Measure R Dollars at Work: Massive Widening for I-5 Near Santa Clarita

Another massive highway expansion project, brought to you by Measure R
Another massive highway expansion project, brought to you by Measure R

As Streetsblog has been documenting, there has been a heavy cost to Measure R beyond a half cent increase to the county sales tax.

One of those costs that 20% of the collected funds will go towards massive highway expansion projects that will induce even greater car dependence, worsen air quality and promote sprawling development patterns.

Thanks to a recent article in the Santa Clarita Signal, we’ve been given a look at another one of those projects: The planned $500 million six lane widening of the I-5 from the Highway 14 interchange to Parker Road.  Construction could start within the next year.  The project will be completed in three phases and will add two truck-only lanes and a carpool lane in each direction.

Lest anyone wonder about the motivations for the project, Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition, makes it pretty clear.

“This is about adding capacity,” Lindenheim said. “When capacity is needed, in certain situations, it will be a godsend.”

Santa Clarita’s planning manager, Robert Newman, agreed.

“There’s certainly going to be a big benefit for traveling public,” Newman said.

If the theory that adding more travel lanes does nothing to improve traffic patterns over the long-term, the question for this project is the same as it is for other massive highway expansions.  Will the car congestion created by the expansion be greater than the “congestion savings” created by the expansion before the travel lanes are filled again.

  • Eric B

    Original story:

    I love the characterization of Measure R as “controversial.” Saying something doesn’t make it so.

  • Jan S.

    The idea that adding more lanes does nothing to improve traffic in the long run is more than a theory. There are dozens upon dozens of studies that show that the short-term relief gained by adding lanes disappears within five years as more and more people who did not previously use that route begin to do so. An analysis of 17 years of data from 30 urban California counties by U.C. Berkeley researchers (Hansen and Huang, 1997) found that every 1% increase in new lane-miles generated a 0.9% increase in traffic in less than 5 years, effectively neutralizing the transient increase in capacity. Just do a search on “Induced Demand” and you can keep yourself busy for days reading studies that demonstrate this.

    One of the most striking and rigorous is a study of 15 years of data from the Texas Transportation Institute from 70 U.S. metropolitan areas. The study ranked the cities according to their growth in lane capacity and then divided them into 2 groups. Next, they examined several conventional transportation indices for both groups. The two groups showed no significant difference in congestion cost per capita, no difference in excess fuel per capita and delay per capita did not differ between the two groups. Finally, the two groups showed NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in the mean roadway congestion index, a commonly-used parameter calculated from an area’s daily volume of travel per lane of freeways and major streets.

  • Just something to think about, when a new development is proposed planning (and CEQA) generally requires a traffic study of some sort (usually to analyze impacts to car traffic). Through the process mitigations (street widening, signalized intersections, etc…) are identified and generally the developer of the project is responsible for some or all of the cost for those mitigations. So hypothetically (or not) if a residential project was proposed along the I5… the direction the sprawl seems to be headed, car traffic would be funneled on the I5 (since there is very little job-base in Santa Clarita) and impacts would be shown. The developer would be responsible for the impact and the freeway widening. By spending Measure R funds to “increase capacity” a developer can now come in and claim that capacity for their project and save a considerable amount of money on traffic impacts. What a deal! Tax-payers pay for private development!

  • LAofAnaheim

    I can live with the fact that this is for carpool and truck lanes. That’s fine. The express 700 series buses of Santa Clarita Transit will benefit from these new lanes. I would have been upset if this was for auxiliary lanes; then it’s just a normal freeway widening. Carpool lanes is okay.

    Hey, at least we’re not OCTA with Measure M which is 75% roads and 25% “transit”. I have yet to see a real benefit for Metrolink or public transit (where is the Bravo! system!). Even the 25% for “transit” was for car enhancements (i.e. parking garages at Metrolink stations).

  • The grapevine baffles me.

    Driving from the north, you have x amount of traffic. You enter the grapevine, and now there are really no entrances or exist to the freeway until you get to magic mountain. And yet, as soon as you near magic mountain, traffic now appears to be 2x.

    How did traffic double if there were no entrances? WHERE DID EVERYONE COME FROM!?!

  • Actually, there is a significant junction with SR-126 north of Magic Mountain that carries traffic westward to Santa Paula, Fillmore, and Ventura and is a major bypass for traffic that wants to avoid the Conejo Grade and the Warner Center area. That is where a lot of your traffic is coming from.

    Again, I hate this whole “heavy cost” thing with Measure R. You have to appeal to the 90% of likely voters that have cars and drive everywhere. (Many transit riders are too young, too busy, or not citizens or here legally, so you can’t target your campaign to just transit riders.) The Measure R people were careful enough to get the local AAA to endorse Measure R. If you wanted the AAA to broadcast their opposition to Measure R to the million members in Southern California through their mailing list and Westways magazine, that would have doomed the measure to failure, even below a simple majority. Highway projects, like the 710 tunnel, High Desert Corridor, and I-5 widening in the Norwalk Narrows and through the Santa Clarita Valley are part of the deal to get the AAA and drivers buying in. Yes, they are going to be worthless in five to ten years, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold our commitment to the drivers and auto owners who voted for Measure R and give them the highway projects that they voted for.

  • Erik G.

    calwatch is spot on. Sometimes you have to sleep with the devil. What we as transit advocates need to do though, is to remind the local media that Measure R is not only a transit construction project but will also fund a ton of asphalt-laying. Then in twenty/thirty years, when all the “bottlenecks” are fixed and the 710 is connected to the 210, etc., we can demonstrate which were the most beneficial investments!


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