No easy solutions to put the brakes on traffic congestion

There are hot spots around the county that frequently draw letters from readers seeking a fix. Traffic congestion on Mission Street is one such topic that is never ending. Today, Street Smarts will address recent letters regarding the congestion in Harvey West Business Park and Soquel Village. About Harvey West, a reader wrote, "Anyone who has driven to Harvey West knows how congested the streets are in this area of town. Why not put an exit from Harvey West at Evergreen and Coral that leads out to Mission Street? There appears to be an existing right-of-way along the path that could provide some relief to drivers headed towards the west side of Santa Cruz." As of right now, there are no changes in the works for Harvey West, said Chris Schneiter, assistant public works director. Meanwhile, read this nearly two year old Street Smarts column about using Harvey West as an eastern access point to UC Santa Cruz to ease congestion along Mission Street, As you can see, this is not an easy issue to address. In regard to synchronizing the traffic lights entering Soqel Village from the north, another reader reported, "Often, the lights will work against each other causing southbound traffic at Daubenbiss to wait at a red light while it's green southbound 60 yards away at Soquel/Porter. One pedestrian or one car on Daubenbiss can trigger this scenario while 20-30 cars must wait and by the time it finally turns green, Soquel/Porter has now turned red! This is madness. Daubenbiss pedestrians and vehicles should not have priority here at the expense of 20-30 cars needlessly idling in place." In explaining the dynamics of this area, Jack Soriakoff, county civil engineer, said "There are bus stops on both sides of Soquel Drive at Daubenbiss. Pedestrians have to cross here. The traffic signals are synchronized; however, the pedestrian activity tends to throw off the signal cycles. The signal timing eventually readjusts itself, until the next pedestrian crossing. "If the bus stops were removed and pedestrians were not allowed to cross here, the signal timing could be significantly improved," he continued. "Of course, any changes in the traffic network may bring positive and/or negative changes somewhere else. An in-depth analysis would be required before any changes were implemented. There are no plans at this time to do this analysis or make these changes." Hearing that there are no plans now to fix any one of the numerous traffic snarls in the county can be deflating but keep your letters seeking change and mentioning solutions coming. The more the better in hopes of getting a fix. Traffic planners are listening and taking note. While there may be no immediate fix and we may not get the answers we seek now, those projects may come about eventually when all sides involved reach an agreement, funding is found and it's determined they are environmentally sound. The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission's auxiliary lanes projects along Highway 1 are one example of this. Another is the city of Santa Cruz's project to widen Soquel Avenue at Park Way and add left turn pockets. Still another is the new Highway 1/Salinas Road overcrossing. After years of congestion, traffic collisions and otherwise scary moments at the intersection of Highway 1 and Salinas Road, funding was found to fund this structure, completed in the spring 2013. Last month, the project was named Interchange Project of the Year at the 25th annual California Transportation Foundation awards for transportation excellence in Sacramento. "Its grace is truly a work of art," said Supervisor Lou Calcagno, supervisor for North Monterey County in citing the ways the interchange blends with the surrounding agricultural environment. "Travelers are also treated to a pair of beautiful mosaics, an artichoke and a cluster of strawberries, as they pass each side of the structure. The interchange is perhaps the best designed work that Caltrans has ever done in all of California." Until congestion relieving infrastructure comes about, there are things we can all do to try to minimize congestion, including planning your trip time and route to avoid the worst snarls, using alternative transportation and carpooling. Speaking of Caltrans projects, work to replace bridge joints on the Soquel Creek Bridge between Bay and 41st avenues along Highway 1 has been cancelled until further notice. It had been scheduled to begin tonight and would have caused the closure of several freeway on and off ramps in the area. Stay tuned for when that project will receive the green light again. Stay abreast of Caltrans projects in Santa Cruz County by calling 1-877-448-6771 or visiting
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