Traffic apps causing headaches for drivers trying to dodge the Cajon Pass

Rob McMillan Image
Saturday, September 29, 2018
Traffic apps causing headaches for drivers bypassing the Cajon Pass
When the I-15 is backed up near the Cajon Pass, traffic apps sometimes provide detours onto narrow, dangerous dirt roads in Lytle Creek.

LYTLE CREEK, Calif. (KABC) -- Traffic apps like Google Maps or Waze can be invaluable tools for drivers in Southern California, especially during rush hour. But they can also make a difficult drive even worse, especially in the mountain community of Lytle Creek.

"Google tells them to go up there," said Lytle Creek resident Cheryl Anaya. "And there's no way for a normal car to have access."

Anaya is referring to Lytle Creek Road, which some smartphone traffic apps suggest as an alternate route to Interstate 15 through the Cajon Pass when traffic is jammed. But 11 miles from the freeway, the road narrows and the pavement comes to an end.

"If you have maybe a 10-inch high four-wheel drive you can do it," said resident Dana Koenig. "Try it in a Prius."

Big rigs have no way to turn around either. Which can turn the quiet mountain community of less than 1,000 residents into a bottleneck.

"The roads can't handle it," said Anaya. "We can't handle it."

Residents have complained the bottlenecks can make it impossible for ambulances to get through in the event of an emergency. And for Lytle Creek residents, a 10-minute drive to the freeway can easily top 30 minutes on busy days, all because traffic apps are steering drivers onto streets that won't get them to their destinations.

The problem is well known to county officials.

"People get trapped," said San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford. "It's a two-lane road, people can't even make the U-turn, especially the big rigs to get down south."

But Rutherford is hoping for a solution. She said county officials are in talks with Google to put together a memorandum-of-understanding between the app designer and the county, to hopefully prevent the maps from steering drivers through Lytle Creek as an alternative to Interstate 15.

"So their software can be more clear," said Rutherford. "Don't take this way, it's not a short cut, there's no way out."

Rutherford said the county also plans to add more signs along Lytle Creek Road. Residents seem skeptical though that drivers will pay attention to those signs, especially with them being so focused on their smartphones.

"I call it Google hypnosis," said resident Ken Phillips.