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CONEJO VALLEY ROADS PART OF CALL-BOX PLAN 350 CALL BOXES EYED : TARGETED AREAS.

Byline: Mary Schubert Daily News Staff Writer

Plans are under way to install solar-powered, cellular telephone call boxes along selected roads in Los Angeles County, and many of the proposed sites are on thoroughfares in the Conejo Valley.

The program, a partnership between the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, aims to add as many as 350 call boxes to roads in unincorporated areas, which are patrolled by the CHP.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to the project Tuesday. Staffers assigned to the MTA's Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies have prepared a list of 73 candidate roads, more than a dozen of which are in or near the Conejo Valley.

``We're not guaranteeing that we're going to put a call box on each of these roads,'' said Ken Coleman, project manager for the SAFE program.

The transit agency has been overseeing Los Angeles County's freeway call-box network since 1988. ``We currently manage 4,400 call boxes,'' Coleman said.

The new call boxes would be a good idea if executed properly, said Officer Curtis Myers.

``One of the things that would concern me would be safe locations,'' Myers said. ``On the freeways, you have wide shoulders and nice places to pull off. On some of the canyon roads in the area, you'd have to be very particular where you would place the call box (so as not to) put people in danger who stop to use it.''

SAFE shares that same concern, Coleman said.

``We're really going to take a look at each of these roads to find out if they can accommodate a call box,'' he said. ``For safety reasons, is there a big-enough shoulder? We don't want to put it where people would be using the call box and be a target for people driving along the shoulder.''

Another consideration is how far apart the call boxes should be placed - likely one per mile - a factor that likely would be based on how many vehicles pass by each day, Coleman said.

Also, the call boxes likely would be designed to be usable by the handicapped, and equipped with keypads so that people who are deaf or speech-impaired could type out a message for help to be transmitted over the phone, Coleman added.

``We'll try to make sure that (the call boxes) are easily accessible for wheelchair users, and that they're out of harm's way,'' he said.

The project to put call boxes on unincorporated stretches of road was made possible by state legislation signed by Gov. Pete Wilson in September 1996, Coleman said. SAFE officials would like to have the first batch of call boxes installed in July, and the project's targeted completion would be mid-1998, he said.

Myers said he and his fellow CHP officers respond to many incidents on state Highway 126 that are reported on call boxes. While not really a freeway, the road is heavily traveled and remote, and the presence of call boxes is a big help, he said.

Sgt. Steve Munday of the CHP's Newhall station said the idea is a good one because only a fraction of drivers have car phones or cellular phones. ``Any lines of communication that would help a motorist in trouble, or would help notify an emergency agency that there's an accident or injury, is going to be an assist to us and to the person who's out there stranded,'' he said.

Under the plan approved by the Board of Supervisors this week, SAFE would install, maintain and monitor the 350 county road call boxes and CHP officers will respond to all requests for help made on the emergency telephones. County crews would maintain the rights of way that planners intend as a safe access to - and use of - the call boxes.

Dozens of rural roads in Los Angeles County are being considered for call boxes. The following roads are in the Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Malibu and Westlake Village areas:

Cornell Road, Corral Canyon Road, Encinal Canyon Road, Kanan Road, Kanan Dume Road, Las Flores Canyon Road, Las Virgenes Road, Latigo Canyon Road, Little Sycamore Canyon Road, Malibu Canyon Road, Mulholland Highway, Old Topanga Canyon Road, Rambla Pacifico, Saddle Peak Road, Schueren Road and Stunt Road.

CAPTION(S):

BOX: Targeted areas (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 23, 1997
Words:715
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