Citing a need to address growing traffic concerns and the potential for short and long-term economic benefits, a partnership of state and county agencies is planning to break ground on a $50 million project to expand and reroute Highway 126 near the Valencia Commerce Center.

As designed, the project would entail construction of a bridge to lift Highway 126 over Commerce Center Drive in Castaic, improving traffic flow on both routes, according to Paul Maselbas, a principal engineer with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

The project, a cooperative effort between Public Works, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation, would also add new lanes on the highway, expanding it to three in each direction.

Maselbas said Tuesday that more than 40,000 vehicles roll through the intersection of Commerce Center Drive and Highway 126 every day.

“The primary purpose of this project is to address existing traffic congestion,” Maselbas said.

But long-term relief for commuters could come at the cost of some temporary delays along Highway 126, which serves as the primary route to some segments of the Santa Clarita Valley, including Val Verde and portions of Castaic, as well as parts of Ventura County and Highway 101.

Jeffrey Payne, construction manager for the Highway 126 project, said Tuesday the highway should be fully open during peak travel times in the morning and at night, but could be reduced to one lane in each direction during construction hours.

He also said there would be “very little” work on weekends or at night in the area.

While $9 million in funding for the project comes from a Metro grant, the lion’s share of funding for the $50 million project is in the form of bridge and major thoroughfare construction fees.

Those fees are part of the costs that accompany residential and commercial development, such as the Newhall Ranch residential development project, which would add more than 20,000 homes along Highway 126.

Though future developments would stand to benefit from the highway expansion, Maselbas said the project was not planned to benefit any specific development.

“This project is needed to address the current situation that exists and not to further future development,” Maselbas said.

Additional provisions
The project also includes adding on- and off-ramps from Highway 126 to Commerce Center Drive and Henry Mayo Drive, realigning and extending Henry Mayo Drive, adding new traffic signals at the intersection of Commerce Center and Henry Mayo drives and at the intersection of Highway 126 and the access road to the Valencia Travel Village RV park.

These road improvements could have a defined economic impact in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to Maselbas, as construction alone could create 1,600 temporary jobs.

Maselbas also said the completed project could result in the creation of 7,000 permanent jobs in the nearby Valencia Commerce Center as it is built out.

Other impacts
The project also entails planting new landscaping to help stabilize the bank of the Santa Clara River near Highway 126 and removing some invasive species to improve water flow in the river.

The plan is to start construction on the project sometime in mid-July or early August, according to Maselbas, though that could change depending on the outcome of biological studies in the area.

The potential for such delays was built into the construction contract for the project, which was awarded to local developer C.A. Rasmussen, Inc.

“We’ve got it built into our contract that the environment takes precedence over all else out there,” Maselbas said.

Public Works also has to relocate some utility services in the area to accommodate construction, according to Payne. But there should be no interruption in any services during relocation, he said.

The project is slated to be complete in late 2016.

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