10 April 2017

Near Miss on Carbon Canyon Road This Morning

This morning at about a quarter to 8 as I was taking my kids to school and heading eastbound on Carbon Canyon Road, approaching the second to last curve on the S-curve between Azurite Drive and Old Carbon Canyon Road, I was about forty feet from the turn when a truck with a very long flat bed came around the turn heading west and the bed was well into my lane.

In fact, the truck's bed was so far into the eastbound lane that it left only a few feet of space at the curve, forcing me to make an abrupt stop, while the truck passed.  The driver did not appear to be overly concerned about whether he was going to be able to make these turns without moving through the opposing lane.

The length of the truck, including the long bed, was well over the 50 feet that is on the posted signs (brought about because of local community activism) "advising" drivers that continuing on Carbon Canyon Road is not recommended.  This is, of course, only an advisory and CalTrans has no legal authority to ban vehicles from traveling along the S-curve.

Clearly, this is not an isolated incident.  I once watched an eastbound truck come down the sharper curve west of Azurite and sweep into the westbound lane as a school bus just ahead of me had to stop sharply to avoid a collision.  There have been other incidents, including trucks literally stuck and unable to make these hard turns through the S-curve.

Some years ago, a post on this blog posed the question of why Carbon Canyon Road remains a state highway.  Cited as a model for what could be done was a portion of State Route 39 on Hacienda Road from Whittier Boulevard north through a canyon in La Habra Heights that is also two lanes and features sharp curves and turns.

A number of years ago this section of highway was deleted from the system and control of the roadway went to La Habra Heights.  Large trucks are, consequently, banned from using Hacienda Road.

Carbon Canyon Road is essentially the same type of thoroughfare as Hacienda Road--it consists of two lanes, winding and curving through a canyon and steep hills.  It presents many of the same general obstacles, constrains and problems.

There is, however, one substantial difference.  There are only three viable ways to get from east to west from the lower Inland Empire to Orange County and the lower San Gabriel Valley.  There is the 60 freeway, Grand Avenue (and then the 57 for both of these heading south), the 91 Freeway, and Carbon Canyon Road.

Despite the massive growth inland, causing greater volume and congestion on these routes and despite the urge for greater numbers of long, heavy trucks to use Carbon Canyon Road as a faster alternative to the 60 and 91, all that CalTrans can do, so long as Carbon Canyon remains a state highway, is to give advice.  Local law enforcement occasionally goes out and tickets truck drivers for crossing the lane.

This morning wasn't just crossing the lane, it was taking all but several feet of it.  And, it was a question of timing and circumstance.  A few seconds' difference and there could have been a collision that could have led to serious injury and who knows what else.

Some might recall what happened on Highway 2 in La Cañada/Flintridge some years ago, when a big rig lost control coming down from the San Gabriel Mountains portion of that state highway and caused a fatality.  The situation is not exactly the same on Carbon Canyon Road, but serious collisions on the S-curve are a real possibility, as I experienced first-hand this morning and others have, as well.

Drivers on Carbon Canyon Road:  beyond the other hazards on the state highway, continue to use extra caution, especially on the S-curve and particularly when trucks that are often too large or with drivers unaccustomed to the curves are plying the road looking for a faster shortcut.

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