Highway 1 Corridor Investment Program

Highway 1 Corridor Investment Program


The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), in cooperation with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is analyzing alternative investments on State Route (Highway) 1 in Santa Cruz County. For purposes of environmental analysis, the project is divided into two components:

  • Tier I – A long term, program level analysis for the future of the Highway 1 corridor between Santa Cruz and Aptos. The Tier I concept for the corridor would be built over time through a series of smaller incremental projects (referred to as Tier II projects).
  • Tier II – Project level analysis for smaller incremental projects within the Tier I corridor which would move forward based on available funding, each with independent utility and benefit to the Highway 1 operations, as well as parallel arterials and neighborhoods.

The first Tier II project currently under review are north and southbound auxiliary lanes between 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive and a pedestrian/bicycle overcrossing of Highway 1 at Chanticleer Avenue.

Environmental Document and Open Forum Public Hearing

The combined Tier I/Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) were released to the public for review and comment on November 4, 2015.

Public questions and comments can be submitted via U.S. Mail to:

Matt Fowler, Senior Environmental Planner
California Department of Transportation
50 Higuera Street
San Luis Obispo, CA  93401

Or submitted via e-mail to: matt.c.fowler@dot.ca.gov

Be sure to submit comments by the deadline: Monday, January 18, 2016

SMPublic-wideAn Open Forum Public Hearing is scheduled for:

6:00 – 8:30 pm, Thursday, December 3, 2015
Live Oak Elementary School, Multi Purpose Room
1916 Capitola Road (at 17th Ave), Live Oak

The event will feature information displayed in an open house-type format with Caltrans and consultant staff available to answer your questions.  Written comments may be submitted at the meeting and a court reporter will be available to transcribe your comments.  In addition, Spanish-English language interpretation services will be available.

The Draft EIR/EA is available in hard copy at the following libraries: Aptos, Capitola, Central Library, Live Oak, Scotts Valley, and Watsonville. Copies are also available for viewing at the RTC’s Office; 1523 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, 95060.

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Purpose and Need for the Project

The Highway 1 Corridor Investment Program is a planning and funding program focused on the section of Highway 1 between San Andreas/Larkin Valley Road and Morrissey Boulevard.  The long term concept of the Tier I project is to reduce congestion, promote the use of alternative transportation modes as a way to increase transportation system capacity, and to encourage carpooling and ridesharing.

The goal of the Highway 1 Corridor Investment Program is to address several different needs in the existing transportation system:

  • Bottlenecks along Highway 1 in both the southbound and northbound direction that cause congestion on a regular basis during peak travel periods.
  • Travel time delays that are experienced by commuters, commerce, visitors, and emergency vehicles at various times of the day.
  • “Cut-through” traffic, or traffic on local streets, that occurs and is increasing because drivers seek to avoid congestion on the highway in search of “short-cuts”.
  • Limited opportunities for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross Highway 1 within the project corridor.
  • Limited funding from state and federal sources

Preliminary Design/Environmental Analysis

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration and State Department of Transportation (Caltrans), is managing the preliminary design and the environmental analysis process for additional projects in the Highway 1 corridor.  The environmental evaluation of the corridor is referred to as the Highway 1 Tier I/Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) and meets both state and federal environmental requirements. This environmental report will provide an analysis of alternative investment scenarios for the corridor.

The Tiered approach to the project represents a significant shift from the earlier plan to seek construction of the entire project at one time. This shift was necessitated by both the lack of state and federal funding and funding estimates for the full project beyond what could be generated locally and dedicated to the highway corridor. The current plan allows for a balanced approach to address the high priority transportation needs in the county; including local street and road maintenance and repair, school traffic safety projects, bus service and elderly/disabled transportation, rail corridor, pedestrian, and bicycle projects.

Three scenarios are being evaluated as part of the Tier I program level environmental analysis to identify the long term concept for projects in the Highway 1 corridor:

  • The High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lane Alternative – adds a bus and carpool lane in both the north and south bound direction for the nine mile corridor; includes auxiliary lanes (connecting on ramps with the next off ramps) between most interchanges and metering lights on the on-ramps
  • The Transportation System Management (TSM) Alternative – includes auxiliary lanes (connecting on ramps with the next off ramps) between most interchanges and metering lights on the on-ramps
  • The No Build Alternative

The No Build project alternative forecasts future conditions along the corridor in the event no capacity or significant operational improvements are made to the highway. The No Build baseline conditions of the corridor are then compared with the two project build (the HOV and TSM) alternatives to identify both adverse and beneficial impacts along the corridor.

The Tier I project scenario chosen as the long term corridor concept will be implemented as funding allows, through smaller Tier II projects of independent utility and benefit.

