About 40 American Canyon residents and officials got to be urban planners and traffic engineers Tuesday as part of a Caltrans funded study on ways to relieve traffic congestion on Highway 29, the main thoroughfare of their city.
With an average of 3000 cars per hour in both directions, according to Chris Mitchell of transportation consultants Fehr and Peers, the corridor is a headache for locals going grocery shopping as well as commuters passing through, the clear majority of the traffic according to past assessments.
The study, called the Gateway Corridor Improvement Plan, targets mainly the southern end of the highway and involves three cities (Vallejo, American Canyon and Napa) and two counties, as well as Caltrans, the owner of the road. The multiple jurisdictions add complexity to an already daunting problem, according to Eliot Hurwitz, program manager with Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency.
“This stretch of road, Highway 29, it’s a difficult challenge,” Hurwitz said. The plan calls for two-thirds of the effort to focus on the corridor through American Canyon.
Consultant Matt Taecker, from San Francisco urban planning firm Dyett & Bhatia, said the goal is not only to find a way to move vehicles efficiently and relieve congestion, but also to determine the character of the highway and of the city. He and another urban planner, Terry Bottomly of Bottomly Associates laid out four different types of roads, each with strengths and drawbacks. Bottomly urged everyone to think of a road as more than a conduit for cars.
“Can it compliment existing businesses? Can it add value (to property)?” asked Bottomly.
A grade-separated road — an overpass or underpass — moves traffic but isn’t attractive and isn’t good for local businesses, Taecker said. Other types of roads, a parkway with bordering vegetation and bicycle paths, or a boulevard with frontage roads, offer beautification as well as efficiency.
Following the introduction and background information, attendees sat around six tables, each with a large map of the highway from Vallejo to Napa and various “game pieces” representing pedestrian over-crossings, bicycling and hiking trails, and different types of roads. Over the next 50 minutes, each table created their own vision of the highway.
“Should we assume all existing stoplights remain?” asked Sande Sutter. “Not necessarily,” said Taecker. But everyone was to assume the need for bicycle and pedestrian pathways, whatever their choices.
At the end of the session, the were many common elements among the six maps. Most maps had pedestrian over-crossings at American Canyon Road and Donaldson Way, although at least one had a vehicle overpass, reasoning it’s easier for cars to go up and down. Most felt the southern stretch from Highway 37 into the city should be a parkway with landscaping, as should the section north of the city, while the stretch through town would be best served by a boulevard. Barcelona, Spain and San Francisco were cited as examples of cities with effective, attractive boulevards.
At the end of the session, Sutter said she felt the workshop was among the more effective of those she’s attended.
“This was one of the better ones,” Sutter said.
The study, funded by last year’s $300,000 Caltrans grant, calls for more public workshops, the next one Nov. 27, 6 p.m. at the Napa Valley Unified School District board room, 2425 Jefferson Street, Napa.
The public can also go to: https://sites.google.com /site/sr29corridorstudy/home/sr-29-corridor-discussion-forum to comment.
In addition to workshops the study calls for a steering committee made up of government and Caltrans officials, and a 15-member citizens advisory committee. Citizens wishing to be on the advisory committee should write a letter to SR29Study@nctpa.net or fax it to 707-259-8637.
The letter, to the attention of SR29 Study, should include name, address, email, phone number, experience serving on citizen committees and/or transportation related studies, and a commitment to attend all five committee meetings over the next year.
The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Friday.