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Work continuing on Highway 126 bridge project

Posted: July 29, 2014 2:56 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2014 2:56 p.m.

A truck turns left from Commerce Center Drive onto Highway 126, where construction is under way on a new bridge. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze

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Despite a temporary roadblock in the form of limbless reptiles, officials with the county Department of Public Works hope to complete a planned bridge on Highway 126 on schedule.

The bridge, currently under construction, would lift Highway 126 over Commerce Center Drive. Officials say that would improve traffic flow along the road, which serves as a major corridor to some segments of the Santa Clarita Valley, such as Val Verde and portions of Castaic, as well as parts of Ventura County and Highway 101.

“Construction is going full steam ahead,” said Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. “The project is a major project and it’s beginning to take shape.”

“We’re still looking at having the project completed in 2016,” he added.

Spencer said current work includes pouring the road surface for the bridge.

“This project will help alleviate traffic and safety concerns that have been there in the past,” he said. “So it’s a very important project from that perspective.”

While Spencer said work is moving right along now, the project was slowed to a crawl last year after workers found a number of legless lizards on the site.

Legless lizards, considered a species of special concern by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, look virtually identical to snakes, but they differ in several ways. For instance, legless lizards have eyelids that can blink and they also have external ear holes, which snakes do not have.

The reptiles were discovered when workers removed vegetation in the project area in mid-October, at which point work at the site was put on hold.

Work resumed on the project in December.

“The issue with the lizards was solved, but we continue to monitor the site very closely for environmental and vegetation issues,” Spencer said. “We still have a team of experts out there and on call to look for any issues that we have to take care of.”

Along with construction of the bridge, the project would also add new lanes on Highway 126, expanding it to three in each direction; add on- and off-ramps from Highway 126 to Henry Mayo Drive and Commerce Center Drive; extend and realign Henry Mayo Drive; and add new traffic signals in the area.

Officials say the project will alleviate traffic congestion. More than 40,000 vehicles can make their way through the intersection of Commerce Center Drive and Highway 126 every day, according to estimates.

“It’s very vital because of the development taking place out there in that region and along that corridor,” Spencer said of the project. “It’s vital from a traffic and safety perspective to make these very badly needed improvements.”

The $50 million project is a cooperative effort between Public Works, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation. It is financed with bridge and thoroughfare district fees and grant funds from Metro, according to officials.
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