The current Tier II project under environmental review (auxiliary lanes between 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive and a bike/pedestrian overcrossing of Highway 1 at Chanticleer Avenue) is compatible with either of the Tier I project build alternatives (the HOV and TSM project alternatives).  Construction of this project could begin as early as Fiscal Year 2018-2019, depending on funding availability.

Future Tier II projects will be subject to separate project level environmental analysis as part of the project development process and will be consistent with the long term (Tier I) vision chosen for the Highway 1 Corridor.

HWY1 corridor map

Project Phasing

The prioritization of Tier I improvements or project phasing will be performed separately for the  auxiliary lane and interchange improvements based on their potential to relieve congestion and minimize traffic hot spots along the corridor. As currently planned, following are the primary elements of the phased improvements under a limited funding scenario:

  1. Construct auxiliary lanes and bike/pedestrian overcrossings in phases, including replacement of the Capitola Avenue, Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, and Aptos Creek Bridges. Projects in the highway to accommodate auxiliary lanes would be completed consistent with the long term Tier I vision chosen for the corridor. After the 41st Ave – Soquel Dr Auxiliary Lane project, the next Tier II projects would likely be auxiliary lane projects between Park Ave – Bay/Porter, and State Park – Park Ave.
  2. Construct full interchange improvements, including widening of local roadways, interchange structures, and ramps to accommodate future ramp metering.
  3. Construct new median HOV lanes if the Tier I HOV Lane Alternative is selected for the long term vision of the corridor and funding for the full project is identified.

The improvements listed above are prioritized based on traffic operational conditions and the timetable will be established on estimating traffic delay, queuing, vehicle miles traveled along the corridor, and available funding. Each of the corridor improvement phases and the future construction projects will have independent utility by determination of the individual benefit they provide to traffic operations on Highway 1 and adjacent arterials.

Construction Cost Estimates

Tier I Corridor Alternatives

Planning level construction estimates (including all project development costs and right-of-way) for the Tier I Corridor Alternatives are $600 million for the HOV Lanes Alternative and $250 million for the TSM Alternative (in 2015$). Typically, project development costs (environmental documentation, final design engineering, right-of-way administration, construction management, program oversight, public outreach and contingencies) would range from 40 to 50 percent of the estimated construction cost.

Tier II Auxiliary Lane Alternative

The preliminary construction cost estimate (excluding project development work) for the Tier II 41st Ave/Soquel Dr Auxiliary Lane and pedestrian/bicycle overcrossing is $18 million, which includes nearly $1.5 million for right-of-way and utility relocation. Construction of the Tier II project between 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive could begin as early as Fiscal Year 2018-2019, subject to the availability of funds for construction, project management, oversight, public outreach and contingency (estimated total cost for the project is $28 million).

Project Funding

Existing and projected future transportation revenues are insufficient to fully fund the Tier I Highway 1 Corridor project as a single project. The tiered approach to environmental analysis provides options for the RTC to make incremental improvements in the corridor.

Secured Funds

  • 41st Ave – Soquel Dr Auxiliary Lanes and Chanticleer Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge: $4 million are available for design and right-of-way from State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). An additional $2 million in STIP funds have been reserved for the construction phase. Total costs are estimated to be approximately $28 million
  • Mar Vista Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge Over Highway 1: $7.5 million has been programmed in STIP and Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP) funds. Preliminary design/environmental analysis will get underway on this project in Spring 2016.

Potential Future Funding

Funding projections for transportation projects in the future are very difficult to make given uncertainties associated with state and federal legislation and economic conditions. Following is a summary of potential funding sources.

  • California State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP): Made up primarily of revenues from the sale of gasoline, are generally considered most appropriate for larger regional projects. Historically, this source of revenue has provided between $3 million to $5 million per year for projects in Santa Cruz County. Due to the recent drop in the state gas tax, no new funds are currently anticipated until approximately June 2022.
  • Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP): Approximately $2.5 million to $3 million annually for projects in Santa Cruz County. This funding source is dependent on federal transportation appropriations.
  • Local Sales Tax: A transportation sales tax measure is being considered for the November 2016 ballot. A ½ cent sales tax measure would generate approximately $15 million annually for transportation projects in Santa Cruz County.
  • Other Local Revenue Generating Measures: A vehicle registration fee or traffic impact fees could be considered in the future to provide funding for Highway 1 projects.
  • Other Potential Funding: New state bond measures, new road user fees, and special grants. From time to time, opportunities arise to fund projects that are essentially “one-time” events. California’s Proposition 1B Corridor Mobility Program, passed in 2006, provided funding for transportation projects statewide, including $13.8 million for the construction of the Highway 1 Soquel/Morrissey Auxiliary Lanes Project completed in December 2013. Another example includes federal sources such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which provided more than $12 million for transportation projects in Santa Cruz County.  These projects were able to move forward because they were closer to being “shovel ready” and were in a position to meet state and federal funding requirements.

RTC Contact

Kim Shultz
Senior Transportation Planner
(831) 460-3200