Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The busiest street in unincorporated Humboldt County, McKinleyville’s Central Avenue, is going to get a facelift. What that facelift may look like was the subject of a McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee-sponsored community workshop held Monday March 3, held at Azalea Hall.
Humboldt County Public Works Director Tom Mattson was present to give an overview of the project, and Deputy Director Chris Whitworth gave a detailed presentation on the various traffic calming measures that could be put in place. Those measures range from a simple threshold treatment similar to what Willow Creek has, up to a consistent hard median similar to Fortuna’s.
The project would be funded entirely through a grant from the California Transportation Safety Board, and covers the stretch of road between Anna Sparks Way and Hiller Road.
Also on hand at the meeting were Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg and Arcata Fire Chief Desmond Cowan (the Arcata Fire Protection District includes McKinleyville), as well as representatives from the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce and the McKinleyville Organizing Committee. The meeting was facilitated by the Redwood Community Action Agency.
“I think the meeting went very well,” said McKMAC Chair Ben Shepherd. “I saw a significant meeting of the minds.”
Julie Lee of the McKinleyville Organizing Committee also expressed optimism. “It’s a good cornerstone,” she said of the meeting. “I think we’re going to have a very positive outcome.”
The meeting featured an interactive format in which attendees broke into small groups to identify problems and brainstorm solutions. Each group was given a map of Central Avenue and cards with pictures of various traffic, bicycle and pedestrian features to place onto the map, providing a visual as to what some of the options might look like.
Some of the features included pedestrian havens and bulbouts, low mountable curbs for emergency vehicles, colorized bike lanes, and traffic islands containing vegetation or community artwork.
Additional ideas proposed by community members included more bike racks, more sidewalks, coordinated traffic signals, bicycle-actuated traffic signals, bus pullouts, and the reduction of the street’s speed limit.
Some of the intersections repeatedly mentioned as problem areas were at School Road and Central Avenue and Heartwood Drive and Central, as well as the northbound entrances to Coast Central Credit Union and the Church of the Joyful Healer.
Some of the areas have acquired colorful nicknames such as “the chicken run” and “the suicide lanes.”
Approximately 20,000 vehicles travel Central Avenue per day according to Public Works.
The online collaboration website Crowdbrite is also being utilized to solicit public input. The website is crowdbrite.com, and members of the public can make suggestions, view other’s suggestions, and vote for ideas they like.
“We’re still busy trying to capture all those comments,” said Director Mattson. “We’ll take all the input and draw up some conceptual designs.”
The next step will be a meeting in late summer or early fall with more concrete ideas for the public to review. “We want to come up with a project that has community support,” said Shepherd. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin early next year.
According to the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Heather Vina, the chamber will be involved in the process. “We are encouraging our membership and business community as a whole to participate and have their opinions heard,” she said.
Fire Chief Cowan said he feels confident in finding an amenable solution. “There is absolutely a middle ground that can be reached,” he said. Cowan said that crossing and access roads are important to the Fire Department’s ability to respond to emergencies, but that median height should not be an issue.
Cowan said that in the past 16 months, his department has responded to 121 emergency calls off Central Avenue, three of which were for motor vehicle accidents.
The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee can be reached at [email protected]