Caltrans explains the anatomy of clogged traffic on Mission Street
Dear Street Smarts,
It seems nothing has been done about the back-up of traffic at the intersection of King and Mission Streets in Santa Cruz. With hundreds of cars coming down from UCSC, clogging High Street, Storey and King, and the heavy after-school traffic on Mission, the light at Mission and King changes to green and not one car can move on King Street because the lanes on Mission are full. Finally, the light at Mission and Highway 1/Chestnut Street turns green and maybe two or three cars on King are able to get through the light.
This problem was discussed last spring in this column with the response that the situation would be studied. With the eminent return of full time school traffic, this is a horrendous headache. Sometimes, it takes two or three lights just to maneuver that intersection. Is there another way to coordinate those two traffic lights to allow smoother flow of traffic?
Lavinia Livingston, Santa Cruz
Ah, the anatomy of a bottleneck.
The question of congestion keeps coming up, whether it is along Mission or any other high volume area in the county. Transportation officials in each jurisdiction have been giving the same answer – there are just too may cars on roads that were not built to handle the amount of vehicles they are being used for.
In response to your question, Caltrans officials responded along those same lines.
“You can only get as many cars through as the road can hold,” said Susana Cruz, spokesperson for the transportation agency. “A three inch pipe can get more water flow than a two inch. It is the same with roadways. We only have two lanes in both directions and they are basically over-saturated with the tourist and school traffic that is generated in the area.”
Traffic engineers for the agency have looked at the intersection numerous times and continue to observe traffic flow and look for solutions. However, they say that to tweak one signal light in favor of another will negatively impact traffic and generate more letters such as yours.
So where do we go from here?
As Street Smarts has printed in the past:
- Find another route
- Bicycle commute
- Ride the bus
Or as Cheryl Schmitt of the Santa Cruz City Public Works Department says, “I play meditation music in my car. Now that I'm driving electric and there's no engine sound when I'm sitting in gridlock, the OM is that much more present.”
These are the inexpensive options we individuals can do daily to help ease congestion. Other than that, perhaps voters would pass a bond to re-engineer the area's major arterials, including ripping out buildings, sidewalks, trees and fences to create a large enough space to handle all the vehicles that wish to travel on them.
What do you say Street Smarts readers? What do you think should be done to deal with congestion around the county?