20 Aug 2014
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Miracle on Ocean Street: Santa Cruz Gets Grant to Speed Traffic on One of its Busiest Roads

This technology will allow stoplights to know how much traffic there is.

Miracle on Ocean Street: Santa Cruz Gets Grant to Speed Traffic on One of its Busiest Roads
There are days when it seems that traffic is backed up on Ocean Street from the Boardwalk to Highway 17 and then all the way to Los Gatos.

But that could change. 

The city has received a $200,000 grant to install computer monitors that will keep track of the traffic and adjust stoplights accordingly. Right now, the lights are programmed based on estimates of how traffic could be. So, for example, if the lights are programmed for a big outdoor event and it rains, they can't respond.

With this system, the lights can detect in real time how the traffic is. So, you won't be sitting at a red light waiting for cross traffic that isn't there. 

"It responds to the traffic that is there," said Public Works Director Mark Dettle. "It's frustrating to be sitting at a red light while the cross street has a green and there is no through traffic."

The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District believes in it so much, it is giving the city $200,000 hoping that keeping traffic moving will cut down on air pollution from unnecessarily stopped cars. 

The only trouble for the city is that the project will cost $414,000. So, Tuesday the City Council will weigh whether to accept the grant and come up with the rest of the money with $150,000 from traffic impact fees (read taxes) paid by businesses and $64,000 from the general fund. 

The city's staff is recommending they do so. 

"It's worked in Salinas and other cities," said Dettmer. "If it works here, we'll do it on other streets like Soquel and Water."

As part of the proposal the city will add more fiber optic cable to the street, since one of the local goals is to have the high density cables across town and the system runs on it.

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