Goal: To improve and maintain infrastructure and facilities
Enhancing Our Sanctuary
Summer at the beach will look different this year, thanks to road and sidewalk improvements near the Municipal Wharf, and the transformation of the former Fun Spot parking lot into a $14 million visitor center dedicated to marine science education.
The wave-shaped building that will house the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center is expected to open for visitors next spring. But related traffic improvements are already making it easier to walk, bike and drive to the Municipal Wharf and Main Beach area.
The City recently replaced the four-way stop at the entrance to Depot Park with a spacious roundabout, easing the backups that frequently plagued the intersection in the past.
Sidewalks and bike lanes leading from Depot Park to the beach front have been widened, and a three-way stop at 2nd St. and Pacific Ave. removed, further smoothing traffic flow. Beach Street between the wharf and Bay St. has also been repaved.
“Traffic in the beach area has been a historical problem,” said Public Works Director Mark Dettle. “We looked at installing traffic signals, but that didn’t provide the level of improvement we were looking for.”
While roundabouts are still uncommon in the U.S., local drivers have adapted quickly. “On the first day that construction barriers came down, traffic at that intersection began flowing better than it had for years,” Dettle said. Additional road improvements slated for fall are expected to ease traffic at the
entrance to the wharf and along Beach St., easing the summertime traffic crush.
Construction on the $14 million Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center will continue through the summer, introducing an element of science and technology to an area now strongly identified with surfing and recreation.
“The project is a perfect fit with Santa Cruz values, and will highlight the research being done right on our doorstep in the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary,” said Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency Executive
Director Bonnie Lipscomb. “The Exploration Center is the seminal project in the City’s revitalization efforts linking downtown to the beach area and will be a benefit and a draw to the community and visitors for decades to come.”
In 2005, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chose Santa Cruz to host the Sanctuary center from a field of 23 competing sites. The city donated the land, worth an estimated $2 million, and the rest of the project’s construction costs have been covered by federal, state, and Coastal Conservancy grants, in addition to gifts from private donors.
Beach Area street improvements, including a second roundabout planned for the wharf entrance and improvements to Riverside Ave., are being funded by traffic impact fees paid by developers, and redevelopment funds.