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Morgan Hill
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May 22, 2022

Downtown traffic mitigation on Jan. 19 council agenda

Monterey Road voter initiative petition gains nearly 3,500 signatures

UPDATE: The City Council on Jan. 19 voted 3-2 (with councilmembers Yvonne Martinez Beltran and Rene Spring in dissent) to approve the following city staff recommendation:

Approve the proposed Traffic Mitigation Plan Implementation Schedule to support
the Monterey Road Lane Reduction Program;

Approve the re-design of traffic lanes for Monterey Road from Dunne Avenue to
Main Avenue to be implemented as approved in the Implementation Schedule;

Direct staff to install pedestrian safety bollards at pedestrian crossings on
Monterey Road and First, Second, and Fourth Streets;

Direct staff to bring forward a review of the Parklet Program and develop a Parklet
Fee Financing Assistance Program;

Direct staff to explore the creation of a community parklet that incorporates an
interactive art installation;

Direct staff to bring forward a consulting contract to implement a Property-Based
Improvement District (PBID); and

Adopt a resolution to amend the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-22 Budget and appropriate
$210,530 from the General Fund.

With a ballot initiative on the horizon that could require voter approval for any future narrowing of Monterey Road through downtown Morgan Hill, the city council this week will consider new options to address ongoing traffic congestion issues through the corridor.

A majority of the Morgan Hill City Council for several years has voiced its support for reducing a six-block stretch of Monterey Road from four to two lanes in an effort to make the downtown safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and more welcoming for visitors and local business patrons. But now, because the pending voter initiative may remove the five-member council’s ability to make such a significant change, city staff are recommending that the body wait until this summer before deciding whether to enact a downtown lane reduction on Monterey Road.

In the meantime, the council may adopt other commuter traffic mitigations through downtown—also as recommended by city staff—and use the data and other observations collected from these measures to inform their future decision on a lane reduction. A discussion and potential approval of the latest downtown traffic-related staff recommendations—which include a synchronization of traffic signals along Butterfield Boulevard to allow commuters to travel around downtown more quickly—are scheduled for the Jan. 19 council meeting.

“Staff recommends implementing a plan to reduce the traffic delays for residents traveling north-south and mitigate traffic impacts on the surrounding streets as part of the Downtown Lane Reduction,” says a staff report for the Jan. 19 council meeting. “To ensure community concerns are addressed, staff recommends these traffic mitigation improvements occur before implementing the Lane Reduction.”

The title of the Jan. 19 agenda item is “Approve Downtown Traffic Calming and Monterey Road Lane Reduction Program.”

The city’s ongoing efforts—dating back to at least 2015—to reduce Monterey Road from four to two lanes has been met with strong resistance from local residents. In June 2021, a group of local voters—led by Sally Casas and Armando Benavides—began circulating a petition to place an initiative on an upcoming ballot titled “Citizens’ initiative amending the General Plan to require voter approval of any future Monterey Road Lane Reduction.”

The proponents gathered signatures from 3,467 voters—well over the approximately 2,800 that were required—and submitted the completed petition to election officials in December. The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Office is in the process of completing the petition’s signature count, and has until Feb. 4 to do so.

If the petition qualifies, it will then go to the Morgan Hill City Council for verification. The council then has a choice of actions, according to city staff: adopt the initiative as an ordinance; submit the ordinance to the voters for an election ballot; or order a report on the certification of the petition, after which the council could adopt the ordinance or send it to the voters.

If the council opts for a voter initiative, it could appear on a ballot in the scheduled June 7 or Nov. 8 election, or the city could call a special election.  

Benavides said the initiative effort was driven by widespread concern among local residents that downtown Morgan Hill’s traffic infrastructure is not equipped to handle a lane reduction, which under current conditions would only result in more congestion through the corridor and surrounding neighborhoods.

He added that the initiative proponents are “excited” that they received nearly 3,500 signatures, and Benavides is pleased that the city is now more focused on seeking more immediate traffic mitigation measures such as those recommended for the Jan. 19 council meeting.

“We’re very excited that there is more of a focus on traffic and congestion,” Benavides said. “Without the initiative we probably would not have gotten that (traffic mitigation plan). That’s a start. We’re going to get more updated data, more current data that will allow us to really look at traffic patterns.”

The mitigation plan to be presented Jan. 19 will require council approval. A key concept of the plan is to encourage more pass-through rush-hour traffic to bypass downtown Morgan Hill.

The synchronization of Butterfield Boulevard’s traffic signals would cost about $106,000. City staff think this would “increase the traffic flow on the roadway by a very significant percentage.”

The Butterfield upgrades would require the installation of 13 new traffic signal controllers, city staff said. The synchronization would allow a commuting motorist during rush hour to travel all the way through Butterfield Boulevard (around the east side of the downtown) without encountering any red lights. 

Furthermore, staff recommends adjusting the traffic signal at Monterey and Cochrane roads to “prioritize the movement of vehicles onto Cochrane/Butterfield over continuing south on Monterey Road.”

Other traffic mitigation recommendations for the council include a communications plan to alert motorists of the changes.

If the mitigation plan is approved by the council, city staff will take traffic counts just before implementing the measures in the early spring. While the traffic mitigation efforts are in place, the city will continue to take measurements on their effectiveness, and present this data to the council this summer.

If the council declines to implement the Monterey Road lane reduction this summer, staff recommends revisiting it again in early 2024—after the Hale Avenue Extension project is completed.

The Hale Avenue project is currently under construction, and will provide a smoother route around the west side of downtown Morgan Hill. Council members have previously said the completion of this project would make a Monterey Road lane reduction more feasible.

“According to traffic studies, the construction of Hale Avenue will significantly reduce the number of vehicles using Monterey Road through the downtown,” says the city staff report.

In 2015, the city implemented a temporary lane reduction project on Monterey Road through the downtown, but ended it before the scheduled six-month conclusion. 

In May 2021, the council cast a split vote of 3-2 to enact a staff-recommended lane reduction project on Monterey Road from Dunne to Main avenues. Voting against the project were Councilmembers Yvonne Martinez Beltran and Rene Spring.

To view the complete Jan. 19 staff report, visit the city’s Monterey Road Complete Streets page at morgan-hill.ca.gov/2023/Monterey-Road-Complete-Streets.

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