—Tarmo Hannula

SANTA CRUZ—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday opened the bidding process for a project that will add bike lanes and make pedestrian and traffic improvements along a 5.6-mile stretch of Soquel Drive in Mid-County.

Construction is expected to start in the summer for the so-called Soquel Drive Buffered Bike Lane Congestion Mitigation Project, which will run from La Fonda Avenue to State Park Drive.

The busy stretch gets the brunt of overflow rush-hour traffic from Highway 1, sometimes earning it the nickname “Highway 2,” says Senior Civil Engineer Russel Chen.

The stretch is also known for speeding motorists, and for gaps in its sidewalks and out-of-date ADA accommodations.  

In addition to improved traffic signals at 21 intersections, the project includes 2.4 miles of bikeway, separated by a 2-foot buffer with vertical delineators, and another 2.7 miles of bike lane without delineators. There will also be 27 bike boxes at various places along the way.

The project also includes more than a half-mile of sidewalk improvements, 94 reconstructed ADA ramps and 70 crosswalk upgrades. There will also be 11 mid-block crosswalks with flashing signals.

The $25.9 million project will be paid for with $16.4 million from the 2020 Solutions for Congested Corridors Program, and the County general fund will provide $4.5 million. The City of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District will provide the $4.9 million balance.

While project plans call for removing the street-side parking along Soquel Drive at Cabrillo College, Chen says it does not call for widening the road.

“What we’re doing is reimagining what we can do within the curb space that we have,” he said. 

Board Chair Zach Friend said the project will address longstanding safety concerns in Santa Cruz County, which he says has the highest rates of bicycle versus pedestrian, and of vehicle versus pedestrian collisions in the state. He also said that the improvements will help streamline the County’s bus system running along Soquel Drive.

“It’s the largest state investment in multimodal transportation in Santa Cruz County’s history,” Friend said.

In other action, the Supervisors approved an amendment to the contract with 4Leaf, Inc.–the company already providing streamlined recovery permit processing services for the victims of the CZU Fires–to include those affected by the recent atmospheric river storms and floods. 

They also extended the deadline to apply for development permits to repair or reconstruct through June 30, 2024.

Carolyn Burke, Assistant Director of the County’s Department of Community Development and Infrastructure, said that there are still many people affected by the CZU fire that have not yet received permits to rebuild.

Of the 911 residences that were destroyed, she said, 162 have been issued permits, 24 have completed construction and 32 are in the building application review process.

Some 190 homes were damaged in the recent storms, and 20 received red tags. 

The Supervisors also extended to storm victims its Legacy Older Structures Program, which streamlines permitting for properties whose age makes permitting cumbersome.

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  1. the street side parking along Soquel Drive next to our community college has been a safety issue for some time. we need to provide alternative parking spaces to make up for those lost when the curb is rezoned for no parking. I am sure it will be on a meeting agenda for an upcoming board of trustees meeting.

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