I am writing today in response to your recent opinion, “Relieving Highway 101 traffic should be a priority.” As the Regional Transportation Planning Agency in San Luis Obispo County, SLOCOG continues to identify and fund needed improvements to Highway 101 in Pismo Beach, the South County and the region. Past efforts, in Pismo Beach alone, have improved overcrossings, ramp connections, interchanges, park-n-rides, transit and auxiliary lanes.
Highway 101 in this area is becoming the most noticeable bottleneck in the region. Without an alternate path over Pismo Creek, more and more traffic will use 101 — whether it originates from development inside or outside the city or even just more tourists. And, as traffic increases, so will the problems at this bottleneck. The challenges are easily identified; it is the identification of solutions — that are both fundable and palatable — that is the difficult task. With any improvement in an existing developed area, improvements will be costly, and full agreement and support will be elusive. Any agreement will require major discussion, debate, compromise and the ability to move forward an improvement plan that will benefit most of the community with the least impact.
SLOCOG, in coordination with Caltrans and all the cities and the county along Highway 101, recently launched a study of the 101 corridor. We are soliciting feedback from cities and residents. We need input with the technical data in order to find the best solution.
The U.S. 101 Mobility Plan will look at 70 miles of the highway that runs through the county as well as the frontage roads, parallel routes, intersections and access points for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit and ride lots. The first phase of this effort will take a closer look at U.S. 101, identifying specific areas that should be improved or enhanced. Residents are encouraged to visit the project website at http://www.slocogconnectingcommunities.com to weigh in on this important planning process or attend our next workshop in San Luis Obispo, scheduled for June 29 at the City-County Library Community Room. Sessions start at 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
Connectivity is key to keeping our county free of congestion and the traffic issues that plague so many other cities and towns. Yes, inclusion of an arterial road in the Spanish Springs project would aid in creating better traffic flows, but the real issue in Pismo Beach continues to be access to and continuous frontage roads along the 101. Local government typically charges developers impact fees to mitigate the additional impacts associated with their development. To be most effective, the project and its costs are typically identified in a Mitigation Fee Program. To date, no agreeable project has been identified. In this era of diminishing funding, it takes agreement and partnerships to identify, develop and fund major improvements. They are too costly for any one developer, agency or jurisdiction to handle on its own. Taking part in the 101 study is a good first step for determining that project. SLOCOG encourages the residents of South County to get involved in the planning process by going to our website or workshops and providing feedback and suggestions on the study.
Ronald L. De Carli is executive director of San Luis Obispo Council of Governments.