  We all make mistakes and some are heartbreaking to even consider.  But this mistake may not have been made at all if those signal lights had been installed at that deadly intersection.

It’s time we make this happen. It’s time this project gets done.

For one family, time sadly has run its course.

A GoFundMe Page has been set up for the family: https://www.gofundme.com/medical-costs-for-the-arroyo-family

You can download, circulate and sign this petition: Petition_to_install_signal_light

Return to: Citizens Journal, c/o Debra Tash, P.O. Box 152, Somis CA 93066

There is now an online petition:  https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/579/130/318/

Contact these County Supervisors: 

District 3 – Supervisor Kelly Long 1203 Flynn Road, Suite 220, Camarillo, CA 93012 Phone: (805) 654-2276 | Fax: (805) 654-2226 Email: [email protected] 

District 2 – Supervisor Linda Parks 625 West Hillcrest Drive Thousand Oaks, CA 91360 Phone: (805) 214-2510 | Fax: (805) 480-0585 Toll Free Number: (800) 660-5474 Email: [email protected]

Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.


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Kelli Chamberlain
Kelli Chamberlain
2 years ago

I am totally for doing whatever it takes to make that stretch of highway safer. However, what I am wondering is that because of how backed up the traffic is at peak traffic times , what are they gonna do with a signal there causing even more back up all the way through Moorpark as it is horrible already? Can they put a signal in and also consider the impact on Moorpark commuters?

Will
Will
2 years ago

I’ve taken Balcom on and off for 30 years. The last 22 years I’ve commuted from Santa Paula to The Valley for work. That left turn off Balcom onto the 118 can take forever. I rarely go that way but I will come home that way often. Going north and south in Ventura county can be a bear. There’s either a river to cross or a mountain to go around.

Now with WAZE, everyone uses every shortcut in the country. You can’t go on any of the farm roads anymore without getting caught behind five vehicles. I’ll bet that contributes a significant amount of traffic on Balcom.

I’m usually not a fan of traffic signals but that intersection needs one.

What would be great is a bridge that starts at the 126 and Halloc dr. that goes directly over South Mountain to where the 23 meets the 118. I know it would cost a fortune but one can dream.