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Barriers infuriate drivers

Barricades filter traffic to other streets

Posted: September 24, 2008 8:10 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Marivic Francis hands driver Tracy Hild information about the negatives of the barricade placed by the city on the corner of Benz Road and Alaminos Drive in Saugus.

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Tracy Hild found a cement wall in the middle road as she drove her kids home from Bouquet Canyon Elementary School on Wednesday.

It normally takes her five minutes to zip to school on the residential streets but for the next three months it will take her 15 minutes each way.

Santa Clarita city workers installed a cement barricade to calm traffic at the intersection of Benz Road and Alaminos Drive, shocking and infuriating drivers who just wanted to drive in a straight line to get home.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Hild, who lives on nearby Calhaven Drive. “I pay my city taxes to have my roads go through ... Now you’re causing more traffic on more of the neighborhood streets.”

The diverter filters Benz Road traffic onto Alaminos Drive and funnels Alaminos Drive traffic onto Benz Road. City workers installed it to discourage drivers from using Benz Road as a shortcut between Bouquet Canyon Road and Copper Hill Drive, a persistent problem for Benz Road residents for the past five years.

“The Benz Road shortcut is available 24-7,” said Tony Natoli, a 29-year resident of Benz Road. “The people that complain about being inconvenienced a few minutes a day don’t know what it’s like living here, being impacted 24-7.”
Two residents passed out flyers with council members’ contact information to drivers approaching the obstructed intersection.

“Call the City Council,” Christina Willibrand yelled out to a driver passing by. “Call them and complain.”

By mid-afternoon, City Hall received dozens of calls complaining about the diverter, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said. She said she wants to remind residents it’s only temporary.

“I feel for these people. They are very distraught when they call,” she said. “They are very upset and they have good reason to be.”

The council asked city staff several months ago to come up with a tangible solution for the Benz Road traffic problem, Ortiz said. The staff brainstormed and came up with every possible remedy for the Benz Road problem, she said. The staff recommended the council vote on temporary speed humps and listed the diverter as an alternative option.

Council members voted 3-1 at the Aug. 26 meeting to try the diverter for three months, said City Clerk Sharon Dawson. Marsha McLean dissented and Frank Ferry was absent, she said.

Councilwoman Laurie Ender, who voted for the diverter along with Mayor Bob Kellar and Councilwoman Laurene Weste, said Wednesday she wants to remind residents the diverter is temporary.

“I completely understand how upset the residents are and know that this has an impact on the entire neighborhood,” she said. “I hope that those residents who are negatively impacted speak up and voice their opinions so that when we make a permanent decision to address the traffic problems, we have everyone’s input.”

City staff will calculate traffic counts near the diverter and compare the data with traffic counts taken before the diverter was installed, said Andrew Yi, a city traffic engineer.

The staff will report back to the council and the public response in about three months, he said. The council could then consider installing speed humps or decide to try an alternative solution.

The city notified 530 residents in the general area of the traffic diverter, Ortiz said. Some residents in the outlying areas, including those living north of Copper Hill, however, were not included on the mailing list.

“It took them by surprised and we apologize for that,” Ortiz said. “I think we should have done a better job.”

The city bus that stops on Alaminos Drive has also been rerouted and now stops on Bouquet Canyon Road south of Russ Jay Street, she said.

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