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Why it's taken so long

Posted: December 11, 2008 10:08 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2008 4:59 a.m.

STAATS Construction employees Francisco Nunez (foreground) and Javier Cardenas work on an underground water system near Magic Mountain Parkway and Interstate 5 Thursday afternoon.

Road work on Magic Mountain Parkway at Interstate 5 will finish four months ahead of schedule, city engineers said.

"We are expecting construction to be completed by the summer of 2009," said Curtis Nay, assistant city engineer, monitoring the extensive overhaul.

Santa Clarita engineers managing the multi-agency project are widening the four ramps on and off of the interstate and moving The Old Road farther west.

The lion's share of the expansion of Magic Mountain Parkway/I-5 project remains funded by the Newhall Land & Farming Co. with a much smaller amount kicked in by local utilities.

Officials with the city, county, Caltrans as well as Newhall Land agreed city engineers should manage the project in order to qualify for $15 million in Metropolitan Transportation Authority grants from Los Angeles County.

"We wanted to manage the project because we thought it was a significant gateway to the city," Nay said.

The project's budget has grown over the years from $32 million to $47 million.

The budgetary increase happened when the agencies tied to the project - particularly Newhall Land - kept adding to the "to-do" list of construction jobs, city engineers said.

An appropriate analogy, they explained, would be a person shopping for bread and milk only to have their spouse add potato chips, ice cream and other groceries to the shopping cart.

As a result of six major items added to the list of construction chores, city engineers will soon be asking the Santa Clarita City Council to give them $10 million to pay for the extra work - money expected to be fully reimbursed.

"This project will not cost the city of Santa Clarita a single nickel," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

Roadwork on Magic Mountain Parkway was to have been finished by September but the additional construction tasks moved the completion date to late December 2009.

"But construction has been working so efficiently and so fast, we've moved the completion date up," Nay said.

The six added construction tasks include:

n New sewer lines - requested by Newhall Land to serve residents in future housing developments.

n Enhanced landscaping - widening the grassy portion of curbside land from eight feet to 21 feet, including the sidewalk.

n Architectural treatment - attractive mosaic design of the type seen on some local bridges.

n Concrete instead of asphalt - anticipated heavy truck traffic at the intersection of The Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway warrants using concrete as opposed to asphalt.

n Modified storm drains - the county asked city engineers to have the course of the drains "hug" the west side of The Old Road, allowing water to empty into the Santa Clara River.

n Reinforced pipes - the county's sanitation districts want pipes reinforced with a harder inner lining made of polyethylene since the additional soil placed on top of them will increase external pressure.
Completing "Phase Two" work at the busy interchange by the end of next summer will cap eight years of work there. Caltrans spent five years rebuilding the interstate overpass as "Phase One," with work that began in fall 2001 finishing in April 2006.

The city-managed Expansion of Magic Mountain Parkway/I-5 project began June 2006.

"This project is going to make traffic flow much more efficiently," Ortiz said.


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