Traffic flow needs to improve at Ocean Street and Broadway, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: Now that we are finally getting to the real issues of driving around Santa Cruz and not bike lessons or elderly lessons, I would like to ask you about a huge traffic tie-up. Unfortunately, not all of us are able to ride a bike to work as we need our cars for work. My question is: While heading south down Ocean Street towards the Boardwalk, traffic can stop as far back as Water Street or even beyond. Why? Because someone wants to turn left onto Broadway from Ocean. With the amount of cars in the area, you are lucky if you will make it through that signal in three series of lights. The city has already caused backups on all exits from downtown by shortening lanes down to one lane for a bigger space for bicycles. Why can't it make the intersection of Broadway and Ocean a three-way signal, having northbound cars have the green light then the southbound lanes get the green light? This would eliminate the huge backups on Ocean, especially on Fridays and during summer tourist season. Come on folks, it can take some of us 45 minutes to drive 4 miles to get home. Are we copying Los Angeles? Paul T. & Gregory Adams via email A: Chris Schneiter of the city’s public works department is well aware of the problem you describe. “Changing Soquel Avenue from a four-lane section without bike lanes to a three-lane section with bike lanes a few years ago did increase traffic on Broadway and with background traffic increases, the intersection is impacted,” he said. “There are other benefits to the Soquel change that I won’t get into, but of course there are always trade-offs.” But fixing the problem at Ocean and Broadway isn’t going to be easy, Schneiter said. Thus, the city has earmarked funds to study ways to improve this intersection during the current fiscal year, he said. “Unfortunately, there is not enough room at the intersection to accommodate all the movements and the long term solution will require widening the intersection,” he said. “Past traffic studies have suggested restricting peak-hour left-turns from Ocean Street to Broadway as a short term capacity and safety improvement." The option you suggest, called split-phasing, Schneiter said, actually could make the traffic back-up worse by increasing "delays to all movements, probably beyond what the intersection can handle." Once the study begins, all possible solutions will be considered, he said.
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