Santa Paula: Major Issues Surround State Route 126

By Sheryl Hamlin

State Route 126 was the topic of both the City Manager’s Report and item 9C on the February 16, 2016 Santa Paula City Council meeting agenda.

Broad Beach Restoration Project

City Manager Fontes reported that the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has taken a “strong hand” in the Broad Beach sand replenishment issue and has been authorized to sue the Broad Beach GHAD over its agreement with the City of Moorpark unless the agreement to route traffic via route 23 and route 126 is rescinded. Recall that this Broad Beach restoration proposal means an indefinite phalanx of trucks loaded with sand mined in quarries along route 23 via route 126 to Broad Beach in Malibu in order to mitigate beach erosion. Read the discussion about the project at a 2015 county meeting here.

Mr. Fontes stated that Fillmore has been the lead in this process, but that Santa Paula is in the line of communication with the affected parties. He mentioned this article for current details as well as communication from Supervisor Long’s office. Mr. Fontes previously reported on this item at the December 21, 2015 council meeting. Additionally several citizens had brought this item to the attention of the council in 2015.

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) State Route 126 Report (9c)

Brian Yanez, interim Public Works Director, reported on a proposed Caltrans “safety project” for State Route 126. The area under consideration extends east for seven miles starting at Hallock Drive. Caltrans is asking for comments in writing by March 4th. There are several “solutions” including a raised median and four roundabouts.

Caltrans recently held a meeting and Fillmore and recently a community meeting in Santa Paula where, according to Mayor Hernandez who attended both meetings, the citizenry became very angry using expletive laden language.

sr126map

Council Member Gherardi, who has 25 years in the transportation industry, indicated that the accidents are below the statewide rate. The roundabouts will slow traffic, in theory, but above a certain amount of traffic they have a negative effect. Considering that the massive Newhall development project will DOUBLE the 126 traffic by 2040, the effects of the roundabouts will be negative. All proposed Caltrans solutions have built-in obsolescence. She also said that the conditions on 126 do not meet those required for a roundabout. The accidents mapped are spread throughout and not in clusters. The city must stand up, she said, and tell Caltrans what is acceptable.

Other issues raised in the discussion:

  • Caltrans could take prime agricultural land for this project via eminent domain.
  • The project will disrupt animal life.
  • Emergency Medical Service (EMS) vehicles will also be slowed along with the traffic.
  • The roundabouts will be lit 24 hours a day, thus disrupting the characteristics of the Santa Clara Valley.
  • Rear-end collision will be in all new cars soon, making collision avoidance more pervasive through technology.
  • Ingress/Egress from private property will also have to be widened
  • Caltrans has not produced a wildlife corridor study.

The cost of the project is $75 million. For this amount, Council Member Tovias suggested hiring more CHP officers for this corridor as a more effective approach to traffic control. Vice Mayor Crosswhite questioned why the project would be only for this seven mile stretch of 126 and not all the way past Piru where conditions are similar. Mayor Hernandez agreed with the Vice Mayor and asked City Attorney Cotti if the city would incur a liability with such a commentary, to which Mr. Cotti replied in the negative.

A letter will be sent and the county will include the city’s commentary with its own letter to Caltrans.

Read Caltrans description of the options here.

Other Council Items

  • The council approved acceptance of the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) as presented by Michael Leach who said this is the 31st year Santa Paula has participated in this grant. See the financial report for more information on this grant. Mr. Leach said that the grant covers some code enforcement and substandard living repairs for homeowners unable to pay for repairs, among
  • The council approved an agreement with SPARC whose contract with the city has expired. Council Member Gherardi said that a three year contract is a problem because of the state of the city financials and that the city should consider a shorter term. It was generally agreed that SPARC performed a valuable service and saved the city money. There are reports which SPARC must provide about the service on which the city is waiting. The consensus appeared to be for a $9,000 contract for twelve months after reports provided. Commander Cordero is the liaison with SPARC. City Attorney will bring back the revised contract on March 7th. It was noted that SPARC costs $1,470,000 annually with equated to about $100 per animal housed last year.
  • Brian Yanez presented an RFP (Request for Proposal) which the Public Works Department is prepared to publish this week for a major street repair project which includes reconstruction and infrastructure of streets. The total is $9 million and monies from previous bond sales will be used to pay for the work. Council Member Gherardi suggested the RFP be issued in priority order in the event the results are greater than $9 million. This RFP was approved.
  • The council also approved an RFP for the O&M (Operations and Maintenance) of the Water Treatment facility. This work is now being performed by PERC, who will be one of the bidders. Mayor Hernandez asked about the use of city employees rather than contractors. Brian Yanez stated that the city has no expertise in this and perhaps in the future this may be an option. Note, that with the city’s growing $15 million unfunded pension liability, the decision to add more employees for this work must be weighed against future pension liabilities.
  • Two members to the city’s Youth Recreation Committee were approved: Jessenia Montiel and Morela Both students spoke lucidly about sports and after school programs and have personal experiences in these areas.

Read the first installment of this council meeting here concerning finances.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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