Caltrans Begins Scoping for I-5 Improvements

Caltrans has launched the public review and study processes for much-needed improvements along the Interstate 5 corridor through the Santa Clarita Valley.

The improvements, originally proposed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and advocated by the Golden State Gateway Coalition,would include carpool and truck climbing lanes to help decrease congestion and upgrade traffic flow along this vital section of I-5, the backbone of California’s transportation network.

“It’s really to improve the overall movement of cars and trucks on Interstate 5,” said Bob Blume, project manager for Strategic Infrastructure Solutions, a consultant on the project. Blume reviewed the planned project alternatives for the approximately 30 people who attended the Caltrans scoping session June 4 at Santa Clarita City Hall.

The scoping session was the beginning of the public review process for the project. Caltrans Deputy Director Ron Kosinski said the scoping period would proceed through June, after which the environmental studies would get under way — an environmental impact report in compliance with state regulations and an environmental impact statement to meet federal requirements.

The draft EIR/EIS would be released for public review in early-2008, Kosinski said. The environmental reports would be finalized in the summer of 2008 and a decision made on the project in the fall of 2008, with construction scheduled to begin a year later.

Blume outlined the four basic scenarios that could occur:

— Alternative 1: No improvements. Under this scenario, no new lanes would be added to I-5 through the Santa Clarita Valley and, according to the Caltrans fact sheet given to citizens at the scoping session, “the congestion and operational problems in this segment will not be alleviated.”

— Alternative 2:This option would add one high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction from the junction of I-5 and State Route 14 to the Parker Road interchange in Castaic. This alternative would also extend the existing northbound and southbound truck lanes in the Newhall Pass. The northbound truck lane would extend to Calgrove Boulevard, and the southbound truck lane would begin at the Lyons Avenue/Pico Canyon interchange. This alternative would be built almost completely within existing right of way, and would call for narrower-than-normal median and shoulder widths. Caltrans officials refer to this alternative as the “constrained alternative” or “non-standard alternative.”

— Alternative 3:This alternative would implement the same improvements as Alternative 2, but would retain standard median and shoulder widths. In order to accomplish this, Caltrans would need to acquire additional right of way. Caltrans officials call this the “Standard Alternative.”

— Alternative 4:In short, Alternative 4 — known as the “full buildout alternative” — would add not one, but two HOV lanes in each direction on I-5, plus the extension of the truck lanes all the way to Parker Road. Standard medians and shoulders would be included, but Caltrans would need to acquire additional right of way to facilitate this option. The HOV lanes would transition from double lanes to single lanes between Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway — providing one HOV lane in each direction to between Magic Mountain Parkway and Parker Road.

Several residents in attendance at the scoping session addressed the contingent of Caltrans officials regarding the project, asking that sound walls be considered as part of the improvements, in order to help reduce traffic noise for those with property near the freeway.

“The scoping meeting was informative,” said Jackie Bick, local field representative for state Sen. George Runner. “Caltrans gave a good review of the various alternatives, and allowed those with questions to air them. The general tenor of the meeting was favorable. We all look forward to the progression of the project.”

“This was an important step in the process,” said Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition. “With the environmental reviews under way, we can see that the wheels are now in motion to bring much-needed relief for everyone who relies on Interstate 5.”

Click here to see the two-page fact sheet Caltrans provided to those attending the scoping meeting.