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No shortcuts through this traffic jam, called one of the worst

traffic speedometer
John Palminteri
Driving speeds for thousands of Highway 101 commuters were under 10 miles per hour for over 70 miles during a massive jam linked to the closure of Interstate 5 at the Grapevine. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - Weary drivers taking a break in Summerland during what's been a shocking two-day traffic mess had a lot to say about the impacts.

Some said just from Ventura, normally a 30 minute drive, it's been two to three hours. One driver from Ojai coming through on Highway 33 said it took three hours to get to Carpinteria.

The stories and timelines are unlike anything ever heard of in modern times. The closest crisis was during the 2018 mudflow when the freeway was closed completely for 12 days and multiple bridges on side roads were broken. But this was linked to a weather event north of Los Angeles.

The back roads have been known to local residents as escape routes from freeway traffic. In the past they were not widely listed on maps, but that has changed with the new electronics in cars and apps for traffic.

Alternate routes like Highway 192, Eucalyptus Hill Road, Coast Village Road, North Jameson Lane and Carpinteria Avenue were as tied up as the freeway. Some residents stood in front of their homes and said they have never seen a stream of cars come by for hours like the ones they saw Friday.

The cause of all this?   Highway 5 at the Grapevine was closed by a massive snow storm sending traffic to the coast route.  Even when the freeway thawed out and Caltrans cleared it for traffic, the backup was massive and the timeline to handle the impact was unknown.
Those who were already on their way,  stayed the course and the main roads, side roads and newly designed routes were clogged.

" We do have a long journey ahead of us but we are good," said Patti Berrow heading through Summerland north to Concord. She was coming from Los Angeles after Christmas.

Thursday it was so bad she stayed the night with her husband and dog in Santa Paula

"We realized we weren't going to make it all the way home last night," she said.  "From a safety standpoint  it was the right decision." 

Local residents tried every trick they had, even for a short errand.

Richard Chilcott said, "I tried to be a wiley local and used the back roads.  But that didn't work of course because it seems like everyone knows where those are."

Another resident agreed, "those days are long gone my friend" said Kenny Edwards.   "A lot of times if you are in the slow lane on the 101 you can do better than the secret back ways.  There's no more secrets."
Many big rigs rerouted because of the Grapevine closure stacked up on Highway 101, in addition to holiday traffic,  normal work commuters and people off for the week doing shopping and outings.    At times there were lineups of 10-15 coming down the freeway behind each other or in a side by side formation.

A Dos Pueblos High coach and his team left Goleta for a morning game in Ventura, but getting back assistant coach Joe Toste said,"from Ventura three hours,  it has been crazy."  On a caffeine break, "we saw Red Kettle coffee had to get some coffee and I have to drop these kids off"

Even when the roads all open, with California sunshine and holiday breaks for many people,  traffic is expected to be solid into next week.   Already there's a warning of more snow on Interstate 5 possibly Sunday night.

Article Topic Follows: Traffic
INterstate 5
Santa Barbara

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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