|Added highway lanes canít fix congestion | by Eloise Graham
What the Transportation Commission is not telling you about widening Highway
1 in Santa Cruz
Whats your vision of the future in Santa Cruz County? Do you see miles of
stop-and-go traffic surrounded by high, concrete block walls on a multi-laned
Highway 1? Do you see our communities paved over with parking lots and garages?
Or, would you like to see a bike and walking trail along the Union Pacific tracks?
How about a unique mass transit system such as a quiet coastal trolley? Would
you like to live close to your workplace and shopping so you could just walk along
wider, tree-shaded sidewalks?
||Highway 1 looking northbound from the
North Branciforte overcrossing. If the Merge Lane Project is built as planned,
a giant new offramp (not favored by Caltrans, but now part of the project) onto
Emeline Avenue would obliterate the greenery on the right. This ramp, estimated
to cost several million dollars, was planned to provide emergency access to the
County Hospital which is no longer there. In addition there would be an added
lane on both northbound and southbound directions replacing the current plantings.
Unfortunately, area transportation choices are being made now which promote one
person per automobile usage. Bowing to big business pressures, the Santa Cruz
County Regional Transportation Commissions main goal is the widening of
Highway 1 from the Fishhook to Larkin Valley Road. Commissioners, most of whom
are local elected officials, have chosen to ignore the information gained through
months of public hearings and workshops which clearly mandated use of a balanced
transportation network rather than increased dependence on automobiles for our
Right now, a number of important decisions are being made that you should know
about. Your awareness and opinions are important.
Merge lane project will not relieve congestion
The Highway 1/17 Merge Lane Project, slated to begin in February 2004, will take
two to three years to construct. Everyone who lives or drives in that area should
be aware of the plans for the devastation of trees, bushes and existing bridges
from the Fishhook to La Fonda Avenue and the noise, light and pollution impacts
on existing residential neighborhoods. According to Gregg Albright, Director,
Caltrans District 5, Everything within the footprint of the project will
be clearcut. You should also know that this project is called a safety project
and is not intended to relieve Highway 1 congestion.
Widening Highway 1 to Larkin Valley Road will take a 20-30 year sales tax
The next stage in widening Highway 1 is more ambitious and involves adding a lane
in each direction, making a six-lane highway all the way to Larkin Valley Road.
Some Regional Transportation Commissioners would like to add two more lanes in
each direction for a total of eight.
Induced traffic immediately consumes 10-50% of new road capacity and 50-100%
in four years.
John Holtzclaw, Induced
In order to fund this huge road, Santa Cruz County voters will be asked to approve
an additional 1/2 cent sales tax in November 2004. Estimated costs for the widening
keep rising, but $300 million is now being discussed. Pouring all our transportation
resources into highway widening will leave almost nothing for sustainable transportation
projects such as bus improvements, bike/pedestrian bridges, and light rail/fixed
Widened roads quickly fill up, especially when there are no other transportation
Despite their gigantic expense, widened roads have filled up quickly as numerous
studies and experience have shown. Widened roads only encourage people to drive
alone and not only increase the number of vehicles on the highway, but also the
number of people who cut through neighborhoods to avoid the highway congestion.
How long before the six lanes of Highway 1 are backed up at the four-lane Fishhook?
How long before there is talk of making Highway 17 through Scotts Valley eight
lanes? How long before the newly-widened Mission Street will be viewed as a bottleneck?
How long before the verdant farms and wetlands between Watsonville and Moss Landing
are buried under tons of concrete and asphalt?
Work for sustainable transportation
Santa Cruz deserves a diverse transportation system instead of putting all its
eggs into the highway basket. Many residents prefer sustainable transportation
instead of wider, emission-producing highways. Sierra Club is working with the
Campaign For Sensible Transportation to protect our quality of life by promoting
alternatives to the highway widening. Other involved organizations include The
Environmental Council of Santa Cruz County, People Power, Aptos Neighbors Board
of Directors, Fishhook Neighbors, Mission: Pedestrian, National Bicycle Greenway,
The Coalition for the Environment and Jewish Life, and the [Santa Cruz] Religious
Society of Friends (Quakers).
Your help is needed too! Will you attend public hearings and meetings, speak out
or write letters? Are you interested in fundraising or educational programs? Whatever
your talents or interests, theres a spot and a need for you. Visit www.sensibletransportation.org
or contact Jim Danaher, danaher@cruzio. com or 427-2727. See sidebar below for
additional information and website for Sierra Club resources.
"We literally spend more collecting the road kill off the nations highways
than we spend on the entire passenger rail system of this country in one year."
Amtrak Chair and Meridian, Mississippi Mayor John Robert Smith, The Associated
Press State & Local Wire; August 27, 2002.
Sprawl & congestion: long-term answers
- Increase funding for clean public transportation options such as fuel-efficient
buses and light rail electric trains.
- Reduce funding for road and car-only projects.
- Increase funding for sidewalks and bike paths.
- Encourage Transit-Oriented Development to integrate public involvement in
the transportation planning process so citizens have an equal voice in their communitys
- Encourage innovative incentive-based programs that encourage walking, biking,
- Authorize zoning decisions that encourage mixed-use development.
From: New Roads Are Not the Answer: Avoiding Traffic Congestion Through
Transportation Choices, Sierra Club, Sprawl Hurts Us All Campaign.
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