2011-10-13 / Front Page

Council approves reconfiguration of lanes on Avenida de Los Arboles

Members say safety improvements outweigh risk of traffic congestion
By Kyle Jorrey

ROAD CALMING—The above rendering shows the changes the city will make to Avenida de Los Arboles west of the 23 Freeway. 
Courtesy City of Thousand Oaks ROAD CALMING—The above rendering shows the changes the city will make to Avenida de Los Arboles west of the 23 Freeway. Courtesy City of Thousand Oaks The safety benefits of reducing a portion of Avenida de Los Arboles from four travel lanes down to two outweigh the increased traffic congestion that the change could cause, City Council members decided this week.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council gave unanimous approval to a plan to restripe a 1.25-mile section of the busy thoroughfare between Moorpark Road and the 23 Freeway from two travel lanes in each direction to one with a two-way turn lane in the center, a bike lane and a parking lane (see photo above).

They also okayed the removal of the stop sign at the street’s intersection with Calle Bouganvilla, just down the road from Bridges Charter School, declaring that it was out of place and causing more harm than good.

Though the city has success- fully changed the configuration of lanes in the same manner on other similar sections of road—including just a few miles up Arboles between Moorpark and Lynn roads—this stretch of Arboles is by far the busiest, attracting an estimated 19,000 vehicles per day. The upper limit for this “calming” strategy is 20,000 per day, according to a staff report.

Before their vote, council members were given statistics that showed an unusually high rate of tickets and collisions in the area targeted for new lanes, figures that were backed up by statements from Sgt. Rick Harwood of the Thousand Oaks Police Department’s traffic bureau.

“Moving the traffic to the center of the roadway definitely will provide better perceptionreaction time for the drivers as well as the motorists trying to come out of the side streets, as well as move them away from the parked cars and the bicycle lane,” said Harwood, a motorcycle officer with years of experience in T.O.

“From the perspective of reducing the collisions, we see the positive, and that’s why we support this,” he added.

According to data presented by Harwood, between 2008 and the first half of 2011, there were 125 car accidents on Arboles between Moorpark Road and the freeway. On the stretch of Arboles that has already been reconfigured west of Moorpark, the number during that same period of time was just 44.

Mayor Andy Fox said that while he was aware that some people were going to be unhappy with the change, in this instance “the needs of the many are outweighing the concerns of the few.”

“There is no question in my mind that for those who live on Arboles, who live in the area, there are legitimate concerns that this proposal may make things less convenient and may actually make things worse from their perspective—those are the needs of the few,” Fox said. “The other side of this is the data is really compelling. . . . The amount of traffic accidents, the number of citations . . . I think almost requires the council to take some action.”

The proposal first came before the city’s traffic commission this summer. With Arboles scheduled for an asphalt overlay this fall, the city decided the time was right to restripe the lanes. The commission unanimously approved the project.

“The opportunity is before us because of the overlay. . . . The time to act is now,” Spurgin told the council, noting it was much cheaper to paint new lanes over new asphalt than to paint over existing lanes.

The city also saw the project as an opportunity to do away with the stop sign at Calle Bouganvilla, which was first installed in 1980 to slow down traffic. According to Spurgin, the intersection does not receive the volume of cars necessary to warrant a stop sign.

Spurgin pointed to the number of traffic tickets handed out at the intersection for failing to stop—451 from 2010 until the present—as proof that the stop sign was not working. The number of tickets handed out for failing to stop at Arboles and Avenida de Las Plantas, just west of Bouganvilla, during the same time period: three.

“Noncompliance is evidence of an unwarranted stop sign,” Spurgin said.

The public works director did not try to deny the possible congestion the reconfiguration would cause; in fact, he said slower traffic “might not be such a bad thing.”

Five speakers addressed the council on the matter Tuesday; three were against, two in favor. Those against mainly cited the increase in traffic that would result from forcing four lanes of traffic down to two.

“I can’t imagine how much traffic there’s going to be with just two lanes on Arboles,” said Sherry Lorentson, who lives on Calle Bouganvilla.

Lorentson was also concerned for the safety of children walking to and from school if the stop sign at Bouganvilla is removed.

“Whether or not the traffic count warrants a stop sign, common sense and the concern for the safety of the children needs to be paramount in this decision process,” she said.

T.O. resident Constance Jones agreed.

“I think calling it a calming is kind of an oxymoron because I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen,” she said.

But Chris Clark, who lives on Avenida de Los Arboles, said the restriping is just what the doctor ordered.

“If ever there was street that needed calming, it’s Arboles,” said Clark, who’s lived in Thousand Oaks for 15 years. “The first time my sister came to visit us she was rear-ended at the stop sign at Bouganvilla.”

Clark said he’s heard from neighbors who are upset about the additional traffic, but he thinks it’s well worth it.

“If it does create a little more traffic, that’s really not such a bad thing. . . . It’s only a mile and a quarter. If it takes you an extra minute to get from Moorpark to the 23 Freeway, again that’s not such a bad thing.”

Clark was most pleased about the new left-hand turn lane.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been making a turn into my driveway in the evening looking behind me wondering if that car was going to stop or not.”

In the end, the council sided with Clark and city staff, finding that the pros of the project outweighed the cons.

“We have done similar measures on similar streets, and it has worked very well, so it’s hard to take a look at this and say it’s not going to work,” Fox said.

The new lanes will be painted sometime in the next month after the asphalt is laid on Avenida de Los Arboles, Spurgin said.

The actual striping will only take a few days.

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