The committee was founded in the wake of 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPherson’s springtime town plan meetings in Felton, Ben Lomond, and Boulder Creek in which all three towns expressed concern about safety and infrastructure on Highway 9 among their chief concerns.
McPherson’s office has since spearheaded efforts to bring community members to the table with representatives from such organizations as the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, Caltrans, and the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District.
“The whole thing has been centered on safety,” McPherson said. “I think this is going to be a great example of how governments can coordinate their efforts.”
On Friday, Sept. 20, nearly two dozen committee members boarded a chartered Metro bus and, according to McPherson, “drove up and down Highway 9” identifying trouble spots, and other places in need of improvement.
“It was nice opportunity,” said John Olejnik, associate transportation planner with Caltrans’ District 5. “I was really impressed at how organized the groups were.”
Olejnik said that meeting directly with the communities and other organizations was beneficial because it allowed for everyone to be on the same page and coordinate and collaborate on projects — both easily accomplished “low-hanging fruit” like landscaping, tree removal, and lighting, along with longer-term proposals that require planning and funding.
“I’m just making sure the right people are talking,” he said.
One of the foremost projects that the committee is tackling is improving safety and traffic flow in the vicinity of the bus stops on the San Lorenzo Valley High School campus.
Santa Cruz Metro General Manager Les White said that the plans for the campus-area bus stops include improvements to handicapped accessibility, the installation of a bus pass vending machine, new bus shelters, and the relocation of the bus stop on the northbound side of Highway 9 to allow buses to pull completely off the road to pick up passengers.
“Our staff is working with (McPherson’s) staff and the schools,” White said. “All of us have a common interest and that’s to improve the safety and efficiency of the Highway 9 corridor.”
He said that the vending machines and the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance improvements are already funded, and the prepaid bus passes distributed will allow buses to board quicker at all stops and ease traffic impacts.
“It cuts down on the time getting on board immensely,” he said. “We’ve been searching for a place to put (the machines) in the San Lorenzo Valley.”
McPherson said that some improvements, such as diagonal parking in the towns, would be more difficult to implement than others, but was optimistic that having so many different voices to weigh in would allow for smooth coordination and would increase the likelihood of projects being completed.
“There’s been some great input,” he said. “We just have to live within what the law is.”
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