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Eastern access road idea should become reality to ease Mission Street congestion, says reader
Dear Street Smarts, Q: I think there may be different solutions to gridlock in different parts of the county. But with regard to the King at Mission intersection, Caltrans is right – that intersection cannot and was never intended to handle the current volume of traffic. The city agreed to provide an eastern access to the university before the campus was built, but later reneged. It would be a great service if the Sentinel traced the history of that agreement and reported what happened. A solution would be to take a sliver off the edge of an existing parcel of city-owned property between campus and Highway 9 to provide the agreed upon access route and solve the Mission Street gridlock problem as well as traffic pressure on Bay, High, King, and Storey. Glenn Stewart, Santa Cruz A: Yours wasn't the only letter with this suggestion in light of recent emails seeking solutions to Mission Street congestion. After digging through the Sentinel's archives, Street Smarts learned that there was an agreement established in 1961 between the county and the university to build an eastern access through Pogonip. The proposed access road would have extended Encinal Street in Harvey West through Pogonip to Glenn Coolidge Drive on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The route would have provided parking and disability access to Pogonip's open space, as well as traffic relief on the Westside. A 1992 study showed eastern access would cut traffic on Westside by 47 percent and, in 1998, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission considered the eastern access in its Major Transportation Investment Study. In December 2003, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to strike the eastern access idea from the Master Transportation Study/ Attorney and former mayor Celia Scott wrote to the Sentinel, saying the eastern access road is the university's project, not that of the city. What's more, the easement rights through Pogonip, as proposed by the university in 1988's long range development plan expired Jan. 1, 1999, she wrote. When the city acquired the land for $15 million, the deal rested on Proposition 70, the California Parks and Wildlife Initiative, to preserve the greenbelt, Scott continued. If the proposed road was built, a 1990 study by the county estimated the work to cost $5.8 million. Rather than build a road that itself would soon be congested with single occupancy vehicles, Scott applauded the university's continued efforts to get students out of their cars. Street Smarts asked current Mayor Don Lane to weigh in on the issue. He echoed similar concerns while noting the proposed road's impact on Highway 9 and supporting alternative commute solutions. “Building the eastern access road would mean that traffic leaving the University would have to eventually come onto Highway 9 and would then make the troubled Highway 1/Highway 9 intersection much worse at evening rush hour than it already is,” he said. “Thus, it appears to me that the congestion would simply be moved – not really reduced.” Lane also noted that the city's general plan requires residents to vote to approve the road. “And an election on this subject would undoubtedly be very divisive for both environmental and financial reasons,” he said.