The Downtown Infrastructure Enhancement Project is currently in the final design phase. The project is fully funded and will be constructed in 2024. For questions about the project, please call the Public Works Department at 805-470-3486.
History & Background
The El Camino Real Downtown Traffic Calming and Corridor Plan (Project) is envisioned to be a planning level document that outlines recommendations for future road improvements incorporating enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access along with increased parking opportunities and safer crosswalks. The goal is to enhance economic development in the downtown by creating a zone that slows traffic speeds and enhances appearance and safety. The Project limits include the El Camino Corridor from the intersection of Highway 41 to the intersection of Rosario Avenue.
Over the last several decades, the City has implemented improvements in the downtown, which were identified as part of the Downtown Revitalization Plan, Downtown Design Guidelines, and the City’s Wayfinding Program. Improvements were generally limited to sidewalk widening at corners (bulb-outs), sidewalk enhancements, signage, raised planted medians and crosswalks. Other key facility improvements have also been implemented such as the Sunken Gardens improvements and the Centennial Bridge and Plaza project.
The Traffic Calming Plan takes a closer look at how to best utilize the existing roadway width. El Camino Real in the downtown still maintains its roughly 80-foot width (curb-to-curb) and design features that reflect its past use as a highway. A large component of the plan is the analysis of existing and future traffic operations through the downtown corridor under a “road diet” scenario. By dropping a vehicular lane in both the northbound and southbound directions, it is possible to add enhanced pedestrian and bicycle facilities, additional public spaces, and parking. Given the ongoing development and redevelopment within the downtown area, this project is a timely opportunity to assess how the El Camino Real corridor can best serve the needs of residents, businesses, and the multiple transportation needs.
As noted above, several factors have converged over recent years that warrant a new analysis of downtown area transportation patterns. First, downtown Atascadero is currently experiencing an economic upswing due to City investments and strong interest from private developers and business owners. New restaurants, cafes, and breweries, in conjunction with a growing number of special events, are bringing more visitors to the Downtown area. The Centennial Bridge and Plaza Project is stimulating interest from private developers, resulting in both large and small private projects. Most notable are the La Plaza Mixed-Use and Bridge Walk Hotel developments, as well as the new ownership and use of the previously City-owned annex (Creekside) building. These developments and others will result in an increase in downtown activity, including vehicle trips, pedestrians, cyclists, and other multi-modal methods of transportation.
Secondly, the Atascadero High School (AHS) and the Atascadero Junior High School (AJHS) are located within ¼ mile of the El Camino Real Downtown Corridor. School related traffic is a significant consideration throughout the corridor, particularly during peak hours occurring from drop-off and pick-up times. With additional vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic in the Downtown area, concerns regarding the safety and function of El Camino Real have arisen from residents and business owners, particularly at intersections and existing mid-block crossings. These concerns are likely to increase in the future as complete streets improvements to State Route 41 in 2020, and potential improvements to the Atascadero Avenue and Mall corridor, will likely encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic to be funneled through the US 101 tunnel and elsewhere.
Third, merchants, residents, developers, and City leaders have expressed the need for more parking and pedestrian access within the downtown district due to an increase in economic activity and special events. Limited parking is available on El Camino Real and includes non-metered, parallel on-street parking. A mix of diagonal and parallel parking exists on other Downtown streets adjacent to El Camino Real. Increasing parking opportunities on El Camino Real will be advantageous in furthering the economic goals of the Downtown. Currently, the width and speed of traffic on El Camino Real discourages visitors from using the corridor for parking or walking across El Camino Real to go to a business on the other side of the street.
The overall objective of the project is to develop a holistic traffic calming and corridor plan along the Downtown El Camino Real Corridor that considers the needs and goals of all multimodal users, residents, businesses, and City leaders. The final corridor plan is intended to serve as a blueprint or master plan for future improvements within the El Camino Real right-of-way, which should further the economic goals of the City while enhancing the Downtown Corridor’s safety and aesthetic appearance for all users. Specifically, the City identified the following project objectives:
Provide public safety for all roadway users by incorporating complete streets and “road diet” concepts and principals
Enhance economic development by supporting existing and future merchants with additional parking
Support downtown business synergy through a partnership in crafting a Downtown Traffic Calming Plan
Enhance the streetscape of El Camino Real by creating a sense of place and arrival into the Downtown
Create safe pedestrian connections and crossings while enhancing the walkability of Downtown
Slow vehicular speeds to increase safety and visibility, including an analysis of impacts to level of service (LOS)
Enhance the ability to host more special events in the Downtown area
Accommodate multi-modal transportation, where feasible
KTUA of San Diego was hired in November 2017 to assist the City in the analysis and development of a corridor plan. CCTC of Morro Bay is working as a subconsultant to KTUA to provide traffic engineering and operations analysis. Council awarded the Downtown Traffic Calming project to KTUA in November 2017, and City staff has been working closely with KTUA and CCTC to develop alternatives that meet the objectives listed above, while at the same time balancing impacts to varied roadway users. The City hosted mutiple outreach events in 2019, recieving a lot of feedback from the community. After this feedback from the public and City Council, KTUA returned a revised plan that was once again presented at multiple public workshops in 2020. After compiling all of the feedback recieved , the following concept plan was approved by City Council on August 11, 2020. For more information, please review the staff report published in the August 11, 2020 City Council Agenda.