Talking With The Community

Talking With The Community

Community Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comBy Shannon Munz, Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Communications Specialist

Community Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comCommunity conversations about how best to address the transportation needs of the county have been going on for decades, and as the county continues to grow, these conversations will become even more critical. According to the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, Santa Cruz County, already challenged by significant traffic congestion, is estimated to grow approximately 10 percent to over 300,000 residents by 2035.

With this in mind, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has had to look at ways to address both the existing transportation problems and the future transportation needs of the county.

Through the Unified Corridor Investment Study (UCS), the RTC has studied different sets of transportation projects to determine which projects should be prioritized along the county’s three main corridors — Highway 1, Soquel/Freedom and the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line.

Community Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comAfter nearly two years of study, the draft results of the UCS were released at the end of September. The UCS provides a rigorous analysis of how various groups of projects or scenarios advance the transportation goals for the Santa Cruz community by 2035. (The draft results and four scenarios studied can be found at www.sccrtc.org/ucs.)

After wide public outreach to solicit community input on the transportation priorities for the county, RTC staff developed a Preferred Scenario, or preferred package of transportation projects for the county, which was presented to the RTC Board on Nov. 15.

This Preferred Scenario is designed to promote the development of a sustainable transportation system that is reliable and efficient, protects the natural environment, provides economic vitality, and improves access for all users.

The RTC frequently hears from community members that a range of transportation options is needed with meaningful auto, transit, bike and pedestrian improvements integrated together as part of the overall transportation system.

The Preferred Scenario takes all of this into consideration and emphasizes regional projects that include highway improvements, bus service enhancements, passenger rail service, and significant bike and pedestrian improvements including a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle trail within the existing rail right-of-way.

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Breakdown of projects in the Preferred Scenario

Rail corridor (including rail service and bike/pedestrian improvements on the corridor): $635 million  

  • Passenger rail service between Santa Cruz and Watsonville with local stops and an interregional connection at Pajaro Station: $340 million
  • Bike and pedestrian rail trail: $283 million
  • Bus connections to rail: $12 million

Highway 1: $264 million

  • Three auxiliary lanes (in addition to three lanes funded by Measure D): $142 million
  • Metering of on-ramps: $113 million
  • Buses on shoulders: $9 million.

Soquel Ave/Drive/Freedom Blvd: $51 million

  • Intersection improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians: $31 million.
  • Buffered/protected bike lanes: $20 million.

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The RTC is still seeking community input on the UCS Preferred Scenario. This input will be considered as they develop the final staff recommendation that will be presented to the RTC Board at the Jan. 17 RTC meeting.

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Deadlines for public comment to be submitted are:

Jan. 16, 2019 12 p.m.: For consideration by the RTC commission in the action on the preferred scenario on Jan. 17, 2019.

Community members can send input via email to ucs@sccrtc.org or postal mail to the RTC at 1523 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 95060.

If you have questions for the RTC or there are transportation-related issues you would like to see us cover, feel free to contact Shannon Munz, RTC Communications Specialist, at smunz@sccrtc.org. For more information on the RTC, visit sccrtc.org.

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