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Lightening the load

Traffic: Added truck, HOV lanes will help commuters and truck drivers share road

Posted: April 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

David Rule, 49, of Griffin, Ga., speaks about his experiences on the road while taking a break at a Castaic truck stop on Monday. Rule hauls produce and poultry between several points on a route between Georgia and California.

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When you sit in the driver’s seat for more than 1,000 miles each week, you notice potholes, trucker Joseph Norman said.

“Thirty years ago, California used to have great roads,” the 59-year-old driving veteran said while taking a break Monday at a Castaic stop. Norman delivers letters and packages in his big rig from Las Vegas to Southern California several times a week for the U.S. Postal Service. “The roads are trashed (now). They’re rough as a washboard.”

Big rigs make up a significant portion of the more than 82,000 vehicles passing through Santa Clarita on Interstate 5 each week, according to Caltrans data.

More than $500 million worth of renovations planned over the next few years should provide better roads, fewer potholes and more room for both commuters and big rigs.

Caltrans will add additional truck lanes on I-5 from the Highway 14 interchange to Pico Canyon Road as well as extend high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall, Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler said Monday.

The relief of having a dedicated truck lane couldn’t come soon enough for truck drivers who make the daily haul through the Santa Clarita Valley and hundreds of miles beyond.

“Truck drivers are respectful on the road. Car drivers? They don’t care,” Norman said, laughing and shaking his head.

It’s common for people driving cars and motorcycles to cut big rigs off as they’re changing lanes or entering the freeway, Georgia-based truck driver David Rule said.

Rule, 49, was fueling his 60-foot trailer at Pilot Travel Center in Castaic on Monday. He was hauling 28,000 pounds of strawberries from Los Angeles to Georgia.

All the extra weight means Rule needs more room on the freeway to slow down, he said.

“You can’t just turn on a dime, or stop on a dime, either, in (a big rig),” Rule, said. “People don’t understand (that) you have to share the road. Give yourself a cushion and pay attention.”

Adding additional truck lanes will minimize traffic congestion in north Los Angeles County, said Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition. The coalition was formed in 2002 to advocate for the highway improvement project.

“The motivation and the benefit is economic development for the Santa Clarita Valley and the surrounding areas long-term, and improving traffic congestion in the short term,” Lindenheim said.

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