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HesperiaStar.com
  • Highway 395 widening to begin in 2016

    Smaller projects already underway on 'treacherous' road
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  • VICTORVILLE — Robert Thomas dreads visiting his mother-in-law’s Ridgecrest home.
    Thomas said it’s not the relationship with his mother-in-law that makes the trip from Imperial County dreadful, it’s the 90-mile stretch of Highway 395 from Interstate 15 to Ridgecrest.
    “I love my wife’s parents, I just hate traveling down Highway 395,” Thomas said as he pumped gas at Arco near the Palmdale Road and Highway 395 intersection. “Unfortunately for this trip, we hooked up our boat because we’re going up to Lake Tahoe. Driving such a huge truck with a boat attached certainly won’t make driving down this road any easier.”
    What was once considered a rural route, the two-lane highway has become an inter-regional thoroughfare with increasing demand for goods movement, commuting and recreational travelers, according to Caltrans officials.
    Caltrans is in the environmental report stages of a $483 million project to add an additional lane in each direction of Highway 395.
    Thomas’ biggest complaint of driving down the “treacherous” highway is reckless drivers.
    “You’ll be surprised how many (motorists) get impatient on this road,” Thomas said. “Some people will cross solid double-yellow lines just to pass a big rig, not thinking they are putting their lives, and others, in serious jeopardy.”
    According to Caltrans public information officer Shelli Lombardo, the construction phases are not expected to begin until late 2016, barring any “unforeseen” circumstances.
    In the meantime, Caltrans has rejuvenated areas of Highway 395 in the High Desert, including a $21 million, 16-mile project expected to be completed within the next year.
    The project, which starts on Palmdale Road and runs just south of Highway 58, saw installations of rumble strips, and widening of the median and shoulders along the road.
    But the primary goal is reconstructing the existing road into a four-lane expressway, Caltrans public information officer Philip Havins said. The project will widen Highway 395 to two lanes in each direction, from Interstate 15 to an area near Desert Flower Road, just south of Kramer Junction.
    Havins said the main objective is making Highway 395 safer while improving travel time and operational efficiency as tractor-trailer traffic has increased over the years. It will also provide “at-grade intersections” for existing street crossings.
    Caltrans public information officer Bernard Karmatz said Caltrans has been working with political leaders from surrounding regions because of the impact of the project on San Bernardino, Inyo, Mono and Kern counties. Karmatz said the widening will impact the surrounding regions because Highway 395 is a major recreational vehicle and trucking route.
    Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, said the Highway 395 widening project is crucial for the High Desert. He said he’s been pushing for the project’s completion in a “timely and efficient manner.”
    “San Bernardino County depends heavily on transportation for its economic vitality, and it also sees a high number of traffic accidents on these narrow roads,” Cook said. “The widening of Highway 395 is essential to alleviating truck traffic and improving public safety along the route. I met with Caltrans a couple of weeks ago about this project and stressed my full support.”
    Highway 58 will also be widened to four lanes as part of the project. Lombardo said the construction phases are expected to commence either this December or early in 2015.
    Barstow area California Highway Patrol spokesman Don Spiker said both highways “can be very dangerous.”
    “Hopefully the widening of the two highways will eliminate the wrong-way collisions as a result of people passing unsafely,” Spiker said. “A majority of our collisions that occur on Highways 395 and 58 are due to somebody making an unsafe pass over solid double-yellow lines. We hope after the completion of these two projects we will see a considerable decrease in traffic collisions.”
    In the Barstow area’s jurisdiction of Highway 395, there have been an average of 20 traffic collisions per year and one fatal collision in the past four years.
    Since January 2004, there have been 190 traffic collisions in the Victorville CHP jurisdiction of Highway 395, officer Robert Grieve said. Nine of those collisions resulted in 10 fatalities, while 80 resulted in injuries, according to Grieve.
    The Victorville CHP covers about a 21-mile stretch of Highway 395.
    On the two-lane stretch of Highway 58, Spiker says there have been an average of 46 traffic collisions and one fatal collision each year for the past four years. Meanwhile, there have been an average of 19 traffic collisions on the four-lane stretch during the same time frame, Spiker said.
    Lombardo said widening Highway 58 is important because 52 percent of its traffic involves goods movements from the Central Valley.
    The expanded highway would extend from just west of Hidden River Road to about a mile east of Lenwood Road, near Hinkley, Lombardo said. Another 13-mile stretch of the highway about a half-mile west of the Kern County-San Bernardino County line to a point approximately 7.5 miles east of Highway 395 also will be widened.
    The expressway near Hinkley would include 12-foot standard travel lanes, 10-foot standard shoulder widths, and a 78-foot-wide median. Two interchanges would be constructed on the widened and realigned portion of Highway 58 that will be constructed as an expressway; one at Hinkley Road and the other at Lenwood Road.
    Jose Quintero can be reached at 760-256-4122 or JQuintero@DesertDispatch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @DD_JQuintero.
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