By Kathryn Barger
Los Angeles County Supervisor, Fifth District
Dear Castaic Community Constituents:
I am very aware of the traffic issues and burdens you are experiencing due to last week’s Route Fire, which significantly damaged an embankment and retaining structure along the Interstate 5 (I-5) freeway.
My staff is working hard alongside the state agency responsible for I-5 repairs – the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) – and the California Highway Patrol (CHP), offering any County support possible. My team has also been in contact with Senator Scott Wilk and Assemblymember Suzette Valladares, asking for their engagement and leadership as our state representatives overseeing these state emergencies.
I will continue working on your behalf to achieve two goals: 1) advocating for Caltrans to complete road repair work as thoroughly and quickly as possible; and 2) have Castaic residents be kept in the loop and informed of the status of the work.
Here is a summary of my efforts:
— Sent a letter to Governor Newsom asking that he urgently allocate any and all needed resources to Caltrans and CHP so that they can complete critical repairs as quickly as possible. State support is critical since state agencies are the main agencies involved in I-5 repairs;
— Directed Public Works to establish local access only for roadways in the Castaic community to help keep residents mobile while closures are in place – an action I anticipate will be implemented today (Friday, Sept. 9); and
— Introduced a motion that will be voted upon at the next Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on September 13 that 1) directs Public Works to immediately expedite all plans in development (including the construction of new traffic signals at critical intersections) to alleviate the burden of traffic congestion on The Old Road during I-5 events and during the repair work Caltrans is currently conducting; and 2) directs the County’s Office of Emergency Management to develop an Integrated Corridor Management System with state and local agencies to better coordinate traffic flows in the event of emergencies affecting the I-5.
I have also urged Caltrans to identify and explore all possible plans to add more traffic flow on the north-bound I-5. As a result, Caltrans is taking the following actions:
— Identified a short-term solution to use the north-bound I-5 left shoulder as a temporary third lane that could be functional by the end of next week. The first phase of this effort was completed this morning and the second phase is expected to begin on Sunday with successive, multiple overnight closures to complete the work.
— Will implement full northbound I-5 shutdowns for the implementation of the left shoulder 3rd lane. Doing so will ensure that local freeway off-ramps are closed and northbound I-5 traffic is routed back onto southbound I-5 and off of local streets while construction takes place.
I will also continue to advocate that timely and up-to-date information be shared with you and the general public. Caltrans hosted a press conference yesterday, in partnership with the CHP, to present timelines and a status update and has also made a public information officer available to answer the public’s questions.
You can now obtain updated roadway information directly from Caltrans by dialing or texting (213) 379-5208 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The bottom line is that critical roadway repairs must be completed to the I-5 so that drivers’ safety is not compromised. We were fortunate to not have had any loss of life during the Route Fire or significant roadway failures when the retaining structure was damaged by the wildfire – and that’s a testament to the good work of our first responders.
The path ahead will not be quick nor easy. We are facing extreme weather conditions in the coming days, including the potential for an intense rainstorm that could have more roadway impacts including mudflows. I ask that you continue to stay vigilant of roadway and weather conditions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.