SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the 2022 Active Transportation Plan, a 200-page document that outlines dozens of projects which aim to increase the county’s system of bicycle and walking paths.
“The vision is to create a network of biking and walking routes that connect key destinations within the county and are safe, comfortable and accessible for community members of all ages, backgrounds and abilities,” said Senior Civil Engineer Russell Chen.
The plan includes hundreds of proposed projects in the urbanized areas of unincorporated Santa Cruz County which have the highest density of residents and destinations, including Davenport, Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Felton, Live Oak, Soquel, Aptos, Rio Del Mar, La Selva Beach, Corralitos and Amesti.
But because many of the projects are unfunded, the document essentially serves as a wish list for county officials as they seek to improve transportation options.
It was created with the input of nearly 5,000 people, with surveys showing that 86% of respondents want to walk and bike more, but were discouraged from doing so by missing sidewalks and aggressive drivers and speeders.
At the center of the planning process for the plan were two temporary “demonstration projects” to get community feedback.
This includes a separated path on Green Valley Road between Amesti Road and Pinto Lake City Park, which was chosen for the high number of pedestrian and bicycle collisions.
That project garnered public support, and county officials have since gotten a $5 million Clean California grant to create a permanent, 10-foot-wide, two-mile path, complete with landscaping and bus stop improvements, said Amelia Conlin, a transportation planner at Ecology Action.
“This is exactly what we’re hoping to see with this type of project,” she said. “We want to demonstrate that it works and has community support and move forward with grant applications.”
A second demonstration project on Portola Drive between 36th and 41st avenues–which changed the road from two lanes in each direction to one lane and added bike lanes–did not fare as well, with community members complaining about slowed travel. As a result, the road was returned to four lanes, with enhanced bike lanes.
The projects in the plan were chosen via a scoring system that considered, among other criteria, safety concerns, cost and whether they add to the existing trail system. They include a shared use path through the CEMEX property in Davenport, a multi-use path in Scotts Valley on Graham Hill Road from the Santa Cruz city limits to Park Avenue, a bike lane on Spreckels Drive in Aptos and a multi-use path on West Beach Road in Watsonville from the city limits to Rio Boca Road.
Funding for the project included $450,000 from a Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant and $58,500 in local match.
The plan passed unanimously.
“This is really something we desperately need, and it’s a good footprint for getting us started on going somewhere,” Supervisor Bruce McPherson said.
Supervisor Zach Friend said that the projects are important in Santa Cruz County, which he says has one of the highest incidents of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists in the state.
The plan, he says, positions the county for more state funding to do the projects.
“This is the first step of future improvements that will erase that issue within our community from a safety standpoint,” he said. “It’s not just affording people an alternative means of transportation. It’s also affording them a safe method to do those methods of transportation.”