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August 11, 2022

SLVUSD Receives Update On Traffic Plan

The San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District received an update about Highway 9 traffic improvement plans last month.

Sarah Christensen, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s senior transportation engineer told trustees that while proper road upgrades are still a ways off, serious progress is being made on multiple fronts.

“The top priority identified was school access and circulation,” she said, adding the mix of students and commuters on the busy route makes for a challenging environment. “There’s a lot of issues out here.”

The RTC has initiated a study and a Memorandum of Understanding has been drawn up with five different agencies partnering in the long-term renovation effort.

As Highway 9 cuts through the San Lorenzo Valley past the SLVUSD’s main campus, shoulders become so narrow cyclists are forced to compete for space on the roadway with large trucks and other vehicles.

SLVUSD Superintendent Chris Schiermeyer said the MOU is nice because it allows the various partners working on the initiative to work together fluidly.

“It involves everybody,” he said. “It can’t just be the ownership of our district.”

Trustee Stacy Newsom Kerr asked Christensen if she could check to see if the district’s Boulder Creek Elementary School site might also be prioritized for traffic improvements, too.

Christensen said she would look into it and noted the county is developing a comprehensive Active Transportation Plan.

Trustee Jacqui Rice said she brought up the issue of a possible narrowing of the two southbound lanes, and about whether a crosswalk near the taqueria might be moving forward, which she said she believes would be a bad idea.

Rice underlined the reality that there are problems with pedestrian safety in the area and wondered, since longer-term upgrades aren’t expected until 2024, at the earliest if an interim solution might be in the cards.

“We’ve been working on a short-term solution,” Christensen said. “Caltrans has really been digging their heels in.”

When asked about this sentiment which was expressed by multiple officials at the school board meeting a Caltrans spokesperson said that while the agency hasn’t met specifically with school board members, it has worked closely with school district staff in the development of the SLV Complete Streets Plan.

“Many of the improvements within the SLV Schools Complex Circulation Project are not in Caltrans right of way,” said Kevin Drabinski, a public affairs officer for Caltrans District 5. “Both County and School officials are aware that a local traffic study is needed to move this project forward. Caltrans awaits the results of that study’s findings. Meanwhile, Caltrans continues to develop multiple projects that benefit non-motorized users.”

That includes the Caltrans Felton Pedestrian Safety Improvements Project located between the school complex and the town of Felton, a Felton pavement project, and the Highway 9 striping project, he said.

“All projects take years to develop as Caltrans staff have discussed at our last public meeting on Highway 9, and we appreciate the community’s patience and understanding,” he said.

But as far as a possible mid-block crosswalk near Felton’s main intersection, he did not have a definitive answer.

“Conditions are unique on every roadway and mid-block crosswalks must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “Any mid-block crossing being considered as part of a project development must be consistent with highway design standards.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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