by John Field
As Los Gatos heads towards summer and warmer temperatures, people are beginning to flock to the beaches via Highway 17. With the influx of traffic, Los Gatos has several plans to help mitigate the effects of traffic in town.
Much of the problem of beach-goers passing through the town originated from Waze, a map application that relies on live updates from other users to find the fastest route, often using empty, residential streets instead of packed highways such as 17. While this helps some get to the beach quicker, many residents of the town are irritated with the newly-filled streets of Los Gatos. Los Gatos plans to close Santa Cruz Avenue near the southbound on-ramp to 17, which significantly helped reduce traffic in some residential areas in previous years. Tait and Massol may also be blocked at Route 9, similar to past years.
Closing the Santa Cruz Avenue on-ramp helps many residents, but Los Gatos has received backlash from citizens outside of town. One citizen told the Mercury News in the summer of 2016 that what used to be a five minute trip back on 17 from the farmers’ market, even in the worst traffic, “is now upward of 20 minutes because the ramp at Santa Cruz Avenue is closed….Traffic on Santa Cruz Avenue can get bad, but every person clogging this street has an absolute right to use it and the freeway entrance.”
While road closures help in some areas, their overall effects are disputed. Los Gatos Town Council Member Marcia Jensen said in the fall that closing the southbound Highway 17 on-ramp at S. Santa Cruz Avenue and Wood Road only shifts the traffic elsewhere. “It becomes a domino effect,” she said. “Is the solution to widen 17? You only shift the bottleneck.” However, the town is continuing to work on a plan that will have more success.
In addition to traffic issues, road damage caused by the storms in January and February remains an issue. Highway 35, also known as Skyline Blvd., washed out in early February, creating a 150-foot chasm. The road is closed indefinitely. Soquel-San Jose road is also closed indefinitely, after land under the asphalt washed away, leaving a void.
(Sources: Mercury News, KRON4)