Six-month trial program will begin in February

Published in the Nov. 26 – Dec. 9, 2014 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

Photo courtesy city of Morgan Hill A volunteer tapes symbols on Monterey Road during the ‘Complete Streets’ demonstration in October.

Photo courtesy city of Morgan Hill
A volunteer tapes symbols on Monterey Road during the ‘Complete Streets’ demonstration in October.

Monterey Street in downtown will undergo a transformation starting in early February as two lanes will be closed in a six-month trial to determine the impact on vehicle, pedestrian and bike traffic and if limited traffic flow will improve safety and enhance the overall downtown experience.

City council members unanimously voted to approve the trial which will narrow traffic to one lane in each direction between Main and Dunne avenues. About 20 people spoke at the Nov. 19 meeting to express various views.

The decision was not an easy one as the community is divided on the “Complete Streets” concept, said Maureen Tobin, the city’s communication and engagement manager.

“The community input that was collected prior to the meeting pretty much shows that the community is split about 50 50,” she said. “This has been a discussion for a long time in the community and it hasn’t gone away and it’ll continue to be an issue of discussion.”

Tobin stressed that the council’s decision wasn’t to narrow Monterey Road “forever” but to conduct a half-year test to see what works and what doesn’t work.

“We’re going into it with an open mind and we want to see if there are ways to mitigate traffic issues,” she said. “Nothing is permanent and whatever is done in this trial can be undone.”

The city expects the initial phase to create confusion and traffic flow issues as drivers learn to navigate the narrower downtown thoroughfare, she said.

“Initially, until people’s habits change, it’s going to be a challenge,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is going to paint a picture that’s this is going to be delightful. There will be some initial inconvenience and some initial outcry and we need to go through that to see if it really works or not.”

On the weekend of Oct. 24 and 25, staff from the city, Harris Associates, Alta Planning + Design, Street Plans Collaborative (subconsultant to Alta), and volunteers temporarily tested the physical logistics of the new lane configuration with only two blocks ­— First Street to Third Street — that were reconfigured. Northbound Monterey Road was converted to one motor vehicle travel lane with an expanded pedestrian area and a shared bike/auto travel lane. The southbound direction was converted to one motor vehicle travel lane and a seven-foot-wide buffered bike lane.

The Complete Streets program was not considered as a project when the city council adopted the city’s Downtown Placemaking Investment Strategy. The idea for a Complete Streets project was developed by the Downtown Stakeholders group which initially organized to discuss traffic calming ideas following the strategy adoption.

When the Downtown Placemaking Investment Strategy was adopted, $2,675,000 was allocated for the Monterey Road Streetscape project. To date, the Complete Streets program has spent about $75,000, according to a report presented to the city council.