The case for leaving Monterey Road alone
In May 2021, the Morgan Hill City Council voted to reduce the downtown road lanes on Monterey Road (from East Dunne Avenue to Main Avenue) from two lanes each way to one lane each way. The narrative given this time is that it would provide a “safer” downtown environment.
In the opinion of this author, this is NOT a good idea and below are some reasons why.
The city council tested downtown lane reduction in 2015 in order to provide a bike lane for cyclists. This effort was a complete failure. The city council says it wasn’t a failure but as any Morgan Hill citizen who lived through that experiment can tell you, it most definitely was. Because of that failure, the city council did not implement the permanent lane reduction.
Downtown Morgan Hill today is certainly not unsafe so the “safety” narrative falls flat.
According to traffic estimates by the Morgan Hill Police Department, traffic has INCREASED approximately 25% from 2015. The roadway infrastructure necessary to support the traffic has not changed at all.
Several construction projects are either planned or underway which will further disrupt traffic. Specifically, these are: The Hale Lumber Yard project providing additional high-density housing, the Valley Water project, the project to join Depot and Church Streets at East Dunne Avenue, and the Hale Avenue bypass which will join Main with De Witt Avenue. Note that the Hale bypass will only be ONE lane each way.
More than 1,300 new, mostly high-density housing units (389 of which are apartments) are either planned or already approved. There is no question that these new facilities will further stress traffic conditions.
Parking on downtown Monterey Road will almost completely disappear. It’s already very limited right now and making it more difficult to visit local businesses will be detrimental to them. People will avoid coming downtown to shop or eat, which is exactly what happened in 2015.
The city council says that parking will be adequate by using the parking garage located on East Fourth Street. The council claims that “it’s just a 5-minute walk” from the garage to downtown businesses and restaurants. Oh really? Do they think it’s “just “5-minute walk” for anyone who is disabled? For those families with young children? For the elderly? What if there’s an emergency downtown and someone suffers a medical condition? How about if it simply rains? Do you want to take a long walk in the rain just to go to a restaurant? I certainly don’t and I bet you don’t either.
The Morgan Hill Transportation Master Plan is scheduled to be conducted in 2022-23. Upon completion and review, the city council will have a much better idea to assess the impact of these many changes and can THEN make a better determination of the viability of lane reductions. Making changes prior to that is both irresponsible and unnecessary. We taxpayers will have to foot the bill so let’s not put the cart before the horse.
Because lane reduction affects us all, it’s only fair to put this matter to a vote to let our citizens, not just THREE members of the city council, decide if this important issue is a good idea or not.
Jim Leslie is a longtime resident of downtown Morgan Hill.