Highway 1 overnight closures to last through 2024; final phase heading to community input Thursday

trees cut along Highway 1 between 41st Avenue and Soquel Avenue
Trees cut along Highway 1 between 41st Avenue and Soquel Avenue.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

With Phase 1 of the Highway 1 redevelopment project underway between Santa Cruz and Soquel, and Phase 2 heading toward groundbreaking later this year, the early stages of Phase 3 begin Thursday morning, with community input regarding the environmental assessment taking place at 9:30 a.m. at the board of supervisors chamber in the county building.

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Heavy machinery along Highway 1 will be a regular sight for the foreseeable future in Santa Cruz County as the first phase of the $312 million Highway 1 multimodal redevelopment project gets underway and is set to last through the end of 2024.

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission-led project includes new auxiliary lanes — lanes that connect highway on- and off-ramps, allowing vehicles additional merging space — between the 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive interchanges, which is the busiest stretch of Highway 1 in the county. Some of the planned auxiliary lanes will also act as “bus-on-shoulder lanes,” which allow buses to use them to bypass traffic.

Additionally, a bicycle/pedestrian overcrossing will run over Highway 1 at Chanticleer Avenue, providing an alternate route for cyclists and pedestrians who currently use the Soquel Drive or 41st Avenue overpasses.

A rendering of the development plan at Highway 1 and 41st Avenue.
A rendering of the development plan at Highway 1 and 41st Avenue. The green marks the proposed auxiliary lanes, and the orange marks where the bus-on-shoulder sections begin and end.
(Via CDM Smith)

There has been little impact on daytime commutes, with all construction work happening overnight. From Monday through Thursday, the leftmost northbound lane is closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., and one southbound lane and the Soquel Drive onramp to southbound Highway 1 are closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sundays see the same closures, but with the northbound lane closure beginning at 10 p.m. rather than 9 p.m.

RTC spokesperson Shannon Munz said the organization anticipates most of the work will be done at night, but that daytime work could be necessary at times.

“There are no dates for daytime work at this point, but that could happen during construction,” she said, adding that should daytime construction be necessary, RTC would send out a release notifying the public of the change. “There is a construction timeline that looks out a few weeks, so we’ll make sure to blast that information far and wide so that everyone is aware of the impacts.”

This is just Phase 1 of the Highway 1 transformation. Phase 2, which includes another overcrossing at Mar Vista Drive in Aptos and auxiliary lanes on both sides of the highway, will likely begin in the fall, said Munz. It is expected to take two years to complete.

Highway 1 will begin to look a bit different starting in April, with partial bus-on-shoulder lanes and exit-only...

Phase 3 is headed to public input Thursday morning. That phase involves building auxiliary lanes on both sides of the highway, widening the bridge over Aptos Creek and Spreckels Drive, and the construction of the 1.25-mile-long Segment 12 of the Coastal Rail Trail between State Park Drive and Rio Del Mar Boulevard.

Members of the community will have the opportunity to comment on the draft environmental impact report for the third phase. Munz said that it is only the early stages of the environmental assessment — a study of the project’s potential impacts on the environment. The design phase will follow, which is when a number of possible designs for the project are determined, ultimately giving way for one to be chosen.

She said RTC is hopeful for a 2025 groundbreaking, but that it is reliant on availability of funds. Once construction begins, it is expected to take three years to complete.

Public comment will take place Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. in the board of supervisors chamber, Room 525 at the county building at 701 Ocean St. in Santa Cruz.


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