Due to the high number of car crashes with utility poles at the Big Bend curve on Laguna Canyon Road, the city’s public works department is starting to remove the obstacles in a second round of construction that begins Tuesday, Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day, according to a city announcement.
Outbound traffic will periodically shift to the middle lane at the Big Bend section of Laguna Canyon Road until 3 p.m. through Friday, Sept. 24.
In the latest incident during morning rush hour Thursday, Aug. 18, a car hit a utility pole at Big Bend with such impact that it broke the pole, according to police reports. The pole and its live wires landed in the road, which was closed in both directions for six hours. The driver, who was uninjured, was heading into town and swerved to avoid hitting a stopped vehicle, police said.
The $1.3 million project at the Big Bend curve intends to reduce fire risks and pole collisions and was selected as the first section to tackle due to the number of car collisions there, according to City Manager John Pietig.
The second phase of the Southern California Edison project will install new cables and equipment into underground vaults and conduits and remove remaining overhead wires and electrical equipment and, finally, utility poles, said Mark Trestik, assistant city engineer. One lane in each direction is expected to be open most of the time, according to a city report.
Bulldozers dug trenches for the vaults at the infamous curve on the canyon road two miles from Coast Highway during the first phase last April. Traffic was handled the same way and went smoother than expected, Trestik said. That phase was completed in early June.
“They were pretty quick and deliberate about it,” said Victoria Skimboards’ brand manager Kyle McClure. But the shop lost business, he said.
Customers coming south on Laguna Canyon Road couldn’t turn left into businesses there, which also include Langlois Frozen Foods, Nelson Fine Art Framing and Jeeps R Us.
Elliot Williams, manager of Jeeps R Us, said he had some unhappy customers. “It was a little slow, a little confusing, but you can’t control that,” he said.
Customers had to drive about a half mile into town where they could make a u-turn at the Canyon Acres Drive signal to come back up the canyon road to get to their destinations.
The second phase will also include digging holes for individual utility boxes at private residences and businesses in the area to connect them to the undergrounded system, said Trestik. After the connections are made, the utility poles and their wires and equipment will be removed, he said.
The potential dangers from a high concentration of overhead electrical wires and poles on a heavily traveled road designated the project for Edison funding, according to city reports.
Undergrounding utilities along Laguna Canyon Road is a top City Council concern. If a November ballot measure passes that asks voters to increase taxes hotel guests pay, the revenue might be used to continue undergrounding projects, according to a report from a special council presentation in March.
Undergrounding the remainder of Laguna Canyon Road is expected to require another $90 million, the report stated.