Like a runaway train, the Chesebro Bridge project seems to have no breaks. At least the Agoura Hills Council members were befuddled how to keep Caltrans from building a monstrosity that most of the neighborhood feels is unnecessary and unwanted.
City engineers have been working since 2009 on four design plans to improve and widen the Palo Comado freeway overpass, also known as Chesebro Bridge. Caltrans picked one of those designs that raises and widens the bridge to five lanes, including a center left hand turn lane. Caltrans says that the existing bridge is unsafe and too low.
At the City Council Meeting Wednesday night, the Council was asked to allow the city staff to obtain bids for project design plans. Council members Ilece Buckley Weber, Denis Weber and Willliam Koehler all asked “how did we get to this point?” The Council was unaware that city staff was proposing changes to the bridge and did not review any of the other three alternatives to the design. The council decided to postpone, for two months, the decision to go forward with bids until they had time to review what the city staff was doing. The salaries and benefits of the city engineering staff total over half a million dollars a year, and the Council did not know that the staff was working on this project.
Public speakers at the meeting expressed concern over the failure to communicate between the public at large and the city government. Those who drive the bridge several times a day did not see the need for five lanes. Traffic would be encouraged to take Driver Ave. to drive to Agoura High, which is already a gridlock situation times three.
Councilman Harry Schwarz wanted to be done with the decision to go forward with the project. Schwarz felt that change was inevitable and that since Caltrans wielded the final decision anyway, further discussion was not worth the effort. There was apprehension from Schwarz and other council members that the funds for the project, available through Measure R, would disappear if not grabbed soon.
Measure R was approved by California voters in 2008 and increased sales taxes by .5% to pay for road improvements. The Reyes Adobe interchange in Agoura Hills cost taxpayers close to $5M.
Twenty-five years ago, CalTrans slated the bridge for an overhaul. Let’s not forget that they also slated Balkins Dr. to be replaced with an extension of Thousand Oaks Blvd., which was to connect with Ventura Blvd. If Old Agoura resembled Woodland Hills with a Ventura Blvd running through it, we would need a five lane freeway overpass. Plans can be changed.