Thursday, June 24, 1999
On June 1, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the design for a new interchange at Highway 101 and San Miguel Canyon Road. As a longtime resident of Prunedale and a community activist focusing on road construction projects, I felt qualified to urge the supervisors to look at the big picture by considering all Prunedale highway projects in a larger context.
What is "the big picture"? It is 10 major "operational improvements" that are planned for North County roadways in addition to the $206 million Prunedale Bypass. Those projects consist of six interchanges as well as plans to widen Highway 101 to six lanes and the stretch of Highway 156 between Castroville and Prunedale to four lanes. The price tag will be somewhere between $150 million and $250 million.
Why such a huge price discrepancy? Because Caltrans has not committed to providing local traffic with frontage and access roads to the interchanges.
In other words, 25,000 people will still be expected to dart across the highway, hoping their number isn''t up. There is no political voice to object to this haphazard approach to traffic safety because Prunedale and its surrounding communities are all unincorporated.
Remember, those costs and construction projects are in addition to the Prunedale bypass. Why are taxpayers devoting over $200 million to an alternative route around the Prunedale corridor of Highway 101 when Caltrans will still spend at least another $150 million to improve the existing route? Let''s not forget the 10 years of continual road construction chaos it will take to implement these "improvements."
Don''t expect funding to be available for Highway 68, Highway 1, Carmel Valley Road, and other desperately needed road improvements. All money will be dedicated to these two major freeways.
The bottom line? Either do the Prunedale Bypass or improve the existing route of Highway 101. Do one project or the other, and do it right. That means providing the public with a complete and comprehensive Environmental Impact Report, which is still nonexistent.
The project plan Caltrans is working from lacks alternatives recently recognized by Regional Organizations to Advance Driving Solutions (ROADS) as viable solutions that would provide immediate relief from the constant traffic accidents that plague the highway corridor known locally as "blood alley."
One remedy is a photo radar speed enforcement program. A speeder''s picture is snapped and a ticket is sent in the mail. The first citation would serve as a warning. Photo radar programs have reduced accidents by as much as 50 percent because speeding is the major culprit in causing collisions.
Another solution is "timed signals" that motorists will always encounter as green if they don''t exceed the speed limit. This would provide local traffic safe access to cross the highway while minimizing congestion. Caltrans refuses to consider signals on Highway 101 for fear of stopping traffic.
The answer? Be vocal about your beliefs, talk to your friends and neighbors, attend citizen action committee meetings, and write letters to the editors of local newspapers. We can solve our immediate traffic problems by the end of 2000 and move into the new millennium knowing we can be safe on Highway 101 through Prunedale.
Madeleine Clark is the founder of Regional Organizations to Advance Driving Solutions (ROADS) and is a member of the California Highway Patrol Prunedale/Highway 101 Safety Task Force.