With the completion of the Airport Road widening in Watsonvile, May 2002 completion of the Highway 1-Mission Street widening in Santa Cruz, and ongoing work on the Capitola Road widening and streetscape improvements, Santa Cruz County is officially under construction. Therefore, I have decided to add this page summarizing all of the ongoing, scheduled, and proposed projects in the area over the next few years.
Completed and Ongoing Projects:
In May 2002, the long-awaited Mission Street widening project in Santa Cruz was officially completed with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Longs Drugs Store at Olive and Mission Streets. Prior to the widening, Mission Street varied from between 2 and 4 lanes between Chestnut and Swift Streets. Most intersections, including the signalized ones, lacked left turn lanes. (More information regarding the Mission Street widening project can be found in the Mission Street Widening section.) That has all changed. Now, between Chestnut and Swift Streets, Mission Street is a consistent four lanes wide. Left turn channelization is provided at all signalized intersections (except for westbound Mission at King, which didn't need it due to the very low left turn volume). New bus pullouts have been provided at a few key locations.
The widening has resulted in one unintentional consequence, though. Apparently, Caltrans used a rather high design speed in its roadway designs, as in less heavy traffic periods, it is relatively easy to go 30, 35, or even 40 miles per hour (MPH) without even realizing it. Traffic tends to travel at around 30 to 35 MPH much of the time, which is above the speed limit of 25 MPH. The City is has publicly acknowledged that it is having a hard time enforcing the 25 MPH speed limit.
There are still yet two more phase to the improvements on Mission Street. The plan is that, starting in Summer 2002, PG&E will finally underground all of the utilities along the Mission Street corridor, something it was unable to do in the same timeframe as the roadway widening itself. However, the undergrounding has become a very long and involved process. The first half of the undergrounding, between Bay Street and Swift Street, was not completed until 2004. Undergrounding the remaining section is currently underway. A new soundwall in front of Mission Hill Junior High School has been completed, and new street lights have been added along the entire length of Mission Street from Chestnut Street to Swift Street. However, an extensive landscaping plan has yet to be implemented.
Airport Boulevard and Holohan Road Improvements:
The widening of Airport Boulevard in Watsonville in 2002 was also an important regional circulation improvement. Airport Boulevard, combined with Holohan Road, forms a bypass around the northwestern portion of the City of Watsonville. Previously, Airport Boulevard was four lanes from Highway 1 to east of Hangar Way, and two lanes between Hangar Way and Green Valley Road. The widening project converted the section from east of Hangar Way to Freedom Boulevard to four lanes with a center two-way left turn lane. More information on this project can be found in the Airport Boulevard section of this web site.
Also, Holohan Road was recently improved with bicycle lanes between Laken Road (north of Highway 152-East Lake Avenue) and just south of Green Valley Road. For more information on this project, see the Holohan Road section of this web site.
Capitola Road and River Street Improvements:
The Capitola Road improvements are less extensive than those on Mission Street or Airport Boulevard. The two primary improvements to this county roadway are the addition of left turn and bicycle lanes, and sidewalk and landscaping improvements. This project began in 2001 was completed in late 2002. For more information, see the Capitola Road section of this web site.
The River Street improvements are similar to those on Capitola Road. For more information on this project, see the River Street section of this web site.
Project Proposals and Plans:
Highway 1 Widening - HOT/HOV Lanes
Proposed for decades, the widening of Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Aptos may finally become a reality. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the widening was fiercely debated, but no action was ever taken. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the proposal gained new life in the form of HOT (High-Occpuancy/Toll) or HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lanes. The widening has been included in the County Regional Transportation Plan and the Regional Transportation Commission is actively pursuing funding for the project. For more information on this project, see the Highway 1 Widening sections of this web site.
