North county coalition shares Crist’s concern

LANCASTER — Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist’s frustration over the ongoing lane closures for a pavement replacement project along the Antelope Valley Freeway resonated with members of the North Los Angeles County Transportation Coalition who shared his concerns about the estimated three-year long project at Monday’s meeting.

The lane and on- and off-ramp closures extend about 17 miles from Palmdale Boulevard to the Los Angeles County line at Avenue A. Some of the closures are intermittent and others continuous. Commuters traveling southbound in the evening along the AV Freeway between Lancaster and Palmdale have been in bumper-to-bumper traffic in recent days. The installation of K-rail concrete barriers along the freeway leads to narrow lanes in some instances and single lanes in others.

“The frustration is brought on by closing a (long) section,” said Crist, who also serves as chair of the coalition, according to an audio recording of the meeting. “People can tolerate 4 miles.”

Crist called out the California Department of Transportation in a statement earlier this month for what he deemed a “disconcerting level of incompetence and disregard for our community with their handling of the SR-14 lane closures.”

The vice mayor’s list of grievances cited inadequate communication, neglect of community input, deficient traffic management, lack of outreach and failure to notify vital stakeholders such as Edwards Air Force Base.

A representative from Caltrans did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The North LA County Transportation Coalition received notice about the project on May 26, the Friday before Memorial Day, Executive Director Arthur Sohikian said.

“We did immediately send that our to all our cities and our members,” he said. “And again, I think one of the biggest things, at least for a staff level, is that nowhere in this notice did we understand that this would have been a project that’s going to go until March of 2026.”

“Notifying on a Friday before a holiday does not constitute notification to prepare for a major project,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

Crist’s list of actions includes the establishment of crystal-clear communication channels, ensuring residents, businesses and stakeholders are well-informed. He also wants a comprehensive and strategic traffic management plan to address current challenges and future potential disruptions. Lastly, he called for “active, thoughtful dialogue with community members and stakeholders, guaranteeing that their input shapes the present and forthcoming projects.”

“The outpouring of support from our neighboring cities and Supervisor Barger emphatically highlights the urgency of our collective call for transparency and accountability from Caltrans. They missed the mark,” Crist said in a statement. “We are past the point of mere discussions; we need immediate, tangible corrective action. We can’t do three years of this, we need solutions.”

The lane closures affected traffic for the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, Crist said, adding that was 40,000 cars.

The project will also see the northbound lanes along the Antelope Valley Freeway from avenues D to A reduced from two lanes to one lane, which will affect another 35,000 commuters.

“We’ve already had two deaths because of this, which is a lot,” Crist said.

Lancaster Councilman Ken Mann agreed.

“You can’t put a price on somebody’s life,” he said.

Mann expressed frustration that the Caltrans release made no mention of the phasing of the project or time.

“Hopefully, the people from Caltrans are listening,” he said. “If it was one of their family members that were killed on the freeway potentially due to mismanagement, I would think they would have a little bit different approach to what’s taking place there.”

Palmdale City Councilman Austin Bishop said the city’s residents are also upset.

“While I appreciate any opportunity to see improvements in our area, this definitely just … it wasn’t well coordinated,” he said. “It didn’t feel like there was a level of communication that we needed.”

Bishop added that the main streets such as Sierra Highway and 10th Street West are jammed during rush hour.

“It’s impossible to get around town,” he said, adding that the extra traffic is also hard on the pavement of surface streets.

Vice Chair and Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said she is generally of the opinion that there is a way to fix things.

“For three years I don’t think this is acceptable, at all,” she said.

The $164 million infrastructure project is anticipated to extend the life of the existing lanes by at least 40 years and improve ride quality.

“While infrastructure maintenance and enhancements are crucial, the welfare of our residents cannot be sidelined,” Crist said in a statement. “Caltrans must recognize this, and we, as a united front, will ensure they do.”

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