Reader questions building highway ‘niceties’ during tough financial times

Dear Street Smarts, Q: Your column is typically the most valuable information in the Sentinel! When freeways are 'improved', it seems that it is always overkill on the ancillary stuff, which makes the costs so high. For example, the landscaping along the north side of the recent Highway 1 Auxiliary Lane addition. It seems like the state should cut back from 'ideal' standards in tough financial times and do the basic work; then add the niceties later -- if the economy improves. Stop spending money paving areas that aren't part of the main roadway. Form a citizen review board to review proposed highway project -- including their scope. For example, the proposed footbridge over Highway 1 when the 'auxiliary lanes' are added between Soquel Drive and 41st. Avenue. There isn't one now. What does that expenditure have to do with adding lanes? Thanks for all you do Ramona. It's a great benefit to all of us who drive! Bruce Koehler, via email A: Thank you. I do my best. Now to your question, which I sent to the folks at the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the agency behind the auxiliary lanes projects along Highway 1. Every project undergoes an environmental and design phase, which outlines the elements to be included in the highway, including elements that mitigate project impacts -- both environmentally and fiscally, said Kim Shultz, the commission's auxiliary lanes project manager. "This phase of the project is conducted according to strict criteria," he said, noting that the goal is to have the design produce safe highways. The environmental phase aims to minimize project impacts on the community and surrounding environment, Shultz continued. "The cost of the landscaping is minimal compared to the total cost of the project and is designed to prevent erosion, improve, drainage and minimize storm water runoff into the water ways and ultimately into the ocean," he added. In regard to paving areas not part of the main roadway, "the state sets design standards to maximize public safety by providing a vehicle recovery zone and emergency vehicle access to quickly respond to unexpected incidents on the highway and reduce congestion in a timely manner," explained Shultz. "There are instances where the state will waive safety standards and grant design exceptions, but generally it is only for very limited conditions." A citizen review board may not be necessary considering public participation in the review of the design and environmental analysis of this and other projects is encouraged, he said. "Comments or recommendations on the project design or construction elements should be submitted at the environmental review stage of a project," added Shultz. Subscribing to the commission's eNews newsletter may be the easiest way to stay up to date about the upcoming Soquel/41st Auxiliary Lanes project," he suggested. As for paying for transportation projects, federal and state funding is unpredictable, with the commission receiving between $4 million to $5 million annually. "All projects in the 9-mile Santa Cruz-Aptos section of Highway 1 total at least $600 million," noted Shultz. "The affordable way to proceed is to pay-as-you-go. Most likely, the first projects will be auxiliary lanes, then interchanges, then a new carpool lane."
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One Response to Reader questions building highway ‘niceties’ during tough financial times

  1. PH DePlume says:

    A bridge at Chanticleer is the wrong place to cross the Freeway.
    It needs to be a Mattison Ln so that the Children can get to the School and Soccer fields at good Shepherd .
    It is a quieter street and does not go through the industrial area and out to Soquel and back as the proposed bridge does.

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