Gridley Road residents dispute Caltrans proposed detour
By Nao Braverman
Gridley Road residents have been disputing a Caltrans proposed detour that would divert approximately 9,700 Highway 150 commuters onto the residential street each day for six months.
The detour is intended to direct traffic off Highway 150 while Caltrans repairs the San Antonio Creek Bridge, which connects the highway at San Antonio Creek in the East End of Ojai.
Currently designed as “scour critical” condition, which means that its supports have been so badly eroded that it could be washed away in a flood, the bridge needs to be strengthened, widened, and lengthened, according to Caltrans officials.
But Ojai residents have been asking Caltrans engineers to come up with an alternative to the Gridley Road detour, or at least postpone the bridge replacement until all the alternatives have been thoroughly discussed.
Currently, the 28-foot-wide, 120-foot-long bridge is scheduled to be strengthened and expanded to 40 feet across and 180 feet long— which includes a 4-foot-wide bike lane — beginning in the spring of 2008.
The proposed detour would divert East Ojai Avenue traffic onto a residential portion of Gridley Road, then to Grand Avenue from Gridley to Gorham, and then back to Highway 150.
When Ojai residents asked Caltrans engineers to create a temporary diversion through the dry creek bottom, instead, Caltrans officials said that with so many animals living in the creek bottom such a detour would not be approved by California Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Later in October Caltrans officials discovered that they might be able to obtain permits to cross the creek bottom from government agencies. But subsequently Caltrans found that they could not direct a detour through the creek bottom because of an archeological site south of the bridge near the creek, according to Caltrans spokesperson Judy Gish.
Now there is some question as to exactly how far the archeological site is from the bridge, and how urgent the bridge replacement is, said Mike Culver, Ojai transportation manager.
According to Caltrans officials, the record of archeological sites are stored in some database that can only be accessed by Caltrans’ archeologists. Some Ojai residents are looking into getting their own archeologist to try to find exactly where the site is said Culver.
Though Caltrans officials have labeled the bridge “scour critical,” Culver said that with some concrete supports, the bridge would be safe to use for a while longer, though it would eventually need to be replaced.
Caltrans is asking for a categorical exemption for the project, meaning that they believe it has no environmental impact because they look at it from a regional perspective, said Culver. The nearly 10,000 cars are being redirected, but they are the same number of cars taking a different route, so from their perspective it has no environmental impact. The neighbors disagree, because that huge number of vehicles will be redirected onto their street, says Culver.
“We are trying to get Caltrans to look at it from the residents’ point of view, but so far none of our questions are being answered,” he said.
The detour is still under consideration but Caltrans has made no decision, said Gish.
Culver and Gridley residents will ask the City Council if they can offer help at the regular council meeting on Nov. 27.