The City of Watsonville was recently awarded a $321,000 planning grant from California Transportation Commission to identify projects that will improve access for bicyclists and pedestrians to 15 Watsonville schools. The City will partner with Ecology Action of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency to prepare the plan over a two year period beginning in spring 2018.
The document will be known as the Watsonville City Complete Streets to School Plan and will identify barriers and recommend improvements to increase the students that bike and walk to school and improve their safety. The final plan shall include a list of recommended projects and their costs. The Plan will assist the City with future funding applications to implement and construct the proposed projects.
Watsonville and its partners will work with Pajaro Valley Unified School District staff, parents and community members to identify specific needs at each campus. Both Ecology Action and the Health Services Agency bring years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating health and safety education and will guide the community engagement. This will be done through community meetings, bike and walk audits, public transit assessments and outreach efforts in English and Spanish.
The grant provides a much needed resource for a financially and health disadvantaged community like Watsonville. The proposed improvement will help mitigate a high bicycle and pedestrian crash rate for children within the City. In a letter of support for the grant, County Supervisor Greg Caput said “Watsonville has a large migrant community that walks and bikes out of necessity and whatever we can do to make it safer through infrastructure improvements and education would add great value to our community.”
Former Watsonville Mayor Oscar Rios said “The planning work proposed is vital to allow our City to be more competitive for future funding applications to implement infrastructure and non-infrastructure improvements. We recently received a grant to plan for complete streets in our downtown. Focusing on our school sites is the next big step to move us closer to a true multi-modal city. Not only will the encouragement of more multimodal transportation be beneficial for the health of our students but for the very health of our City.”