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Posted on: June 13, 2019

Beach Traffic Continues - Here Are the Efforts the Town Has Made To Date

Los Gatos continues to experience high levels of traffic congestion as do all cities in the Bay Area.

To put the issue into perspective, between 2010 and 2016, the Town of Los Gatos experienced relatively mild population growth of approximately 3.8%; however, during that same time frame, Santa Clara County experienced population growth of approximately 7.7% for a total County population of 1.9 million residents. In addition, the populations of surrounding Counties also had strong growth since 2010. The Counties of Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz increased 9.0%, 6.5%, and 5.6%, respectively. Total population for these three surrounding Counties is approaching 3.0 million residents. 
Even though traffic is a larger regional issue, the Town of Los Gatos has experimented with short term adjustments over the past several years.  We have also learned that our legal options to affect traffic patterns are limited.  In addition, we’ve observed that putting controls in one location in Town always shifts the traffic to another location in our community.  Often this can create other negative impacts for businesses or previously unaffected residential streets and safety issues.  Provided below is a brief summary of some of the legal traffic mitigation efforts attempted by the Town to date and some of the options which are not legal.
Town Traffic Efforts

  • For three summers, the Town of Los Gatos installed a temporary traffic circle at the intersection of South Santa Cruz and Wood Road/Hwy 17 on-ramp.
  • Costs for the closure in 2017 alone totaled approximately $200,000, including $50,000 for data collection.  
  • The Town continues to explore the option of the construction of a permanent roundabout through early design and permitting discussions with Caltrans. At a minimum this will provide a gateway into Town and act as a traffic calming measure for vehicles exiting Highway 17. The design will also keep the options open for more streamlined closures in the future; however, Caltrans will never entertain a permanent closure.
  • Town staff has inquired with Caltrans about the possibility of closures at Highway 9 and Caltrans has also made it clear that they would not consider this as an option. Caltrans explained that the highway and freeway systems are in place to carry regional traffic. 
  • Town staff worked with Caltrans to program the permanent changeable message signage at two locations on Highway 85.
  • Town staff has implemented right turn restrictions at various intersections including:  Highway 9 at Ridgecrest, Massol, and Tait.  
  • Town staff has placed signage on Highway 9 encouraging drivers to remain on that route.
  • Town staff is also looking at opportunities to improve Highway 17 on and off-ramps to aid in the merging of vehicles. Vehicle merges create slowdowns and could help with the freeway traffic.

Illegal Traffic Options

  • California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21101.6 expressly prohibits local jurisdictions from placing gates or “other devices” to restrict access to a street to “certain members of the public…while permitting others unrestricted access to the street.”
  • The Police Chief does have the ability to implement local temporary road closures for “public safety” only in the most extreme circumstances, and in accordance with the requirements set forth under Section 21100 of the CA Vehicle Code (CVC). Examples of this would include maintaining a crime scene, providing access for emergency personnel in relation to an in-progress call for service, a special event or parade, etc.  
  • “Local Traffic Only” signage is advisory only and not enforceable by the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department.  Other cities that have implemented this in the past have found that the navigation apps, such as Waze, do not honor these signs.
  • The Town does not have the authority to close freeway or highway ramps or road segments. Those are under the purview of Caltrans. The Town has asked about the potential for those closures in the past and Caltrans has said they will not consider it.  
  • The State regulates the charging of tolls and tolls are not allowed on local streets and roads.

While we know that the Town cannot eliminate the traffic, please be assured that the Town continues to try different options within our legal ability.  We recognize the frustration as many of us have modified our routines and ways of traveling in and around Town in consideration of traffic. I hope this helps illustrate the complex nature of the issue we’re facing and the proactive attempts the Council and staff have undertaken within the legal framework of California.  We encourage our residents to continue to share ideas which may help alleviate traffic by emailing them to BTraffic@losgatosca.gov


For additional information regarding beach traffic please see: https://www.losgatosca.gov/2488/Beach-Traffic