10 March 2009

Carbon Canyon Road's Newest Traffic Signal: A Sign of Progress?

An 18 February article in the Orange County Register announced that a traffic light will soon be erected on Carbon Canyon Road at Olinda Place/Ruby Drive in Olinda Village. The $350,000 project, largely paid for with federal funds and supplemented on the order of 10% by Brea's Traffic Impact Fee, is slated to begin by late Spring and should take about four months to complete.

The quest for a signal at this location has been going on for many years and has been avidly pursued by residents of Olinda Village (including Hollydale Mobile Home Estates, as well as parishioners at Samsung Presbyterian Church adjacent to Hollydale.)

According to the Register article, Brea's Development Services Director stated that the installation of the traffic signal "is not expected to cause an increase in traffic on Carbon Canyon Road." Rather, the official offered that "it allows safe traffic movement out of the residential areas. During off hours, the light will slow traffic so residents can exit safely."

The sentiment of the folks in Olinda Village is very understandable. My father-in-law lives in Hollydale and I've been there plenty of times, knowing full well that turning onto Carbon Canyon can be a real challenge. It is very often difficult to turn onto the road . . . but so is it the case at every other junction along the two-lane portion of the roadway, including in Sleepy Hollow, Mountain View Estates, Western Hills Oaks, Carriage Hills, and Summit Ranch, where most people in Carbon Canyon reside.

In fact, one of the negotiated points between the developer and the City of Chino Hills concerning the proposed Stonefield housing project just east of Western Hills Golf Course has been that the former has offered to pay for traffic signals at Fairway Drive and Canon Lane. Someday, it is quite possible that we could have those two signals on the Chino Hills side and maybe one for Summit Ranch, too.

One issue about the statement about no increase in traffic by the Brea official is that volume is an entirely different matter than time. Now, when Olinda School moves "down the hill" to a future location next to the new community park on Birch Street, there won't be quite the morning traffic that can be generated when school starts, but the traffic signal will, to some degree, affect rush hour traffic, already crawling in peak morning and evening hours.

It may not seem like much now, but, should there be the expected increase in vehicles over time and if other signals are placed on the Chino Hills side, there will likely be further negative consequences concerning congestion that have, frankly, not been readily acknowledged.

Then again, it is possible that economic conditions, rising gas prices, global climate change, and other variables could reduce traffic in the Canyon in forthcoming years, thereby rendering the concerns expressed here moot (or mainly so.)

One other consideration is the fact the reckless driving is a very regular condition in the Canyon. The presence of a traffic signal, especially in its early days of operation, is no guarantee that this is going to change. Drivers will still speed and run red lights and Olinda Village residents will have to continue being very vigilant and careful even when turning onto the road with that shiny new green light giving the go-ahead. So, hopefully, city and police officials won't view the signal as a substitute for patrols and enforcement, which already seem to be at a bare minimum.

As for the rest of us, we'll still have to carefully negotiate our turns, as always, but without the benefit (such as it is) of traffic signals.

Finally, it also is a little unfortunate that, after almost a century without traffic signals on the two-lane portion of Carbon Canyon Road, we are seeing one more instance, well-intended as it is, of a change that affects the rural character of our Canyon, even as compromised as it has been by housing tracts and heavier and heavier traffic volumes since the 1980s. The new signal will serve the needs and wants of Olinda Village, just as the signal at Olinda Ranch serves those of that subdivision and Carbon Canyon Regional Park. Someday, there may be two or three others on the Chino Hills side to serve local interests there, too.

In the long term and in the broader view, however, that may not be such a good thing for Carbon Canyon as a whole.


mark said...

Well the signal is up and it took an extra 20 minutes to get through the cayon. So much for not increasing traffic. There has to be a better way

Anonymous said...

I agree. The new signal has traffic backed up to Kramer when I come through. I question the wisdom of the planners and the $350,000 of tax money paid so I can sit with hundreds of other cars as we inch our way through the canyon. The light goes red even when there is no one coming out of Olinda or the Trailer park???

Roger said...

I found this link to the Caltrans office that is responsible for the new signal. We should all let them know what we thing about the new signal.

Robert said...

The director of the Orange County Caltrans office responsible for the signal is Cindy Quon. Her email address is Cindy.Quon@dot.ca.gov

Anonymous said...

As a resident in Carbon Canyon, the traffic breaks that the signal creates are a Godsend.Perhaps those that are frustrated by the new delays will find another route to take.Hence less traffic canyon residents have to wait on. I shouldn't have to wait 5-7 mins in the afternoon to wait for the train of traffic to go by so I can make a left turn into my neighborhood. I look foward to the future signals that are coming, like the one that they are going to have to put up at the new Circle K that is now in construction.Way to go Caltrans !!

prs said...

Hello Anonymous, thanks for the comment. I've said all that needs to be said specifically about the context of adding signals, but if you moved to the Canyon to enjoy the rural nature of it, be prepared to lose more of that incrementally over time, whether it's signals, Circle K, or future housing developments, some of which are already approved. Having said this, the initial concerns from these February comments came before CalTrans made adjustments to the signal operation. So, enjoy while you can.