Highway to hell paved with good intentions

La Fonda Bridge starts to come down/Photo courtesy of SC County RTC

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.

Right.

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?

Sigh.

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

This entry was posted in culture, Environment, Health, Local news, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Highway to hell paved with good intentions

  1. Pooters says:

    And for those of us up this way – they are also working onboth Graham Hill Road and Highway 9 at the same time. We get to deal with lots of construction and traffic delays before we even get near Highway 1. I’m sure it will all be very nice when finished but in the mean time? UGH!!!!!!!!

  2. Steve Bankhead says:

    It’s too bad the the initiative a few years back to raise money for the Highway 1 widening was so overfilled with off-topic expenditures for bike projects and other non-highway fundings that it crashed in flames.u00a0 Attempts to please everyone often please nobody.u00a0 And it’s even sadder that Fred Keeley, who headed the study group later admitted he opposed the widening project from the start…leaving many to believe he purposely contributed to the initiative’s failure.u00a0 But that’s OK, because his colleagues on the county board appointed him to his present sinecure position as county treasurer so he can continue living off the taxpayers he’s continually failed to represent.u00a0

  3. Belladew55 says:

    It is a shame that horrible traffic issues overshadow our fine life style in Santa Cruz.u00a0 Two decades ago a project called “Wingspread” was propose.u00a0 It included funding to add lanes to Highway One.u00a0 Unfortunately, in typical anti-growth fashion, the voters of Santa Cruz County shot that one down…clearly shooting themselves in their own foot when they did so.u00a0 I am not happy to say I told you so….

  4. Anonymous says:

    Let’s add how the RTC has let Hwy 1 become obsolete for the past thirty years.u00a0 They had no intention of updating it as seen here in their own minutes.u00a0 They had spent the $5.6 Million received in Federal funds for Hwy 1 upkeep and balked at the Ten Year Rule–Useu00a0 It Or Pay It Back And Lose It Forever.nnhttp://sccrtc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/110616-tpw-minutes.pdf

  5. Anonymous says:

    u00a0I remember that proposal, and was very disappointed when it was blown off the map by idiot politicians.

  6. Anonymous says:

    u00a0Keeley, just one in a string of obstructionist politicians.u00a0 Voters let too many good developments and ideas go to waste when they could have been done with private funding.u00a0 Hate to say it, but county residents got what they deserved by not uniting against these foolish politicians that they somehow allowed in office, and have found almost impossible to get rid of.u00a0u00a0 I still visit Aptos and Capitola but won’t live there again.

  7. Truelibertarian says:

    Of course, summertime (the generally NON rainy season) is optimum for doing this kind of work, especially in daylight. Too bad it conflicts with tourist-congested traffic.nnIt would be good if the City and County would look into off-road transportation modes. Personal Rapid Transit, such as has been demonstrated to great acclaim at Heathrow Airport for the past year or so, would provide a wonderful alternative to travel via surface streets or highways. If you don’t need to travel with a big group, if you don’t need to carry a lot of cargo, if you simply want to get from A to B — and there must be thousands or tens-of-thousands per day who fit in those categories — Personal Rapid Transit provides an elegant and efficient solution.

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