Kanan Dume upgrades, restrictions follow crashes


When Kanan Dume Road was opened in 1974, it was hailed as a wider, safer route connecting the Conejo Valley to the coast. Malibu Canyon Road, the only existing link, was narrow, with no shoulder on some stretches and precipitous drops to Malibu Creek on the east and cliffs that regularly shed rocks on the west.

But within a short time, officials realized Kanan Dume had problems of its own: narrow tunnels and steeper grades, the worst of which was the three-mile, 8 percent descent to Pacific Coast Highway.

A series of improvement projects in the early ’80s included separate tunnels for north and southbound lanes, a brake-check turnout for southbound traffic and increased signage warning of the steep grade.

Then, in response to several accidents involving runaway trucks at Kanan and PCH, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works imposed vehicle weight restrictions of 14,000 lbs in 1981. After a fatal crash in 1987, the weight limit was further restricted to 8,000 lbs and construction of a median escape ramp was begun. The ramp, about 100 yards long and deeply lined with gravel, is designed to stop an 18-wheeler.

After Malibu incorporated, local equestrians lobbied the council to allow horse trailers on the road, but to no avail.

Signs on the 101 Freeway westbound before the Topanga and Malibu Canyon exits warn that no vehicles over two axles or four tons are allowed. On Kanan, there are signs beginning about 50 feet south of Agoura Road, “Local deliveries OK next 8 miles only.” More signs are posted at Cornell, Troutdale, Sierra Creek, Mulholland and Pitsch Canyon. At Newton Canyon a sign with a flashing yellow light reads, “Weight limit 1,000 feet ahead no exceptions,” beside a large, paved turnout and parking area. Farther on, a sign reads, “Break Check Area 1/2 mile Vehicles over 3 tons check brakes,” and at the top of the grade, “8% grade next 3 miles trucks use low gears.” Runaway Vehicle Escape Median signs are posted the last two miles before PCH. There is also a smaller dirt turnout area where the road levels slightly just before Cavalleri Road. Why these signs were not heeded in the latest crash, is still unknown.