The most recent City Council discussion over Watson Ranch and the traffic it would generate was at times an exercise in political compassing where east wasn’t really east, but actually north.
The long-awaited traffic study for Watson Ranch has concluded that the vast majority of the cars that would come out of the residential and commercial development would not head north for the city of Napa or communities beyond it when it comes to morning commutes.
This conclusion is significant for Highway 29, whose northbound lanes already get jammed in the AM peak hours and are equally clogged in the reverse direction during the evening drive time.
American Canyon’s analysis of Watson Ranch traffic determined that of its 16,000 daily trips, 38 percent of the automobiles would head south towards Highway 37 and Highway 80.
Another 36 percent of cars would go east towards Solano County.
Only 22 percent would travel north, meaning onto Highway 29.
But one member of the City Council questioned this assessment of the Watson Ranch traffic flow.
“I think those numbers are a little bit off,” said Vice Mayor Kenneth Leary.
Specifically, Leary doubted whether all of the 36 percent of easterly traffic would be traveling only east towards Fairfield and Vacaville.
He said many of these trips would begin on Highway 29, which motorists coming out of Watson Ranch would use to reach Highway 12 and then veer for Solano County.
If that’s the case, it would mean the number of cars going north would be more than the 22 percent cited by Public Works Director Jason Holley, who oversaw the traffic study performed by outside consultants.
Holley responded that the percentages in the study were based on “economics,” referring to where the major job-producing areas are in the Bay Area.
More employment is created to the east and south of American Canyon than it is to the north, he said.
At 22 percent, the volume of additional traffic on Highway 29 north of American Canyon would still be significant.
The daily trip total from Watson Ranch is projected to be 16,051, and 22 percent would amount to more than 3,500 vehicles.
Holley’s presentation to the council noted that Watson Ranch’s impact on nearby roadways would not amount to making a good situation into a bad one, but make a bad situation only worse.
“The entire [highway] corridor has congestion issues” from South Kelly Road to American Canyon Road, he said. “It is already operating at an unacceptable level of service.”
Holley told the council that the developer will be contributing to various traffic mitigation efforts at intersections along the highway, not only those in American Canyon but also those north of it, such as at Airport Drive and Highway 221/Soscol Ferry Road, for example.
But the city can only ask so much of the developer, according to Holley, because it didn’t create the traffic problem on 29 to begin with.
“At the end of the day this project is not making things a million times worse,” said Holley, so there’s no need to mitigate traffic from Watson Ranch to make it “a million times better.”