Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The future of McKinleyville’s Central Avenue got a little clearer on Wednesday, Sept. 24, when county staff presented their latest conceptual designs for improving safety along the busy corridor.
The project will be funded through a grant from the California Transportation Safety Board, and will cover the area between Anna Sparks Way and Hiller Road.
As McKinleyville has grown over the years, traffic along Central Avenue has increased to more than 20,000 vehicles per day, making it the most traveled, and most accident-prone, street in the county.
The presentation, which took place during the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee’s monthly meeting at Azalea Hall, was attended by about 50 people, including Humboldt County Director of Public Works Tom Mattson and Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg. The event was facilitated by the Redwood Community Action Agency’s Emily Sinkhorn.
“I think it was pretty positive,” said Mattson of the meeting. “We had a lot of good feedback.” The open house follows a community workshop in late March in which members of the public brainstormed ideas and made suggestions. The online collaboration website Crowdbrite was also utilized to collect public input.
According to Sinkhorn, the website has generated over 200 unique ideas since the workshop. While the ideas were diverse, there was “a lot of commonality,” Sinkhorn said.
Five distinct goals emerged from the workshop and online input: Improving traffic safety, improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, reduction of conflicts, beautification of the corridor, and the preservation of access to business storefronts.
Public Works distilled those goals and ideas into two design options with similar but varied traffic, pedestrian and bicycle features.
The first design option features colorized bike lanes, mid-block pedestrian havens and crossings, and a 4 1/2 foot median between lanes. The second option features 2.5-foot painted buffers between bike lanes and traffic, the mid-block pedestrian havens and crossings, and would leave the central median lane as-is.
Both options include the installation of signal preemption devices at stoplights, which would increase response time for emergency vehicles. “(Emergency services) can, in effect, turn the light green,” Sinkhorn said. The devices use a radio signal to change lights from up to 1,000 feet away.
Other options for improving safety include large markings painted on the roadway posting the 35 mph speed limit and the addition of a radar speed sign.
The design options can be viewed at connectmckinleyville.com, and people can vote for their favorite features, view current results and leave comments. The website will be up for approximately two months.
Mattson said he was pleased with the results of the online input, saying “I think it’s worked quite well… They can let us know their thoughts from the comfort of their homes.”
McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee Chair Ben Shepherd said he was happy with the meeting but was somewhat concerned by the lack of representation from the business community. “It’s hard to get (business owners) to come to public meetings,” Shepherd said. “I know what it’s like; you work all day and then you have to close out, go to the bank, etc.”
“I just hope the business community doesn’t show up at the last minute upset,” Shepherd said. “That’s my concern.”
Heather Vina, Executive Director of the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce, also acknowledged the challenges to business owners. “Not all of them can be there,” Vina said. “I think it would be better for the businesspeople if they could speak in person.”
Vina said that it was the job of the chamber to keep businesses abreast of the latest proposals. “We want to make sure we put that information out to the members in the community.”
The next step for Public Works is to continue to collect and analyze public input. “We’ll come back in January or February or March with a more refined project,” Mattson said. Following another round of input, a finalized project should emerge and construction will begin by next summer.
The Humboldt County Department of Public Works can be reached at (707) 445-7448
The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee can be reached via email at [email protected]