.South County Projects Included in Regional Transportation Commission Plans

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) Board of Directors on Thursday approved a spending plan for $11.2 million in state and federal funding, which will be allocated over a wide range of transportation-related projects countywide.

The funding includes $4.5 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program, $3.7 million from the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, $2.6 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and $500,000 from the Highway Infrastructure Program.

The funds can be used for transportation projects such as highways and roads, in addition to rail, bicycle and pedestrian uses.

Among the projects approved is $825,000 for resurfacing three miles of San Andreas Road from Manresa State Beach to Sunset Beach Road, and resurfacing 1.4 miles of Holohan Road from Green Valley Road to Highway 152. The commission also allocated $1.2 million for Watsonville’s Complete Streets Downtown project, which includes pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Rodriguez, Brennan and Union streets.

In Capitola, $492,000 is allocated to improvements on three intersections on 41st Avenue, and $1 million will be used to replace Metro busses with more environmentally friendly ones.

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RTC Senior Transportation Planner Rachel Moriconi said that staff chose the projects after soliciting requests from the public earlier this year, which garnered 19 applications totaling $26 million, more than twice what was available. In the end, she said that most received partial funding.

“It’s always nice to have money, but it’s never enough money,” Moriconi said. 

While the commissioners signaled their support for the original staff recommended funding, a small 7-5 majority supported an amendment by Commissioner Manu Koenig to shift $2 million to county projects, a sum that must now come from other projects.

Since that money cannot come from city-funded projects, it will have to come from such sources as Ecology Action, Lift Line, Santa Cruz METRO and the SLV Schools Complex Circulation and Access Study, all of which requested and received funding, according to RTC spokeswoman Shannon Munz.

It could also be diverted from a project that would provide auxiliary lanes on Highway 1 between Freedom Boulevard and State Park Drive, construct a bus-on-shoulder facility, construct sound walls and retaining walls and build a 1.25-mile segment of the coastal rail trail.

RTC staff is now tasked with determining from where the $2 million will be diverted.

Commissioner Bruce McPherson, like many board members, said that focusing on fixing the roads will in turn bolster other types of transportation.

“These are tough choices to make, but I think that our roads need it more than ever,” McPherson said.

Koenig agreed, calling fixing the county’s aging roadways the “most universal” investment the county can make. He also called for improving pedestrian infrastructure, which he said has been “consistently underfunded.”

For a complete list of projects, visit bit.ly/3xPZFoY.

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