This letter was sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Dear Gov. Schwarzenegger,
How would it be if the governor moved his family to Ojai only to discover that the entire community is on the verge of suing the state of California & Caltrans?
I am the chairman of the board of the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA) but perhaps more relevant to you now, as you and First Lady Maria Shriver go house-hunting, I am also a founder of the Ojai coalition to “Stop the Trucks.”
Members of this coalition to prevent state Route 33 from being turned into an industrial truck route include: the City of Ojai; the Ojai Unified School District, the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce; the Board of Realtors; as well as thousands of local residents. We are also supported across party lines by many of our local and regional representatives including Assemblywoman Audra Strickland and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett.
At issue is the economic, environmental and safety of the entire Ojai basin from several existing and proposed gravel mines in the Cuyama Valley on the far side of the Los Padres Forest. These mines, if all approved, could flood Ojai with between 400 — 800 double hopper, 80,000 pound gravel trucks 24 hours a day, seven days a week — that’s one truck rolling through Ojai, spewing diesel fumes and particulate past our high school, elementary school, senior citizen housing parks, resorts and hospital every three to five minutes.
The choke point in all of this is Caltrans and their administration of Route 33, a road you’ve probably ridden on your motorcycle. Built in 1933, this scenic byway over the mountains features several dozen hairpin turns and three tunnels, all of which are too narrow for a single gravel truck to pass through without moving into opposing traffic. Mile for mile, Route 33 is already one of the most dangerous roads in all California with nearly one fatality a week just on the section that goes up and over the 6,000 foot high Los Padres forest mountains.
Six months ago we asked Caltrans, District 7 (Its district director is Doug Failing) through Supervisor Bennett to do a geometric safety study of Route 33. Given that Caltrans is probably the largest end-user of gravel in the western world, we were concerned about potential conflicts of interest. This fear was magnified when their chief engineer announced before the study began that the road was safe, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Even as the Stop the Trucks, coalition wrestles with the planning departments in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, Caltrans continues to drag its feet on producing the study.
A ruling by Caltrans that honestly reflects the actual facts of the road would ban heavy truck traffic from Route 33 through the Los Padres forest, effectively ending Ojai’s gravel truck nightmare. If however Caltrans fudges its findings and turns Ojai into an industrial truck route, the result will be endless legal battles as the very survival of our community is at stake.
We hope that you might take an interest in helping Ojai to resolve this issue by insuring that Caltrans does the right thing.