OK, we get it. Since there are too many cars on too little asphalt, traffic has been, is, and will be a major obstacle for Santa Cruz County residents hoping to get from here to there.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.
Tuesday, it was a gas leak that led officials to close Soquel Avenue in both directions from Capitola Road Extension to Seventh Avenue in Live Oak. Traffic wasn’t the only problem, with schools evacuated, animals moved from a veterinary clinic and neighbors alerted before it was reopened in late afternoon. But thousands of people Tuesday were affected by the resulting traffic snarls — although congestion has been so bad for so long, some may not have noticed the difference.
Since Soquel is a primary — but not the only — escape valve for drivers-hoping-they’ll-be-the-only-ones-making-better-progress-by-getting-off-the-almost-always-heavily-congested-Highway-1, the bottleneck just moves elsewhere.
For hours midday Tuesday, much of the traffic moved right back onto the highway.Good thing there weren’t any problems there.
Tuesday just happened to be when demolition began in the early morning on the La Fonda Bridge across the highway, just a few blocks from where a contractor working on the county’s new behavioral health unit near Harbor High School would hit a gas line.
Demolition of the bridge has long been scheduled as part of the highway widening project between the Soquel Avenue-Morrissey Boulevard off ramps. Eventually a new bridge will be built, with wider sidewalks and bike lanes, as part of the $22 million project. But for the next eight months, Eastside Santa Cruz and Live Oak residents will have to find another way to cross over the highway. Detours are expected to add to traffic congestion.
The widening project itself has been slowing traffic to a crawl, especially in morning commute hours, as traffic volumes increase with tourists joining beleaguered residents in the daily reality show, “Bet You Can’t Get There,” in which hapless commuters wager a week’s paycheck on whether they can make it to work within an allotted time, and still keep their jobs. Fortunately, there aren’t any other problems, right?
In what appears to be some kind of cosmic plot to see just how much agony motorists can endure, the state transportation agency, Caltrans, is in the midst of a major repaving project between Aptos and the county line at the Pajaro River Bridge. While this work is mostly done at night, stretches of the highway are in pretty bad shape during daylight hours causing traffic, even with multiple warning signs, to often slow considerably.
As any resident living in areas adjacent to the highway well knows, the traffic just spills over onto their streets, as drivers desperately seek relief from the congestion.This, of course, adds to the wear and tear on these streets, which adds to a mounting tab — recently estimated at $300 million — for fixing local roads.
All the more frustrating, as we noted last week, that a November ballot measure setting up a $10 vehicle registration tax to raise money for fixing streets was tabled last week.
There were plenty of reasons given — the cost of mounting a campaign, the blizzard of tax proposals voters have to fend off in the election — but in the end, this modest proposal was left stalled, which was probably no surprise to battle-weary drivers on our gridlocked roadways.
This post will be the Sentinel Editorial for Aug. 8, 2012