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Cross-valley connector almost complete

Work already underway on final bridges across river

Posted: January 25, 2009 9:13 p.m.
Updated: January 27, 2009 12:22 p.m.
 

Santa Clarita city officials will pull out the official groundbreaking shovels this afternoon, but work is already underway on the final chunk of the $245 million road that will span the valley in 2010.

At an expected cost of $26 million and under the helm of several agencies, two bridges are being erected across the Santa Clara River to connect Golden Valley and Newhall Ranch roads.

Work began on the quarter-mile link - one bridge in each direction - on Jan. 13 and is expected to last 14 months, Assistant City Engineer Curtis Nay said.

Barring any delays, the entire cross-valley connector will be completed in 2010, about two years later than originally expected.

Touted by city officials as a key to solving traffic issues - particularly on Soledad Canyon Road - the 8 1/2-mile road will provide a direct route from Highway 14 to the Interstate 5-Highway 126 interchange.

"It's been a long haul," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources, including grants and funding at the county, state and federal levels.

"No one agency can do this," Ortiz said, and added there were 92 agencies involved at one point.

She said the biggest delays in completing the project were due to environmental issues.

The environmental review for the bridges took a year, she said.

The city's traffic engineers have already been keeping tabs on how much use the existing portions of the connector are getting, and expect to see changes once the bridge is complete.

"That's the final piece of the puzzle," Senior Traffic Engineer Ian Pari said Friday.

Both Newhall Ranch and Golden Valley roads have seen increases in use since their openings.

Newhall Ranch Road between McBean Parkway and I-5 saw an average of 11,400 daily trips in 2005, according to city traffic studies. That was prior to the full extension of the road all the way to the freeway.

In 2008 that same stretch of road saw 21,000 average daily trips.

To get the best sense of traffic flow, Pari said traffic studies are conducted over a several-day period between Monday and Thursday, and avoiding holidays and the summer.

Traffic is recorded by laying a section of hose across the road. Each vehicle that passes - the two bumps of a passing vehicle count as one - compresses the tubing, sending a blast of air into a roadside monitor that electronically records the data.

The cross-valley connector is not the only major road project on track for the city, public works director Robert Newman said.

In conjunction with The Master's College's master plan, Dockweiler Drive will be extended into downtown Newhall. Also on track is a project to extend Via Princessa from Isabella Parkway to Golden Valley Road.

A major holdup in the completion of three artery roads is the ongoing cleanup of the former Whittaker-Bermite property.

The land was used for munitions manufacturing and testing for much of the 20th century, and is contaminated with perchlorate, a by-product of rocket fuel that has been linked to human thyroid problems.

Slated to extend through the 996-acre site in the heart of the city are Via Princessa - which would connect to Wiley Canyon Road - Magic Mountain Parkway and Santa Clarita Parkway.

With the cleanup and development of the land some years off, it remains to be seen when those avenues will be complete.

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