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Benz Road residents disconcerted

A Closer Look

Posted: October 4, 2008 9:05 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Amy Heetland and her Pug Rudy play on her lawn Friday afternoon. Heetland, a resident of Saugus who lives on Alaminos Drive, lobbied to have traffic blocked from coming on to Benz Road.

Benz Road winds lazily through one of the many picturesque canyons in the Santa Clarita Valley. The Saugus street is bordered by solidly middle-class homes featuring mature trees that cast shade on green lawns; the smell of wet grass wafts on light breezes.

There is no graffiti, no ugly cars on blocks, no couches on the front porches.

The only intrusion in the idyllic setting is the constant din of cars slogging incessantly up and down the block.

And Benz Road residents say angry motorists who enjoy the short cut have become road warriors.
Traffic was greatly reduced on Benz after Sept. 24, when city workers installed concrete barriers that restricted the direction motorists could turn.

“It was the first time I could open my windows and still hear the TV,” said Amy Heetland, 26, who lives on the southwest corner of Benz Road and Alaminos Drive.

But the traffic returned Wednesday after Santa Clarita city workers removed the three barriers that diverted traffic off Benz Road and caused an uproar that compelled the City Council to remove them.
The barriers decreased traffic on Benz Road, which drivers used as a shortcut between Bouquet Canyon Road and Copper Hill Drive.

“For me, it took a couple of days to get used to it,” said Heetland, who thinks the city should block both ends of the road and make it a cul de sac.

The council voted to install speed humps, which are elongated speed bumps, and Heetland thinks they will be effective.

“People will have to have tolerance to deal with the speed bumps,” Heetland said. “People who live here will do it. People using it as a short cut will go around.”

Katie, who was loading her elementary school child, said she didn’t want her name in the newspaper because she was afraid of retaliation. Vandals smashed her mailbox three times, and other students verbally confronted her child at the nearby elementary school.

“I love the neighborhood and its small school. It feels like a small town,” Katie said. “But I almost get plowed into when I try and back out of my driveway because people don’t stop at the stop sign and then they flip me off.”

The trouble started when Los Angeles County extended Copper Hill Drive east to David Way in 2003. The traffic count on Benz jumped from a few hundred daily to more than 3,300 daily.

“The safety of this street has been a five-year battle,” Katie said. “All we wanted all along was a safe street. We’re sad because the neighborhood was basically split. This whole thing has pitted neighbors against each other.

“It’s pitted husbands and wives against each other.”

The council voted 3-2 to install 20 temporary speed cushions to reduce speed in the residential neighborhood. It will take about 90 days to install the humps.

After six months, the city will study the impact of the speed-reducing bumps and residents will decide whether they want permanent speed bumps installed.

Katie hopes the humps work.

“I didn’t think the divider was the best thing in the world but our street was a lot quieter,” she said.


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