GONZALES — Members of the SOS U.S. Traffic Safety Alliance recently came before the Gonzales City Council to voice their concerns about the traffic in the Salinas Valley.
“We’re here because we want a major traffic safety improvement to happen along this corridor,” said Jayne Smith, founding member of the Alliance. “So that our children don’t have to have the same scary experiences that we’ve had our whole lives.”
The Alliance represents businesses, residents and motorists who travel the U.S. 101 corridor south of Salinas from Harris Road. Members of the organization had met with Gonzales Fire Chief Jason Muscio to look at traffic patterns from Harris Road to the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad and are planning to bring those results back to their organization this month.
Alliance member Colby Pereira raised concerns from the agricultural perspective and the agricultural workers who drive the highway every day.
“We have an internal policy that prohibits trucks and vehicles from exiting from Esparanza Road to cross over 101 just because it is so unsafe,” Pereira said. “Both to our drivers and to other oncoming traffic.”
The drivers have to travel to Old Stage Road, which is not ideal, according to Pereira is ideal because it is meant more for local commuter traffic. Pereira also spoke about peak traffic times when Highway 101 sees a lot of drivers who are looking to different routes to get from one destination to another.
“Those roadways were not meant to support that number of traffic,” Pereira added. “You envision employee buses with bathrooms behind them, potentially work trucks hauling sprinkler pipe trailers, that are usually moving at much slower speeds.”
In trying to find faster routes and avoid traffic congestion, motorists are also traveling on agricultural land, ranch and farm roads. That raises liability concerns for the farm and ranch owners who now have fewer safe roads for their workers.
Transportation Agency of Monterey County currently has a project between Harris Road and Chualar as a priority.
The Agency is looking at converting the highway to a freeway with an interchange and likely frontage roads to reduce the number of dangerous highway crossings.