Project aims to improve Airport Blvd. safety

City plans to expedite Holm Road intersection work

WATSONVILLE — In light of a collision that left a pedestrian seriously injured, city officials are looking to expedite improvements at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Holm Road.

City Manager Charles Montoya said during Tuesday’s Watsonville City Council meeting that city staff met with the Public Works department to discuss moving up the timeframe for the project that includes adding flashing beacon lights, installing a center median and updating curb ramps.

Public Works Assistant Director Maria Esther Rodriguez said the work is part of the $1.4 million Airport Boulevard project, which will, among other things, reconstruct portions of the roadway and install new sidewalks from Westgate Drive/Larkin Valley Road to Holm Road.

The project is now awaiting approval from the California Transportation Commission, which is expected to be considered in mid-May, according to Rodriguez.

Once approved, the project would then go out to bid, and construction at the intersection could begin in June, with the rest of the project commencing later in the year, she said.

Rodriguez added that the flashing beacon lights will improve drivers’ visibility of the crosswalk, and the median will not only provide a “refuge” for pedestrians, but help calm traffic, as the road will seem narrower.

The crosswalk travels over four lanes of the busy Airport Boulevard, where the speed limit is posted at 45 mph.

Celestine Glover, 26, was struck by a vehicle on April 4 as she was in the crosswalk to make her way to the nearby bus stop. According to Watsonville Police, the driver of the vehicle was distracted by his cell phone’s navigation program.

Glover’s mother Mitsuno Baurmeister said her daughter remains in critical condition at Stanford ICU, and is awaiting surgery later in the week to repair her shattered pelvis.

She urged the city to install a traffic signal at the intersection, as well as “sharply increase” the fines for distracted driving.

“There are a lot of accidents that happen there,” Baurmeister said. “It’s a very wide intersection, and the speeds are fairly high.”

Councilman Felipe Hernandez said he supports a traffic signal at the intersection, and added that he recently witnessed many vehicles speeding at 60 mph through the area.

“It’s like a speedway there,” he said.

Rodriguez said that while having the proper infrastructure will help reduce collisions, driver and pedestrian education is a key component.

“Everybody has to do their part,” she said.

The council also approved a list of transportation projects to be funded under Measure D and Senate Bill 1 over the next five years.

According to Principal Engineer Murray Fontes, Watsonville is expected to receive $818,000 annually from Measure D, the 2016 voter-approved half-cent sales tax that funds transportation projects for 30 years.

SB1, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017, is projected to provide Watsonville with $880,000 annually for transportation projects, Fontes said.

The list of projects approved Tuesday include signage, road reconstruction and other work across various city streets.

The city recently installed a flashing beacon light at the intersection of Main and Peck streets, funded by Measure D.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to update a city ordinance to comply with state and federal laws on wireless facilities.

The decision allows permits for wireless antennae systems in the public right-of-way to be processed at a faster rate. The state requires jurisdictions to process permits for new wireless facilities under 150 days, or 90 days if the permit calls for collocating a facility.

The updated ordinance requires permits to be processed through the Public Works and Utilities Department. A notice would be posted at the site that includes contact information of both the applicant and Public Works, but a public hearing would not take place.

Local jurisdictions cannot deny permits based on radio frequency emissions or adopt regulations that prevent personal wireless service, as state and federal laws trump local government when it comes to approving these facilities.

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