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Council Fixes Capitola's Busiest Intersection

The intersection of 41st Avenue and Clares Street was under heavy discussion at Thursday's meeting.

The key agenda item on Thursday's meeting of the Capitola City Council was the repair of what Mayor Mike Termini called "Capitola's busiest intersection": 41st Avenue and Clares Street.

As it stands now, the intersection, which was named one of , includes three lanes on eastbound Clares Street, all of which turn left onto 41st Avenue. Cars in all three lanes get backed up into the intersection at 40th and Clares.

The council tackled this issue and more on Thursday evening. 

Here are the top five moments from the meeting:

1. Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante introduced Steve Anderson, the department's newest police officer.

"I'm really thrilled to be here. I just finished up my second week," Anderson told the council. "I;m really fortunate to here on here in Capitola. It was my ideal location to work after putting myself through the academy."

2. A presentation was given on the upcoming 60th Annual Begonia Festival. The presenters announced that this year's theme will be My Favorite Year: A Retrospective. They said that 10 years ago at the 50th annual festival, the budget was $15K-$20K with 30 percent of that coming from the City. This year, they said the budget is $30K-40K with just 10 percent coming from the city. 

3. Two residents of Gilroy Drive presented the council with a petition signed by many neighbors in Riverview Terrace supporting the speed limit being reduced to 15 miles per hour in that neighborhood. John and Lynn's dog was killed by a vehicle driving above the speed limit earlier this year.

City Manager Jamie Goldstein then announced that Chief Escalante has already placed a radar gun there to monitor vehicle speeds and the city has pulled accident data for the area.

"We anticipate bringing this project to the council with the results as well as several options ... I think we're aiming for the first meeting in June," Goldstein said.

4. Councilmember Dennis Norton expressed desire to see discussion of a plastic bag ban on a meeting agenda next month.

5. In the public hearing concerning 41st Avenue and Clares Street, Public Works Director Steve Jesberg showed slides of the current intersection and the proposed changes. Both of those slides can be seen in the photos section above.

The council unanimously approved the following changes:

  • On eastbound Clares Street, the right lane will become a straight/right turn only. 
  • Ten feet will be taken off of the nose of the median to make room for cars turning left from Clares Street onto northbound 41st Avenue.
  • The right lane on westbound Clares Street will become no right on red.
  • Signs will put up and the right lane on eastbound Clares will be painted with a stencil to alert drivers of the lane configuration change.

Jesberg said it will take about six weeks to get everything ready, but that the actual lane work should only take a couple of days to compelte.

What do you think of the changes coming to the busiest intersection in town? How about speed limits in Riverview Terrace? Anything else? Tell us in the comments!

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Always Question May 11, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I've been in that intersection plenty of times. The lanes are fine as they are, except that there should be a sign (either painted in the pavement or metal sign) that directs traffic onto Hiwy One. As it is, those unfamiliar with the onramps for either Santa Cruz or Watsonville bound often get in the wrong one from Clares and cause more problem. Secondly, if there was more of a synchronization of the traffic lights, there would be a lot less back up, both from Clares and on 41st. Also, the Clares traffic coming up from the Auto Mall should have a NO TURN ON RED sign as those drivers turning onto 41st often interfere with the left-turning traffic.
Jacob Bourne (Editor) May 11, 2012 at 04:07 PM
The public works department did an extensive traffic study of the intersection to determine that the lanes definitely need to be changed. The problem is that with that right lane being a left turn lane, traffic backs up into 40th Avenue where people are trying to get out of the parking lot near Starbucks. By making it a right turn and straight only lane, the left turners wont get in that lane, so people can actually get out of the Starbucks parking lot.
Chuck May 11, 2012 at 04:26 PM
There was a suggestion a while back about closing entirely the lanes going into and out of the lot at Starbucks, and diverting it to the entrances behind Starbucks and towards the main mall entrances, making it a three way intersection. That would relieve pressure on the 41st ave intersection. You could probably increase some outside seating from those establishments, Just a thought.
Jacob Bourne (Editor) May 11, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Yeah that's another interesting suggestion. With the bank there too though, there are a lot of people that want access right there. At the meeting last night they also discussed the possibility of opening up 40th Avenue so that it can connect with Gross Road, which would divert traffic up that way instead of funneling it all to 41st. The county but that barricade in at 40th and Deanes though, so that would be a conversation the council would have to have with the supervisors.
Dan May 11, 2012 at 05:06 PM
The no right on a red from westbound Clares St. is stupid, turning right on the red doesn't even affect the flow of cars on 41st. except when cars run the red from the mall side of Clares, you can only turn when it's clear of cars which is usually only when the left turning lane and light is on the green arrow from 41st, to Clares! This will only back up more cars on westbound Clares somebody wasn't thinking when they made this change!!
Dave N May 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I think these changes will be very good for this intersection even though I also question why the no right turn on red on westbound Clares. I have long thought that opening up 40th to Gross would go along way in reducing the congestion on 41st. I'm sure the people who live on 40th don’t want the road opened up but unfortunately the greater good requires sacrifice in order for a society to function. If there is a way to combine the southbound off ramp with Soquel Avenue and divert the Gross Road traffic onto that it would make it possible to remove the traffic light for the off ramp thus reducing the number of signals for traffic on 41st heading toward the mall form HWY 1 side to only two. Having three lights in such a short distance causes a lot of the congestion in that direction – especially since it appears to be impossible to synchronize those three lights since it has never been done.
Always Question May 11, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I have to apologize for I was thinking of Gross Road, which also has severe backup problems. My suggestions were that, not Clares Street. Yes, Clares going into and out of the Mall is a nightmare. I avoid that at all costs. I prefer going clear down to Capitola Rd and doubling back if I need to get to a business on Clares (such as the Credit Union or a store in Browns Ranch Shopping Center). I agree that the turning left from the far right can, and does, create difficulties, but why forbid right-hand turns there? It's almost impossible to turn left onto Clares from the opposite side from the Mall. That is another nightmare to avoid at all costs because people simply will not use the "round the square" rule (let one car go from one way; then the one to the right; then the one to the right of it, and so forth). People just seem frustrated or too much in the hurry to get to the light for any common courtesy.

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