Santa Cruz County

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Santa Cruz Streets -- Highway 1 Auxiliary Lanes (Soquel Dr. to Morrissey Blvd. and beyond?)

Santa Cruz County:


Hwy. 1Fast on the heels of the on-going Highway 1/17 (Fishhook) Merge Lanes Project, Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) are also planning for what is called the "Highway 1 Soquel/Morrissey Auxiliary Lanes Project." This project would construct a third lane in each direction of Highway 1 (a mixed-use lane, not HOV), between the Soquel Drive and Morrissey Boulevard interchanges. This improvement would have major congestion-reducing potential, due to the fact that this segment of Highway 1 has the highest traffic volumes of all segments of the highway throughout Santa Cruz County, and is also one of the most congested.

So Why Is It Called "Auxiliary" Lanes?

The term Auxiliary Lane generally refers to a lane that begins at one ramp, and ends at the next ramp. Traffic on the on-ramp is fed directly into the new lane, without having to merge with vehicles in the other through lanes. However, this lane also becomes an Exit Only lane, which forces all vehicles in it to exit at the next off-ramp. A classic example of auxiliary lanes is along Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, between Winchester Boulevard and Lawrence Expressway.

Isn't This Just A Sneeky Way To Widen Highway 1?

Yes and no. While auxiliary lanes do add some capacity to a freeway, their short length and large number of weaving vehicles limits their capacity. Their primary benefit is that they substantially increase the amount of distance available to weave, both for traffic entering the freeway on an on-ramp, as well as traffic exiting the freeway on an off-ramp. So in effect, an auxiliary lane essentially is like adding a half-lane of capacity to a freeway.

OK, How Are They Going To Pay For It?

In its entirety, no one knows yet. The total cost is currently estimated at between $18-$19 million dollars (January 2007), which would cover the northbound auxiliary lane, reconstruction and pedestrian/bicycle improvements to the existing La Fonda Avenue bridge over the freeway, and the southbound auxiliary lane. $2.9 million dollars have been secured from the federal government, and Caltrans is hoping to be able to fund another $1.9 million on its own. The remaining funding would likely come from either the SCCRTC's standard state funding, or through other local sources. However, this project is probably more likely that not to be constructed, as Caltrans District 5 has declared this improvement its highest priority project in Santa Cruz County. If funding is secured, Caltrans anticipated construction to begin in the year 2010, and to take approximately 1 year to build.

Could they also add these lanes between other interchanges along Highway 1?

Yes. First of all, the SCCRTC will be asking the state for money to construct these lanes between the 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive interchanges, and between the Park Avenue and Bay Avenue/Porter Street interchanges. This funding would come from the bond money that was passed by voters in November 2006. The designs of these lanes would still allow for the proposed Highway 1 HOV lane widening improvements in the median. The estimated costs for the two new auxiliary lane improvements is a combined $30 million, with construction starting as early as 2011.

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