Highway 1-17 (Fishhook) Interchange
Debated equally as long as the Highway 1 widening, construction of the Highway 1-17 interchange improvements is set to begin in March 2006. These improvements are considerably scaled back from those proposed in the late 1990s, which at that time proposed a complete reconstruction of the interchange. The new proposal would add auxiliary lanes on Highway 1 in both directions between Highway 17 and Morrissey Boulevard, auxiliary lanes on northbound Highway 17 between Highway 1 and Pasatiempo Drive, and new ramps from Northbound Highway 1 to Emeline Avenue and Northbound Highway 17. For more information regarding the Highway 1-17 interchange, including an historical timeline, see the Highway 1-17 'Fishhook' Interchange section of thie web site.
Highway 1-9 Intersection Improvements
This intersection, one of the busiest in the County, will be improved within the decade. Dual left turn lanes on Southbound (really Eastbound by the compass) Highway 1 would complement the widening of Northbound Highway 9 from Highway 1 to Encinal Street. A new Park & Ride facility would also be added at the northeast corner of the intersection. More information on this project can be found at the Highway 1-9 Intersection section of this web site.
Future Projects - Proposed Project Study Reports (PSRs):
Highway 1 Widening, Part 2 - South of State Park Drive
In April 2002, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission approved a 'wish list' of future projects that they would like Caltrans to pursue in the form of Project Study Reports, or PSRs. PSRs are initial analyses of proposed projects that are required before projects can become eligible for state funding. PSRs review multiple alternatives for the proposed project, and are used to determine which alternative, if any, will become the final project.
The highest priority of the Commission for these new PSRs is the widening of Highway 1 south of State Park Drive in Aptos. The current widening proposals extend only as far south oas State Park Drive. It is unclear how far south this widening would extend, although most likely it would be to San Andreas Road in the southbound direction, or the Vista Point between San Andreas Road and Buena Vista Drive in the northbound direction, where each direction is currently three lanes. Regardless, it would likely not proceed further south than Highway 152-Green Valley Drive, where traffic volumes begin to drop and widening the causeways over the Pajaro River and various sloughs would be expensive. Widening just to San Andreas Road would be rather expensive in and of itself, specifically in the narrow section between State Park Drive and Rio Del Mar Drive, which features two rail overcrossings and an undercrossing. The section between Freedom Boulevard and San Andreas Road is a steep grade in the southbound direction, which could use the widening as a climbing lane for slow vehicles. The section between Freedom Boulevard and Rio Del Mar Boulevard also could use the widening, as the freeway is used in this area as an access between the two Boulevards.
Highway 152 Rerouting
One of the PSR projects at a secondary level of priority is the rerouting of Highway 152 through Watsonville. Most likely, this is referring to a rerouting of Highway 152 outside of downtown Watsonville. The most logical rerouting would thereby be Airport Boulevard and Holohan Road, a rerouting that I have propopsed on this web site.
Highway 1 Widening, Part 3 - Mission Street to Highway 17
Another project on the second level of PSR priorities is the widening of Highway 1 between Highway 1 and Mission Street within the City of Santa Cruz. The section between Highway 9 and Ocean Street Extension, the bridge over the San Lorenzo River, has been proposed previously to be widened, as part of the Highway 1-9 intersection improvements. In fact, this project is currently identified in the County's Regional Transportaion Plan. Widening the rest has never previously been proposed, at least not to my knowledge. The current at-grade rail crossing just west of Highway 9 is a problem, but a grade-separated improvement would be expensive and tough to construct. Any widening would also require reconstruction of the pedestrian overcrossing at High Street, which currently barely allows for four lanes and a relatively narrow median.
41st Avenue Overpass Widening
The first item on the third tier of PSR priorities is the widening of the 41st Avenue overpass over Highway 1 in Capitola. This part of 41st Avenue is very congested, and the widening would be a welcome improvement.
New Highway 17 Mid-Town Interchange in Scotts Valley
A third, mid-town interchange on Highway 17 in Scotts Valley has been proposed for many years. This interchange would serve the middle part of town, likely somewhere in the vicinity of El Pueblo Road. This interchange would releave some of the congestion at the other underpowered and substandard interchanges that serve the City.
Comments? Questions? Corrections?
E-mail Jeff Waller (firstname.lastname@example.org)