2015-03-26 / Front Page
New Lost Hills bridge a ‘safe’ alternative
$30-million public works project biggest ever in Calabasas
When it’s completed in about two years, the new Lost Hills bridge will have five traffic lanes, two bike paths and a sidewalk, making the passage across the 101 Freeway safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
The Lost Hills interchange is a main access point for drivers traveling to western Calabasas and Malibu. The bridge carries almost 30,000 vehicles each day and is considered too small for the high demand.
Calabasas and county offi cials gathered on Monday for a ground-breaking ceremony on Lost Hills Road.
The event marked the start of construction for the longawaited bridge and interchange improvements.
The project includes the construction of a curving on-ramp in the northeast quadrant of the interchange, and a sound wall and earthen berms to reduce traffic noise for residents of Saratoga, a community immediately north of the freeway and west of Lost Hills Road.
Robert Yalda, director of public works for Calabasas, said construction will last about 18 months.
The existing interchange leads to frequent traffic bottlenecks, he said. Cars waiting to turn left onto the northbound 101 cause traffic backups on Lost Hills Road.
“We know we will have two years of construction, but in the end it will be safe,” said Norm Buehring, vice president of the Community Association of Saratoga Hills and a traffic and transportation commissioner for Calabasas.
About 400 households in Saratoga depend on the bridge to travel in and out of their neighborhood, which sits below the Calabasas landfill.
“There is no other access; that’s what makes it very challenging for us,” Yalda said. “First we’re going to build half of the new bridge to preserve community access, and then we will build the other half.”
Two-thirds of the cost of the $30-million project will be covered by the county’s Measure R transportation bond funds.
Ara Najarian, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member, said the improvements will bring relief to the community.
“Most people think of Measure R funding for the transit lines, but it includes a highway component,” he said.
Calabasas City Manager Tony Coroalles said the city has been working on the Lost Hills bridge and interchange improvements for more than a decade.
The half-cent sales tax Measure R bond approved by L.A. County voters has worked wonders for transportation projects throughout the county, Coroalles said.
Several years ago, the city hired a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for $60,000 per year for two years to try to get federal money for the project.
“But it was a dry well,” Coroalles said.
David Shapiro, mayor of Calabasas, said, “With the exception of the Civic Center, this is the largest public works project in the City of Calabasas.”
To keep residents informed, officials have created a Facebook page for the project.