After nearly two years of public outreach, identifying best practices, and drafting, the city of Santa Maria is in the final stages of its Active Transportation Plan update.
The guide will direct the city in its efforts to make Santa Maria a more accessible place for bikers, pedestrians, those with disabilities, and other car-free commuters.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF SANTA MARIA
FINDING FEEDBACK Santa Maria sought public engagement throughout its drafting process for the now complete Active Transportation Plan, including at Open Streets Santa Maria in 2019. A virtual town hall is slated for Sept. 30.
Dubbed Active Santa Maria
, the city is seeking public comment for the plan at a virtual town hall
on Sept. 30 from 4 to 5 p.m., and the deadline to comment on the draft is Oct. 31.
Christopher Petro, a Santa Maria Public Works/Engineering Division engineer and Active Santa Maria’s program manager, said the plan is a step forward in making Santa Maria a strong applicant for the state’s highly competitive Active Transportation Program grant funding
“We have been attempting to receive grant funding for many years now,” Petro told the Sun. “They’re very competitive, with a small pot of money. Those who are able to receive the funding already have an Active Transportation Plan in place … so we realized we needed to have a plan on the books.”
The guide includes project recommendations to improve the city’s accessibility, create dedicated paths for walking and bicycling, increase the safety of school routes, add amenities like seating, shade, and water fountains, and more.
The primary aim, Petro said, is to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to move across Santa Maria with as few high-stress street crossings or connections as possible.
“Level of traffic stress” is a relatively new methodology used in transportation engineering, Petro explained. It rates a road segment or crossing based on the level of traffic stress imposed on bikers. The ultimate goal is to create what Petro called a “giant strip across town” that would use “only low stress connections all the way from the north of the city to the south.”
Now that the plan is drafted, the city can begin acquiring the funding it needs to bring projects to life.
Petro said the city just submitted its application for the current cycle of Active Transportation Plan funding on Sept. 23 and will find out whether it receives the funding in six to eight months.
If funded, Santa Maria would receive a multi-million dollar grant, the largest the Public Works/Engineering department has ever applied for, Petro said. He’s hopeful that the new and improved Active Transportation Plan will make Santa Maria a strong contender in a competitive pool of applicants.
Petro said attendees at the virtual town hall on Sept. 30 can expect a “rundown of the project from start to finish.” The city will record the meeting for those who cannot attend in real time.
Petro hopes that the city will hear from a diverse array of voices.
“We care about every single socioeconomic status coming to us on this,” he said. ∆