Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Oct 25th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

An Accident Waiting to Happen

news2 caputIs there hope for fixing traffic congestion near Pajaro Valley High School?

On a recent Monday afternoon, amidst the shriek of whistles and the far-off shouts of coaches, Fourth District County Supervisor Greg Caput holds up his arms in bewilderment and shakes his head.

“You can’t park there!” he shouts to a car stopped in front of a “No Stopping at Any Time” sign. He is directing traffic at the intersection of Harkins Slough Road and the entrance to the Pajaro Valley High School—a location plagued by notoriously horrendous traffic before and after school hours.  

At first, it seems as if Caput is putting on a show, considering that the June 3 election in which he is vying for re-election is drawing near. But as traffic backs up into the far distance in three directions, it becomes apparent that without someone directing traffic at the intersection, the situation could be considerably worse.

“I got calls about a month ago that the traffic is terrible there again,” says Caput. “I was told by the school district that they were going to hire [a traffic conductor] within a week or two weeks, and it didn’t happen, so I said ‘I’m going to go out there and move the traffic like I did last year.’”

Since Pajaro Valley High School opened in 2004, the traffic congestion that occurs before class begins in the morning and when it ends in the afternoon has been a constant issue, according to Principal Robert “Pancho” Rodriguez.

“It’s been an ongoing problem since we opened this site nine years ago,” says Rodriguez.

Spurred by letters and phone calls from Fourth District constituents, Caput first decided to take it upon himself to direct traffic last year. He and his staff were trained by the Watsonville Police Department and volunteered as traffic control guards until the Pajaro Valley Unified School District gained funding to hire someone in September 2013. 

In January, the traffic control guard the district had hired moved on to a full-time job in another industry, and Caput once again received calls from concerned citizens. Caput resumed the role of voluntary traffic control officer from early March through April 9, when the school acquired a new guard. 

“The traffic control guard works,” says Caput. “It gets people out of the school 20 to 25 minutes faster than they would if no one was there.”

Although the traffic conductor works as a temporary solution, there could be more permanent structural changes to solve the traffic issue, says Terry Medina, former Watsonville police chief and candidate for the Fourth District Supervisor.

Medina believes that in order to resolve the issue, all of the entities involved need to work together. This includes the California Highway Patrol, which has the jurisdiction to ticket illegally parked cars near the school’s entrance, and the Watsonville Police Department, whose purview lies on the other side of Green Valley Road.

“I would also include, for a long-term solution, the county’s transportation commission, as well as Caltrans because what ultimately may be the final solution is a footpath,” Medina says.

The construction of a walking path from the high school to Airport Boulevard is just one of the solutions proposed by Medina and others. Caput also points to alternatives like the opening of an access road to Airport Boulevard that was used during the construction of the school, or reopening Lee Road, which once connected Harkins Slough Road to Highway 1. But according to John Presliegh, director of Santa Cruz County Public Works, these roads are perpetually sinking and are often submerged during the rainy season, which makes them unusable. 

In addition to crossing the intersection at the high school’s entrance, other dangers to drivers and pedestrians arise at the two bridges along Harkins Slough Road. Because these bridges were constructed years before a school site was proposed in this area, they were not intended for heavy foot traffic.

Because one of the bridges is located over the protected slough, which contains endangered species like the red-legged frog, it is near impossible to gain permitting to expand it. And due to a veto from Caltrans, a planned widening of the bridge over Highway 1 never occurred, according to Patrice Theriot, principal engineer with City of Watsonville Public Works.

“That [bridge] was never meant for pedestrian access. When it was built back in 1980, there wasn’t anything on that side of the highway,” says Theriot. “It does need to be upgraded, but when we applied for a permit from Caltrans when the school was built, they wouldn’t issue us a permit to make it compliant with current ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] standards.”

With so many bodies—including the county, the City of Watsonville, and Caltrans—involved in the area surrounding Pajaro Valley High School, there is a standstill in creating structural changes to solve the traffic issues. But some, such as Principal Rodriguez, feel that the congestion could be resolved if students and parents were more conscientious while driving and walking to and from the high school.

“There are a lot of people responsible for resolutions,” says Rodriguez, “and the community shouldn’t be exempt from that.”

Comments (2)Add Comment
Foresight
written by Jack, April 26, 2014
So glad I moved away from there when I did (in 2004). The ensuing traffic was easily foreseeable when that school was being built, long before it opened.
...
written by Denise Murphy, April 24, 2014
I'm curious if a walking bridge over the road is possible.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Light Humor

College comedy questions a post-racial America in ‘Dear White People’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Back Porch

Austin Kaye on backyard dinners and why it’s his favorite time of year to be a chef

 

What’s the most outrageous situation you ever saw at a restaurant?

Damani Thomas, Santa Cruz, Chef/Owner

 

Wine Lust

The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher