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Castaic foul-weather traffic dilemma

Residents of SCV’s northwestern community want CHP to stop stopping traffic in their town

Posted: January 2, 2014 5:56 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2014 5:56 p.m.

In the Signal file photo, Caltrans workers wearing rain gear carry barriers to the closed gate at the entrance of the on-ramp to the north-bound Interstate 5 freeway on Lake Hughes Road in Castaic.

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When big storms or bad accidents shut down the Grapevine, California Highway Patrol officers typically shut down northbound traffic at Parker Road, right in the heart of Castaic, sending hoards of drivers who don’t know the area onto the town’s main streets.

The sudden onslaught can gridlock the area and drive customers away from businesses, some community leaders and business owners say.

They’re asking the CHP to instead shut down the freeway at Templin Highway — about two miles north of Castaic — in an effort to avoid choking local roads with truck and commuter traffic from one of the state’s most-traveled thoroughfares.

Jeff Preach, a Castaic resident preparing information on the issue for the Castaic Area Town Council, said the town becomes a “train wreck” whenever traffic is stopped at Parker Road.

“When they close the freeway, it’s a huge traffic jam that shuts down the whole town,” he said, adding the closure can cut off access to schools and local businesses.

“Shutting the whole town down is silly,” Preach said.

Bad for business
The action is also bad for business, said Castaic Area Town Council President Flo Lawrence.

“We as a community can’t get in and out when they shut down the freeway,” he said this week. “It’s like we’re in a prison.”

It’s been suggested in talks with the CHP that local business would benefit with motorists getting off the freeway and spending money on food or coffee.

But Renee Sabol, president of the Castaic Chamber of Commerce, said reality is just the opposite.

Prolonged closure of the freeway often means reduced business for restaurants, she said.

“People come in, buy a drink and then sit there for an hour or more, so there’s no circulation of customers whatsoever,” she said.

“It has a negative impact overall on the community,” she added of freeway closures at Parker.

Jack Crawford, who owns The UPS Store on Castaic Road, said the stalled truck and commuter traffic also makes local customers less likely to venture out.

“Our business pretty much comes to a standstill,” he said. “Once the area fills up with semis, the local people don’t want to get out and have to deal with all of the traffic to get to our store, so they just don’t get out.”

Road conditions are also a concern. While recent road repairs along The Old Road and at Hasley Canyon Road have improved traffic flow through Castaic, no upgrades have been made to Parker Road, according to Lawrence.

“Parker Road is not built to get all that (stopped) traffic all at once,” he said.

Officials react
CHP officers, meanwhile, are weighing the concerns expressed by some of the residents and their suggestion to stop traffic at Templin Highway.

“They have been discussing with us the possibility of having the interstate shut down at Templin,” said CHP Officer John Lutz.

“This is a collaborative effort with Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation),” he added.

Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said Caltrans would soon release an official response about the talks.

If the CHP had more “resources” at its disposal, making the proposed changes would not likely pose a problem, Lutz said.

“But, with limited resources, it’s difficult for us to service that may vehicles that get stuck on the interstate and continue to provide service to the rest of the area,” he said.

Both Crawford and Sabol said the proposal to stop traffic at Templin could relieve Castaic’s issues.

“I suggest to all of the involved governmental agencies that they re-evaluate the impact that it has on Castaic,” Sabol said of traffic halted at Parker Road.

Highway 126
Crawford suggested closing the freeway at the junction with Highway 126, before traffic even reaches Castaic.

Doing so would open up more options for commuters to continue their trips and would allow trucks to plot an alternate route, he said.

“If they come all the way to Castaic, they don’t really have much of an alternative but to sit here until it’s over,” he said.

 

 

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