The city of Half Moon Bay is seeking ways to improve direct access to Poplar Beach from Highway 1. Deemed the Poplar Street Complete Street Project, the city is planning to make the street more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists, and to improve overall safety by reducing traffic speed on the road that runs on either side of Highway 1.
At the May 7 Half Moon Bay City Council meeting, the council decided, 3-0, to allow a $156,000 contract for design services and environmental review of the Poplar Street project with CSW/Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group Inc., a Redwood City-based company. Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock and Councilman Adam Eisen recused themselves from the discussion because both live on or near Poplar Street.
In 2016, the city applied for a $1.2 million grant from Transportation for Livable Communities, part of the City/County Association of Governments, for the project. Improvements considered included stormwater treatment, bicycle lanes and markings, new sidewalks and curbs and gutters. The work would affect Poplar Street from Railroad Avenue to Main Street.
Since the city received the grant in 2017, it has held a community meeting for residents who live on or near Poplar Street. Some residents have spoken against awarding the contract for design services.
“When you widen the road, you will have cars speeding side by side,” said Elizabeth Honneyman, who lives on Poplar Street. “This is one of the most unpopular plans I have ever seen.”
Jules Solfer, also a resident on Poplar Street, said he is in favor of speed humps to encourage drivers to slow down. “The traffic patterns have changed considerably since the light was put in on Poplar,” Solfer said. “What happens is people will speed up to catch the green light.”
Public Works Director John Doughty and City Engineer Maziar Bozorginia addressed what they said are misconceptions about details of the project.
“When you think of ‘complete street,’ people often think of a full roadway with bike lines and everything,” Bozorginia said. “But it could be a lot of different elements of that, it depends on the environment.”
The state of California directs Caltrans to implement “complete streets,” meaning a street that provides safe mobility for all users, bicyclists, pedestrians, transit vehicles and motorists.
Doughty reaffirmed there is no plan to cut down or get rid of the Monterey cypress trees on the west side of Poplar Street. Rather, he said the placement of the trees allows for an opportunity to manage traffic flow and slow vehicles.
“We were never looking at chopping down the trees. In fact, those present the best opportunity for traffic calming of all time,” Doughty said.
The project is still in the early stages, but Doughty said things such as making the sidewalks Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and adding painted bicycle messages on the roadway are key to improving the overall safety of Poplar.
“We are not envisioning this as a major bikeway with a separated bike path,” Doughty said. “What we see is, this is more of a recreational use with families biking to the beach.”
Doughty also explained that Poplar Street is divided into two sections, east and west of Highway 1, with separate needs that will be addressed as part of the project.