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All those major road projects happening throughout 2024 and beyond around Santa Cruz County aren’t just about making it easier on drivers and public transit users, but improving the experience for bikers, joggers and walkers as well.

As you drive along Highway 1, you can see those pieces moving along. Between Soquel Drive and 41st Avenue, where the construction of additional auxiliary lanes is well underway, the single pillar erected in the median just past the Soquel Drive exit is the first step toward a new bicycle/pedestrian overcrossing at Chanticleer Avenue that will run over the highway. The next phase of the Highway 1 project between Bay Avenue/Porter Street and State Park Drive will also include an overcrossing at Mar Vista Drive in Aptos.

Soquel Drive will get its own bicycling improvements, too. By the end of 2025, Soquel Drive will have 2.7 miles of new buffered bike lanes — lanes with wider striping giving more room for bikers — as well as 2.4 miles of protected bike lanes, which means a full structure separating bikers from cars. Pedestrians will see new signals at intersections and updates to 100 ramps to bring them up to current standards under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

But what about the Coastal Rail Trail? The 32-mile bicycle and pedestrian project that runs from Davenport to Watsonville is being built in segments, with Phase 1 of Segment 7 (about 1 mile running from Natural Bridges Drive to California Avenue in Santa Cruz) having wrapped up in late 2020. Phase 1 of Segment 18 in Watsonville (about one-third of a mile from Ohlone Parkway to the Watsonville Slough Trail network trailhead) finished in summer 2021.

Now, additional rail trail construction is moving forward, with more on its way in 2024. The good news is that none of it is expected to affect traffic.

Currently, Phase 2 of Segment 7, about another mile stretching from California Avenue to near the roundabout by Depot Park by the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, is under construction, with the aim of wrapping up by the end of 2023. Then, the 7.5-mile Segment 5 running from Davenport to Wilder Ranch will break ground in the early spring 2024. Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) spokesperson Shannon Munz said that there is no set start date yet, but she confirmed that the construction would not affect traffic on the coastal highway.

Looking ahead, the RTC will host an open house for public input on aesthetic design elements for the final phase of the Highway 1 project between State Park Drive to Freedom Boulevard, as it prepares to reapply to the state for funding in 2025. Structures to be discussed include retaining walls, sound walls, bicycle/pedestrian bridges, landscaping and public art.

The open house is on Dec. 5 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Rio Sands Hotel in Aptos.

A map of the Coastal Rail Trail including the current status of each segment.
A map of the Coastal Rail Trail including the current status of each segment. Credit: Via Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission

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Latest news

Check out our Carmageddon road delay list here. This week, pay particular attention to:

The construction between Soquel Drive and 41st Avenue continues this week, but with no scheduled closures or delays, aside from typical slowdowns because of slightly narrower corridors due to construction equipment and temporary barriers around the work zone.

Highways 9 and 236 running through the mountain communities will undergo some tree and drainage work in preparation for wet weather and winter storms. That will result in several closures along both roads. Segments of Highway 9 between Fall Creek Road and Woodland Drive, Woodland Drive and Clear Creek/Pacific Street, and Riverdale Park and Old County Highway will see one lane closed, but travelers will still be able to use the road, as one lane will be used to alternate between northbound and southbound traffic. The same type of closure will affect segments of Highway 236 between Pine Street and Redwood Avenue and Park Street and High Bridge Creek Bridge on Monday and between Hazel Avenue and High Bridge Creek Bridge and High Bridge Creek Bridge and Moon Drive.

The Pure Water Soquel wastewater purification project is pushing forward, and will render one westbound lane of the Laurel Street bridge in Santa Cruz closed from Monday through Wednesday, said Soquel Creek Water District special projects spokesperson Skyler Murphy. Crews are working on an architectural cover so that the segment of pipe running along the bridge will fit aesthetically with the rest of the design.

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Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...