CALIFORNIA CITY — Planning commission chair Carolinda Fleming was on her way home with her family the evening of March 13 when they came within seconds of being involved in a potential collision on California City Boulevard at the west end of the city.
“On Saturday, me, my husband, our 5-year grandson and 2-year-old granddaughter almost lost our lives … We were coming in from Lancaster and got on CCB about 6:30 p.m. and at 6:45 p.m. just past the way station,” Fleming said during a planning commission meeting March 16. “There were a ton a cars coming westbound, we were going eastbound. Two cars got in our lane trying to get in front of the other cars in that were going westbound.”
Fleming reported going the speed limit of 55 mph when the near-collision occurred. Fleming said she had to drive into the dirt shoulder to avoid the two vehicles, followed by the vehicle directly behind her in order to avoid a head-on collision.
“We have to do something about something about CCB,” Fleming said in a passionate plea during the meeting. “I’ve spoken to city council over and over … we’ve had countless police reports about the tragedies and loss of life.”
Most of California City Boulevard from Wonder Acres Shell Gas Station at the start of the city limits to Baron Boulevard is two lanes. It turns into a four-lane road separated by a double yellow solid line after Baron Boulevard and split by a concrete median at Yerba Boulevard upon entering the city proper.
Most of the section from GreenStone Dispensary to Wonder Acres is designated as either a 45 mph or 55 mph speed zone, but motorists have been reported to as high as 75 mph.
Traffic collisions in the one-lane sections have also closed down the road while emergency personnel and California City police officers respond to the scene. The brief closures in turn either force traffic delays or require officers to conduct traffic control measures.
Fleming noted her vehicle was on a section of the road where the dirt shoulder was even. Parts of the road, however, include an uneven or sloping dirt shoulder that could contribute to rollovers.
Fleming said she even approached Caltrans about the issue, but was directed to city council since the most of the road resides within city limits and away from any Caltrans right-of-way. She asked how the city could install flexible delineator posts — thin orange cones seen on some highways and major thoroughfares in California.
“People are not adhering to passing safe or to the section that as a solid double yellow line,” Fleming said “CCB is one way in, one way out.”
She added events like the one on March 13 have happened to her three times, “but this is the closest I’ve come to a head-on collision.”
“I refuse on my watch to have that happen to someone else,” she said.
Fleming’s comments evoked similar concerns and stories from other planning commissioners and staff, as well as to provide support when she brought the matter to city council.
City Planner Shawn Monk confirmed Fleming’s comments on Cal City Boulevard being a city matter.
“I suggest you bring the same passion to the next city council meeting and talk to all the city council members,” Monk said. He also recommended speaking with the city manager and city public works director about the safety concerns, or increased patrols along the boulevard.
“There needs to be a safety study done on that, similar to what was done on Highway 395 between Victorville and Kramer Junction,” Monk said.
Commissioner Carla Conry recommended speaking with the police department regarding a traffic study reportedly conducted on the area.
“Something really does need to be done about those roads, because I don’t go out that way,” Conry said. “I go out toward the east.”
Monk echoed Conry’s concerns.
“I never use that direction, I always go out on the south end of town because of that,” Monk said.
Fleming said that option poses an inconvenience because motorists would have to travel the south end of town and then backtrack on Highway 58 if they want to travel to Mojave or Lancaster.
Commissioner Jay Dunham noted a local business fired one of its drivers for failing to adhere to traffic safety laws.
“My son, a 16-year-old driver, witnessed a double-line pass and the vehicle that almost got snipped was a school bus with kids on it,” Dunham said. “My son followed the vehicle into town, got the info and I had him as a life experience call the owner of that company. That owner got back to us and said he fired that driver.”
Commissioner Kim Welling noted that her daughter was following her husband on that road when another vehicle crossed into their lane and totaled the husband’s car.
“She watched it thinking she was going to walk up and find her husband deceased,” Welling said. “It was a horrible night. I would be happy to stand behind you and have my daughter come because she physically did go through that.”