American Canyon is finishing a plan to turn its auto-orientated main drag – Highway 29 – into a better-looking, small town neighborhood of businesses, stores, apartments and condominiums with a 35 mph speed limit.
The city wants to take an Anywhere, USA highway commercial strip and give it an American Canyon stamp. Among the goals are adding more landscaping, 850,000 square feet of commercial development and 1,200 multi-family dwellings, as well as creating a consistent look.
On Thursday, the Planning Commission endorsed the 20-year Broadway District Specific Plan and related environmental documents and forwarded them to the City Council. Highway 29 in American Canyon is also called Broadway.
Commission chairman Andrew Goff said the plan, along with elements of the Watson Ranch plan, meets community desires to develop a hometown feeling.
“You feel like (under the plan’s vision) you’re going through a town or city that you can stop and enjoy, as opposed to getting through it as fast as you can,” Goff said.
Residents throughout Napa County have a stake in the plan, given Highway 29 through American Canyon is a major link between Napa County and the rest of the Bay Area. Caltrans reports that more than 40,000 vehicles pass along this stretch on an average day.
One key proposal is reducing the Highway 29 speed limit through American Canyon from 50 mph, and 55 mph in various sections, to 35 mph. Another is expanding the highway from four lanes to six lanes.
Community Development Director Brent Cooper said a slower speed limit would allow for narrower lanes, trees in the median and less deceleration lanes, because Caltrans would be less worried about collisions.
“We don’t want people zooming through town,” Cooper said. “It’s really only two miles, and if you drive a little slower, your overall travel speed isn’t that much slower.”
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Besides, 35 mph would be an upgrade during rush hour. Commuters are presently driving at a very slow speed in the morning and evening because of congestion, he said.
But American Canyon doesn’t control its own Highway 29 destiny. Caltrans is in charge of the highway and would have to approve changing the speed limit and adding lanes. Planning Commission Eric Altman said that this dynamic makes the ideas theoretical.
“There is no support, no evidence that Caltrans is going to be willing to accept what we’re looking to do,” Altman said. “I think, unfortunately, that creates additional problems for us.”
City Manager Jason Holley explained the various Highway 29 collaborations going on among the city, Caltrans and the Napa Valley Transportation Authority. There may be a little more hope than Altman might think for the changes American Canyon seeks, he said.
Holley also said that the initial focus will likely to be on improving the intersections and adding paths for cyclists and pedestrians.
Adding 1,200 multifamily units would create a need for more parks. Cooper said a possibility is turning the Napa Junction Magnet Elementary School site near the highway into a park, given the school is to be relocated to about a mile away. Melvin Park could be expanded.
Bike and pedestrian paths would be added along Highway 29 connecting to the bike systems in other parts of town. Slower speed limits would make the highway more inviting to cyclists, city officials said.
Mandy Le, CEO of the American Canyon Chamber of Commerce, praised the plan. The proposed beautification of the highway, slower speed limit so people can see their surroundings and bike and pedestrian improvements would only help businesses, she said.
“The business community is united in standing behind this plan,” she said.
Bill Harper during public comments praised the plan, but suggested redirecting the 75 percent of Highway 29 traffic that is just passing through. A Highway 29 bypass of American Canyon could be built to the east, he said.
Cooper said the Broadway District Specific Plan will go to the City Council in May or June. Go to https://bit.ly/2vkUrT1 to see the plan and related documents.