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Crossing signals at the Napa Valley Vine Trail

Crews installed crossing signals at Wine Country and Solano avenues in May 2016 as part of work on the Napa Valley Vine Trail.

Without adding lanes or laying down fresh asphalt, Napa hopes to smooth out traffic flow and reduce backups on four of its busiest boulevards in the coming months.

The city will use sales-tax revenue to pay for signal controllers that will synchronize stoplights on sections of Soscol Avenue, Jefferson Street, Lincoln Avenue and Trancas Street. Signals along those multi-lane surface routes will be tied into Napa’s Traffic Operations Center to create timing patterns that reduce delays and vehicle emissions, officials said in a response to a Napa County grand jury report issued in June calling on the city to step up its modernization of road signaling to meet the needs of increasing traffic.

Money from Measure T, the countywide sales tax earmarked for road maintenance, will supply $900,000 for the signal improvement project during the next two years, public works director Julie Lucido told the City Council on Tuesday.

Work is in progress along Trancas Street and Soscol Avenue north of Third Street, according to Lucido, with the project to extend to Jefferson Street west of downtown in the fall.

The council received the update shortly before approving a city reply to the June grand jury report, which also called for better staffing of its traffic monitoring center and renewed efforts to get day-to-day control of all 78 signals within the city – including on state-controlled highways.

Responding to the report, Lucido announced Napa is working to fill an open position for a senior engineering aide at the Traffic Operations Center, which debuted two years ago and uses video cameras to monitor stoplights at 18 intersections.

Napa’s efforts will govern the 53 traffic signals it controls, but another 25 within city limits are owned not by the city but by Caltrans. Those stoplights govern drivers on state routes such as Highway 29 and its interchanges, as well as the parts of Highway 121 that overlap Imola and Soscol avenues and the Silverado Trail. Grand jurors said a joint operating agreement would create the teamwork needed to properly time stoplights at heavily traveled sites such as the junction of Highway 29, Trancas Street and Redwood Road – an interchange with signals at freeway ramps, local streets and a Napa Valley Wine Train crossing.

Lucido told councilmembers the city seeks to revive talks with the state transportation agency about managing stoplights on Caltrans-governed roads, a task she said has been slowed by staff turnover at both agencies. “I don’t think it’s going to be fast; these things take a long time when you’re working with an entity like Caltrans,” she said, declining to give a timetable for an agreement.

The grand jury report on Napa traffic signals, and the city’s response, follow a steady rise in vehicle counts for various thoroughfares. Between 2014 and 2016, monthly vehicle totals increased from 394,896 to 503,872 at the intersection of Highways 29 and 12/121, and from 314,795 to 414,963 at the Soscol/Imola crossing, 183,111 to 207,039 at Trancas/Soscol/Big Ranch Road, and from 153,964 to 181,194 at Jefferson and First streets.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.