17 April 2009

Carbon Canyon Road Traffic Signal Redux

Last Saturday's edition of the Chino Hills Champion featured an article by Marianne Napoles on the forthcoming traffic signal to be installed on Carbon Canyon Road at Olinda Village, the only such signal on the entire length of State Highway 142 within the canyon. This issue has been covered previously (10 March) on this blog, but the article offered some new information and insights worth relating.

First, the signal is actually two separate lights at one broadly defined intersection. In other words, a primary unit will be at Olinda Place, while the secondary signal will go at Ruby Street, which is just west of the former and is one entrance to Hollydale Mobile Home Estates and the entry point to Samsung Presbyterian Church adjacent to the mobile home park. As stated before, the signal was eagerly sought after by the folks at Hollydale and Olinda Village a decade or so ago.

The Champion article, however, quotes two residents of the Chino Hills side of the canyon who object to the light. According to one, "If you hold up that road uphill where people stop and go, there will be a real problem heading into Chino Hills . . . the next problem will be a proliferation of traffic lights on Carbon Canyon Road."

The other resident stated that "it's unbelievable they would think about putting a signal there for a very few that will cause a tremendous headache for a whole lot," while citing the rural drive enjoyed by users of the road during quieter hours.

In response, Brea traffic engineer Warren Siecke stated that the signal is activated only be persons waiting to turn onto Carbon Canyon Road from Hollydale and/or Olinda Village; that it wouldn't have a great deal of effect on traffic, because use from those areas is light; and that the problems of visibility and danger from serious accidents warrant a signal. Essentially, Siecke said, "It's being installed as a safety measure." He also gave the cost at $349,000, funded by federal transportation funds.

As has been opined here previously, the desire for the good folks at Hollydale (my father-in-law included) and in Olinda Village for a light there is understandable. I've had to turn onto the road many times from both locations and know the dangers, which, however, are fundamentally no different than the ones I encounter in my Sleepy Hollow neighborhood.

While one could accept Mr. Siecke's contention that traffic flow would not be "significantly" impacted, though he acknowledged that "the signal will add a little bit of delay," and could dispute one of the Chino Hills residents' statement that "you'll have the biggest traffic jam every night," the fact is that there will be an impact of some kind in westbound morning traffic and eastbound evening commutes.

More significant as an echo of a concern from this blog's previous entry is the comment from the first Chino Hills resident that "the next problem will be a proliferation of traffic lights on Carbon Canyon Road."

Indeed, there have been proposals to place two signals on the Chino Hills side, one at Fairway Drive/Ginseng Lane and the other at Canon Lane and there has even been an offer by a developer who wants to build 28 houses east of Fairway Drive and north and west of Carbon Canyon Road to pay for these signals as mitigation for this project, now stalled as the housing market is at a near-standstill, but certain to be rebooted when and if matters improve.

This point is an important one for reasons of foresight: it's one thing to have a single signal (say that five times fast!) at Olinda Village, but if the other two (or more, such as at Feldspar Lane and the Summit Ranch development?) are added, it will most definitely have an impact on traffic volume and flow on the highway. Unfortunately, too often foresight is not enough of a factor in planning.

Moreover, there is something to be said for the loss of Carbon Canyon's rural character when traffic signals are added to it. Having just recently heard an interesting presentation at a Los Angeles conference about the battle to preserve what could be saved of the rural ambience of Laguna Canyon by an artist who has been at it for over 35 years, I can see our Canyon as a lesser-known microcosm of that experience. Indeed, almost any canyon setting in southern California's urban environments faces these harsh realities.

Most of us likely moved to the Canyon because we wanted some buffer from the relentless suburban sprawl that has engulfed the region for at least the last eight decades. Maybe that is the height of naivete, or selfishness, or NIMBYism, but there is a point at which "amenities" like traffic signals (and, for that matter, housing developments that have threatened to bring well over 350 units to the Canyon) wind up not just being detrimental to a place like Carbon Canyon, but fundamentally change its essence and appeal.

For now, the presence of the signal at Olinda Village, understandable though it is for the residents there, isn't likely to make the traffic problem that much worse. But, if the others are forthcoming, that will almost certainly change and you can be sure there will be many more people having much more to say about that!

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