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December 8, 2022

SLVUSD Teams With Agencies on New Traffic Flow Project

Community meetings about project set for Nov. 2 and 3

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District trustees eagerly poured over three new maps that outline possible solutions for traffic issues at its main campus, during an Oct. 12 study session.

They were gearing up for key meetings with state and county officials about Highway 9 upgrades, and thinking about how best to communicate what’s happening to parents.

“They’re beautiful drawings,” Superintendent Chris Schiermeyer said, emphasizing nothing is set in stone. “They’re possibilities.”

For example, at one point, someone had proposed a roundabout—something he said he’s glad didn’t make it to this stage of the process.

Officials are trying to improve access to the San Lorenzo Valley Unified tri-campus, while increasing traffic safety along Highway 9.

The new designs sprung out of the 2019 Highway 9/San Lorenzo Valley Complete Streets Corridor Plan.

Schiermeyer said the district is open to changing the flow of vehicles and pedestrians on its property, as long as it matches up with what the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) wants to do with the highway.

The superintendent said SLVUSD is also willing to give up easements if it helps improve transportation infrastructure for parents, staff and students.

There’s currently a million dollars of Measure D funding set aside for the upgrade, which is a separate pot of money from the Measure S funds being used for facility upgrades.

“But you can look at these drawings and know they’re way past a million dollars,” Schiermeyer said, noting the designs can help the school board look for additional funds elsewhere. 

San Jose-based Mark Thomas, a surveying, urban design and engineering company, was responsible for the conceptual designs.

Officials have considered constructing an additional right-turn exit at the high school, but the district is limited by Caltrans’ rules about the number of exits allowed within a set distance, Schiermeyer added.

But the superintendent said the idea is included in the drawings, since SLVUSD might be allowed to build it if Castelli’s Deli Cafe is willing to give up one of their highway access points.

“It’s a great idea,” said Trustee Jacqui Rice.

Even though enrollment has declined over the years, traffic at the school hasn’t gotten better, Schiermeyer pointed out.

“It’s a Valley thing that has always existed,” he said. “And the school doesn’t have the capacity to magically fix this.”

That’s why working closely with other agencies is so important, he added.

“As a district, we totally support any improvements of Highway 9,” he said. “It’s a collaborative approach.”

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the County of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz METRO and Caltrans are hosting two workshops, in partnership with the district, to get community input on the San Lorenzo Valley Schools Circulation & Access Study.

An online session is set for Nov. 2 from 6-7pm, to be convened via Zoom. An in-person workshop has been scheduled for Nov. 3 from 6-7pm at the Felton Community Hall (located at 6191 Hwy 9).

“Interested community members are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming workshops to learn more about the transportation solutions developed, and to provide input to help refine the draft concepts,” an RTC spokesperson said. “The in-person workshop will have the maximum opportunity to interface with the entire project team, and collaborate with fellow community members while responding to the draft concepts.”

The study area covers Highway 9 between the southern intersection of Glen Arbor Road and Graham Hill Road.

Meanwhile, trustees are looking forward to a presentation on the subject from the RTC’s Sarah Christensen at their Oct. 26 board meeting, which starts at 6pm.

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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