The Agoura Hills City Council unanimously voted in favor of moving forward with the engineering design (plans, specifications and estimates) phase of the controversial Palo Commado Interchange Project Wednesday night.
The city is taking the lead on the project, even though the bridge is technically owned by the state.
City Engineer Ramiro Adeva gave a presentation offering clarification on the need for the project as well as the proposed improvements.
"As you know, there are several phases to the process of a project of this nature, and we're just asking for authorization from the council to proceed to the next phase," Adeva said during his presentation. He stressed it was not an approval for construction.
The presentation was based on existing and projected traffic conditions at local interchanges and the Chesebro overpass from 2010–when the project analysis was launched–through 2035.
The study, based on the movement of traffic during morning and evening rush hours, found that the Driver/Chesebro interchange, as well as the overpass with one lane in each direction, received failing levels of service.
The city made a "policy decision" not to make changes to the Drive/Chesebro interchange due to the sensitivity involving the residents of Old Agoura. However, because of existing safety concerns, which include no left lane turn lane onto the northbound 101 as well as lack of sufficient sidewalks and bike lanes, the city moved forward with the proposal for the overpass.
In the proposal, the bridge would span 88 feet to include include five lanes, sidewalks, left turn lanes and bike paths. The $22 million project would be funded through Measure R, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Los Angeles County fund allotted for dozens of transit and highway projects over the next 30 years.
Council members expressed concerns over the size of the project, asking if the bridge could be narrowed to fewer lanes or possibly phased in.
Adeva responded that all of the questions were valid and would be better answered once the engineering design phase was approved. The city would then need to make a presentation to Caltrans.
Though speaking in favor of going ahead, Councilmember Illece Buckley-Weber said, "A five lane Reyes Adobe Bridge doesn't work in that part of the city."
"I've always thought that the bridge needed to be fixed," said Mayor Denis Weber.
Several residents once again spoke about their opposition to the project. Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie owner Jean-Luc Nouzille, an Agoura Hills resident, gave his own slide presentation based on Dept. of Transportation figures illustrating that traffic in the area is declining, not increasing, thus negating the need for the road widening.
"The proposal is out of step with transportation patterns," he said.
The city will ultimately need to bring an approved design to Caltrans.
"You tell Caltrans it's not what they want; it's what we want," said Weber, addressing Adeva.
During the November 14 meeting, the council decided not to move ahead after hearing the concerns of 12 Old Agoura residents and instead wanted to consult with city staff members and revisit the issue this month.