Commentary | Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy in Ojai – CalTrans Plans to Go Forward

 

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By Jeffrey Weinstein

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On Friday 10/16/20, I learned privately from Randy Haney, Ojai City Councilman, that Caltrans is moving forward 11/9/20 with Demonstration Project for Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy, despite no public notice, design/construction plan or schedule made available to the City Council or Ojai Residents.  The 4-1-2019 Letter from Caltrans attached above intends for the Lane-Reduction Demonstration Project to be implemented while Nordhoff High School is in session, the purpose of which is show the practicality, viability, and usefulness of the proposed plan during morning rush hour and afternoon student pickup, football games, graduation, July 4th festivities, the Special Olympics and other community events.  None of which will be feasible during the Pandemic and next 6 months, so “the data” collected while students at NHS are learning remotely will not reflect the actual conditions while school is in session, when students and others are no longer working remotely.  The City Council is using the Pandemic to their best advantage. 
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As a reminder, the current Lane Reduction Plan was developed during 2014-2017, at 2:30pm on Wednesday afternoons when the majority of people are at work.  There was no notice or publicity for such private meetings, except if you were a Bicycle Advocate with access to Suza Francina’s Facebook page.  The fact that these meetings were held in the middle of the day when most residents were working, and the general public had no knowledge of these meetings, is evidence of the City’s lack of transparency and fairness.
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The closing of the passing lane going west on Ojai Avenue at the intersection with Maricopa Hwy is not part of the Demonstration Project, this passing lane allows motorists the only legal opportunity to pass slower-moving vehicles traveling from Santa Paula.  Consequently, the Demonstration Project will not reveal the true impact from traffic backing up east on Ojai Avenue all the way to Bristol Road.  The Demonstration Project does not include the parking spaces between trees planned down the middle of southbound Maricopa Hwy closest to El Roblar, so that when motorists attempt to parallel park in these spaces, the true impact of traffic converging from El Roblar, Cuyama, Rancho Road, and Hwy 33 onto Maricopa Hwy will remain unknown until construction is completed.
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In the 6 years while the proposed Lane Reduction Plan for Maricopa Hwy has been developed, there has never been a single change, modification or compromise by the City Council or Bicycle Advocates.  As quoted in Friday’s 10/9/20 Ojai Valley News, Suza Francina believes “many of the people against this project don’t understand the difference between recreational bicycling or using the bicycle for daily life transportation”, so the City Council and Bicycle Advocates refuse to budge from their demands for Class IV Bike Lanes separated by a lane of parallel parking running down the middle of Maricopa Hwy.
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Speaking of the Ojai Valley News, Bob Daddi, owner of local newspaper, and author of its 10/9/20 Editorial “Why No on Measure K”, the Ojai Unified School District’s bond on the Nov. 3 ballot to modernize, improve and renovate classrooms and school facilities, is OPPOSED to the bond measure because “there won’t be enough students to justify this bond”, due to diminishing student enrollment and lack of affordable housing in Ojai.  Despite the fact Bob believes “there won’t be enough students to justify this bond” to upgrade school facilities, he is OK spending $3 million on a Class IV bike lane that the City’s own documents, funding application and user statistics show ridership by students will increase by just 1% (from 2% of existing students to 3% of future students or a total of 7 students).  Talk about hypocrisy from local leaders!
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In addition to all the above, Lane Reduction will increase emergency response times due to the elimination of passing lanes with parking down the middle of Maricopa Hwy, and cause gridlock at the north intersection with El Roblar/Hwy 33/Rancho Road and Cuyama (“the 5-STOP”), and at the south intersection with Ojai Avenue (“the Y”).  Parking down the middle of Maricopa Hwy will destroy the views into Los Padres National Forest and surrounding landscape, impede access to Ojai Hospital by the MRI truck, and irreparably slow and obstruct evacuation by residents during a future firestorm or emergency (remember the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA).  Given all the reasons why the current lane reduction plan does not reflect the best interests of the greater Ojai Valley community, and the City Council’s unwillingness to compromise in any way, I am betting this matter may end up in a courtroom.                

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Jeffery Weinstein is a Ventura County resident and architect
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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal

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Biff
Biff
1 month ago

Agenda 21/2030 in action