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Traffic troubles in the SCV

City engineer says Bouquet Junction is no longer a major complaint area

Posted: August 23, 2009 9:06 p.m.
Updated: August 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Drivers wait to make a left turn onto Soledad Canyon Road from Sierra Highway in Canyon Country at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

 
When Steve Silvers drives from Canyon Country to Valencia, he tries to avoid the Bouquet Canyon Road junction.

"I will typically go up Whites Canyon to Plum Canyon to avoid that (Bouquet) intersection," said Silvers, 53, of Canyon Country. "It's a few more minutes out of my way, but less aggravation."

Silvers admits recent improvements to Bouquet Junction have relieved congestion, but during rush hour, he said it's still a mess.

"You just can't easily take out a shopping center to add more lanes," he said.

While several drivers continue to name Bouquet Junction as SCV's most notorious intersection, city traffic engineer Andrew Yi said complaints about the intersection have diminished since recent improvements.

"Bouquet Junction got a lot better since we put in a triple left turn," he said. "It used to be a four-minute cycle. Now it's about a two-minute cycle."

But Bouquet Canyon Road still has its issues.

For example, there is some congestion at northbound Bouquet Canyon Road turning onto Newhall Ranch Road, Yi said, but he expects the Cross Valley Connector will alleviate it.

But the city's most complained-about intersection lies on the other side of the valley: the crossing of Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road.

Space and timing
Yi attributed to the congestion to multiple factors including mere traffic volume, limited access throughout the city and growth in the area.

There is no set plan to improve the intersection yet, but the city is looking into the feasibility of adding an additional left turn lane from northbound Sierra Highway onto Soledad.

It's another intersection Silvers tries to avoid.

"That arrow right there is the most unpredictable arrow," said Silvers, while pointing to the arrow signaling a left from northbound Sierra Highway onto Soledad Canyon Road.

"Sometimes that arrow will let three cars through and other times it'll let 10."

City traffic engineers retime signals once at least every three years, Yi said.

As a part of a citywide effort to retime 130 traffic signals, engineers will analyze this and other problematic intersections.

Areas of improvement
For the most part, April Bustos of Canyon Country believes traffic in the Santa Clarita Valley isn't so bad.

"I'd rather drive here than L.A.," Bustos said recently as she filled up her gas tank at the corner of Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon.

City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said local traffic problems used to be a primary concern at City Council meetings.

"When I came to the city, people came to council meetings screaming about traffic," she said. "If you weren't here 20 years ago, you just don't have an appreciation when compared to what it was like."

For example, she said, the "Canyon Country crush" between Whites Canyon Road and Sierra Highway "was even worse when it was four lanes. Now it's six lanes."

Safety has also called for traffic improvements.

"We recently put a protected left at Plum Canyon and Bouquet Canyon Road - traveling east to west on Plum Canyon," Yi said.
Yi said that by next year, Santa Clarita plans to begin using an intelligent transportation system which would measure the amount and speed of traffic on city streets.

The goal is to use that information to alert the public either via cell phone or internet, giving them the information needed to avoid potentially congested areas.

Yellow light, red lights
There are only a couple of those flashing yellow left-turn signals around town and there's a reason for that: They're being used on a trial basis, Yi said.

"By blinking it demonstrates much better observance by motorists - that's what it's supposed to do," Yi said. "We're trying it here to see if it reduces the amount of collisions."

The flashing yellow lights have been installed at the Valencia Boulevard and Citrus Street intersection and the Mall Entrance and Valencia Boulevard intersection.

The red-light cameras on seven different intersections throughout the city has improved traffic safety, Ortiz said.

"It's an expensive program to administer but the threat of having that huge ticket is changing behavior," Ortiz said.

On average, intersections with the red light cameras saw a drop in collisions involving red light violations from 2.8 to 1.1 annual collisions per intersection, Yi said.

The fines paid by red-light violators caught by those cameras feeds directly to cover costs of the program, Ortiz said.

Yi said there is no plan to add additional red light cameras.

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