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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Widening Highway 1 in Santa Cruz: an expensive mistake

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission's Plan to widen Highway 1 assumes that it will reduce traffic congestion and allow us to move more freely between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. This wishful thinking ignores the Commission's own consultant's estimate of only a two to three-minute decrease in commute time in that corridor. It also ignores the recent study by the City of Santa Cruz that states that it is impossible to build our way out of congestion.

There is no way to build roads fast enough to keep up with the growth in both the number of cars and the miles they travel.

Is it really worth half a billion dollars to shorten commute times by 2 or 3 minutes?

Besides the fact that widening won't solve the problem, there are many other reasons to vote on November 2 against spending more than half a billion dollars of our sales tax money on this quixotic quest. It doesn't make sense to spend half a billion dollars on the widening project when the Environmental Impact Report for it has not been completed. We don't know for sure what the negative environmental impacts of the project might be. But we do know the following:

o Residents downwind of the increased exhaust fumes from two more gridlocked lanes would suffer greater exposure to carcinogens and asthma-causing pollutants. A recent study showed that risk for childhood cancers increased sixfold in households adjacent to roads carrying 20,000 or more vehicles/day. (Highway 1 carries over 100,000 vehicles/day.)

o More vehicles on the highway means more vehicles will be traveling to and from the highway on our local streets such as Soquel, Morrissey, Water, High, Bay and Mission Streets.

o Using so much of the public's local tax money to widen Highway 1 makes it more difficult to fund other needs such as schools, law enforcement, parks, UCSC access-even earthquake recovery.

o The area around the 41st Avenue and Bay Avenue interchanges in Capitola will be transformed into a 12-lane wide sea of concrete, including planned new on and off ramps.

o Construction will not be completed until after 2017. During construction, congestion will surely be worse than it is now.

o Noise from the highway will increase with more capacity. Extensive soundwalls will bounce this noise into new, unknown areas.

o Highway 1 is a State Highway, with extensive non-local use. Its widening should be funded using state and federal funds, not with local sales tax dollars.

Is it really worth half a billion dollars to shorten commute times by 2 or 3 minutes? We think not.

The Campaign for Sensible Transportation, a local group, is leading a strong effort to defeat the ballot measure. The Santa Cruz Group of the Sierra Club is a participant in this campaign. The goal of the campaign is to achieve a more than 50% NO vote on the ballot measure to put this fiscally irresponsible idea to rest and allow the county to pursue more sensible transportation strategies. The Campaign needs your help; our opposition is well funded.

To learn more about why widening Highway 1 will not work, visit To volunteer or contribute in other ways, call the Sierra Club office, 426-4453.

The Sierra Club supports transportation policy and systems that minimize the impacts on and use of land, airspace and waterways, minimize the consumption of limited resources, including fuel, and reduce pollutant and noise emissions. To read the complete transportation policy of the Club visit

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