Council to weigh changes to downtown’s structure

Register-Pajaronian File

Main Street could be slimmed from 4 lanes to 2

WATSONVILLE — Bike lanes, widened sidewalks, additional parking and the removal of one lane in each direction.

Those are the changes to Watsonville’s Main Street and downtown area the City Council will mull over at Tuesday’s meeting when it receives an update on the city’s Complete Streets Plan.

In 2017, the City Council adopted a resolution accepting a $255,583 Sustainable Communities Grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The grant allowed the City to develop a Complete Streets Plan in the City’s Downtown area with help from the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission and Caltrans.

The Complete Streets Plan would restructure Main, Rodriguez and Union/Brennan streets to promote business as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety.

The most drastic change would be a “road diet” — from four lanes to two — of the oft-congested Main Street from its 1st Street intersection to its connection with Freedom Boulevard.

“Whatever comes out of that, and whatever recommendations the City Council wants to make, will inform the downtown specific plan process as that moves forward,” Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker told this publication in a recent interview. “There’s been a lot of discussion over the years as to whether Main Street should be two lanes or four lanes, I think at the end of the day it should be based on what the community wants to see happen.”

The complete plan also includes curb extensions at nearly every intersection, and buffered bicycle lanes on Main Street. 

The plan is based on numerous responses from community members gathered over the last year at multiple local events like the Strawberry Festival, Watsonville Farmer’s Market, Lunch in the Plaza and the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 2.55.09 PM

Watsonville's "Preferred Plan" for the restructure of its downtown. — Contributed

Caltrans is part of the project team as Main Street, East Lake Avenue and East Beach Street are part of state route 152.

Any improvements proposed on SR 152 would require approval by Caltrans and any proposed lane reductions would require a traffic study.

The proposed changes fall in line with the City’s planned downtown revitalization, which includes wholesale changes to its strict alcohol ordinance that has stood for the last 17 years.

“The Plan will identify improvements that provide comfortable access to area shopping and services for all users, attract new businesses to our downtown area, create a vibrant atmosphere, improve facilities for people living with disabilities, and will support City and Statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals,” City staff said.

For the complete plan: https://watsonville.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3944338&GUID=832BA796-E3DB-4EEE-881C-42D53EE28931

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