2014 RTP Process
On June 26th, 2014 the Regional Transportation Commission adopted the 2014 Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and the corresponding environmental documents. Adoption of the 2014 RTP concludes two years of extensive outreach in developing a vision for transportation in Santa Cruz County through 2035. The final plan reflects ideas, issues and recommendations received from RTC committees, project sponsors, partner agencies, resource agencies, public and public interest groups at key milestones.
A Focus on Sustainability
The 2014 Regional Transportation Plan, adopted in June, 2014, addresses new requirements from California’s Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375 (2008), which call for regions across California to reduce greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions from cars and light trucks. The role of the RTP is to plan for a transportation system that, when incorporated into the Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) for the tri-county region (Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties), will reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled through coordinated land use and transportation planning. A reduction in vehicle miles traveled can occur by reducing trip distances and making it easier to access services by walking, biking, and/or transit. The GhG reduction target set by California Air Resources Board for the tri-county area is to reduce per capita GHG to 2005 levels by 2020 and to reduce per capita GHG by 5% from 2005 levels by 2035.
A new and innovative tool, the Sustainable Transportation Analysis and Ratings System (STARS), was utilized to develop the Regional Transportation Plan based on sustainability outcomes. This approach provided a framework for evaluating the RTP in terms of the triple bottom line of economy, environment and healthy communities. The transportation plan goals and policies incorporate STARS sustainability outcomes and will guide project selection for the short and long term. For more information about this approach, please see the complete STARS for Plans Manual.
Watch the Transportation Cafe episode that highlights the inclusion of sustainability principles in the next edition of the area’s long range Regional Transportation Plan.
Components of the Regional Transportation Plan
The RTP includes goals, targets and policies (Policy Element) that are used to prioritize projects for funding; identifies the area’s transportation needs and plans (Action Element); and estimates the amount of state, federal, and local funds that may be available (Financial Element). Certain transportation funds require the project/program to be included in the most current RTP.
Policy Element – Draft goals, targets, and policies were developed using the Sustainable Transportation Analysis and Rating System (STARS) and were accepted by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission in May 2012 and updated in June 2013. Refer to Chapter 4 of the 2014 RTP for details on this policy element.
Action Element – The Action Element component of the RTP, and the federal MTP, includes a list of transportation needs in the region for the next 20+ years as defined by the project list. The financially constrained project list was approved by the RTC in August 2013. Scenario planning was used as a decision making tool to help identify the projects for the constrained versus unconstrained list (see discussion on Scenario Planning below). Refer to Chapter 6 and Appendix E of the 2014 RTP for details on the final project list.
Financial Element – Another step of the RTP development was to estimate the total expected revenue over the next 20+ years in order to better understand how Santa Cruz County will meet their transportation needs. The majority of the federal, state and local funding sources have specific eligibility requirements. One of the methods used in the plan to form project/program priorities is to match these regulations with the projects proposed. A preliminary draft financial element for funding projections through 2035 was approved by the RTC in June 2013. Refer to Chapter 5 and Appendix D of the 2014 RTP for details on the financial element.
In order to determine which projects are on the “constrained” or priority list in the RTP and MTP, RTC staff worked closely with AMBAG staff on a scenario planning process. Scenario planning is a strategic planning tool for land use and transportation decision making. By assuming various combinations of land development and transportation system improvements under different scenario themes, one can assess how each scenario advances the region’s goals using performance measures.
Transportation projects for the RTP project list were grouped into financially “constrained” packages that would be implemented under each scenario. First, five distinctly different scenarios were analyzed to provide the public and decision makers more information about, “if funding is invested in…how will goals be advanced”. Then two hybrid scenarios were developed and analyzed resulting in one preferred scenario. This preferred scenario includes transportation projects and land use assumptions from all three counties. It was modeled using the Regional Travel Demand Model and is also the basis for program level environmental review to determine how well they achieve regional goals and SB375 greenhouse gas emission targets.
The final preferred Sustainable Communities Scenario is the land use and transportation vision for 2035 and defines the transportation projects that are on the constrained list in the RTP and MTP.
More information on AMBAG’s Sustainable communities Strategy can be found on their Moving Forward Monterey Bay Project webpage.
Highway 1 Corridor Projects
Although there are over 500 transportation projects in the project list, there is some confusion about Highway 1 Corridor projects. High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on Highway 1 are still listed on the project list for the 2014 RTP, and can greatly encourage carpool and transit use. However, the cost of completing the entire HOV lanes project on Highway 1 is beyond the amount of discretionary funding that is reasonably expected for our region over the timeframe of the 2014 RTP (22 years). The approach approved by the RTC is to prioritize funding for the initial phases of the HOV lanes. Before the HOV lanes can be built, the following series of projects are required to be completed to provide the width necessary for additional lanes and to ensure motorist safety:
- Auxiliary lanes for most of the distance between Morrissey Rd. and Larkin Valley Rd.
- Reconstructing most of the interchanges
- Replacing the railroad bridges in Aptos
The auxiliary lanes between Morrissey and Soquel are complete and 3 more auxiliary lane projects are on the priority list for completion over the lifespan of the long range plan (22 years), again based on foreseeable funding. These projects are expected to substantially smooth traffic flow and improve safety on the corridor. Prioritizing additional funding for Highway 1 Corridor projects in this timeframe (to get even closer to having HOV lanes) would take funding away from many other local transportation projects of which the most significant is the much needed maintenance of our local roadways. If other revenue becomes available, it is possible that more of the Highway 1 Corridor projects on this list could be implemented to move closer to adding the final HOV lanes to Highway 1.