Transportation issues are persistent, complex, and regional. Heidi Owens' positions on transportation can be broken down into these subject areas:
Heidi Owens is advocating for the formation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) between Santa Cruz County and Santa Clara County to study the Highway 17 corridor. The primary purpose of the study will be to evaluate effectiveness, feasibility, and costs associated with technological solutions to address both safety and capacity issues. Safety is at an all time low with more collissions and fatalities, since they started measuring over twenty years ago. The study should include the evaluation of busing solutions, special lanes, and a rail line connecting Los Gatos to Santa Cruz. The last rail feasibility study was conducted twenty-five years. The topic of a Joint Powers Authority will be included on the agenda at an upcoming Safe on 17 Committee meeting, date to be announced.
Heidi has voiced the concerns of Los Gatos residents in several regional forums including the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Regional Area Working Group (RAWG) in Plan Bay Area 2050 meetings. She has shared Los Gatos' residents concerns with elected leaders and their staff in Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, State Assemblymen (both sides of the hill), and State Senators (elected and candidates on both sides of the hill). Heidi Owens was invited to attend Senator Jim Beall's Highway 17 Roundtable with Caltrans, Valley Transportation, California Highway Patrol, Senator Beall's staff, Town of Los Gatos Staff, and Councilman Rob Rennie. In that meeting, she was a vocal advocate for the interests of Los Gatos residents, asking the tough questions. This persistence and hard work led Senator Jim Beall, Chair of the California Senate Transportation Committee, to endorse Heidi Owens for Los Gatos Town Council.
In addition to advocating for the technology feasibility study, Heidi has initiated conversations with Caltrans about engaging the onramp metering lights on Highway 880 and Highway 85. The lights are already installed and operational, they need to be powered and programmed. This will require regional coordination and agreement from Caltrans, Campbell, Saratoga, and San Jose. The onramp metering lights should be programmed to push regional traffic onto surface streets throughout the area instead of allowing it to gridlock dangerously in one area in Los Gatos. It is critical that our Los Gatos Town Council members develop and maintain favorable working relationships with the elected leaders in surrounding cities. Heidi already has relationships with many of these neighboring city council members.
Heidi Owens supports the addition of one-way turn signage on North Santa Cruz.
She supports transition of North Santa Cruz into a one-way Southbound street (the opposite direction of the previous four-month pilot) . This should be implemented as a long term trial to address the need for expanded outdoor dining, more retail space, and a bike lane in the Downtown area during the Covid pandemic. When Covid is no longer a public health issue, the Council should discuss making the change permanent.
Heidi supports the Caltrans plans to address merging problems at Highway 85 onto Highway 17 as well as the addition of an internal lane through Town. This will not be "widening" Highway 17, but clearing away brush in the center median to create more space for a lane. However, as Caltrans confirms, smoothing the merging and adding a lane through Town may help marginally, but will not solve the beach traffic issue. It is ultimately a capacity issue that needs to be addressed with additional capacity all the way to Santa Cruz. We will all need to advocate together, persistently, and continuously to make change for the Highway 17 corridor and solve the beach traffic issue.
To reduce the gridlock around Los Gatos High School (LGHS) during commute hours, Heidi will propose a General Plan Update to require an LGHS exit road through the property currently occupied by Los Gatos Lodge. At such time as the property is redeveloped, the developer will be required to allow traffic to exit directly from the back of LGHS to Highway 9. The outlet feeds directly onto Highway 17 Northbound.
Heidi supports the implementation of smart traffic signals on the major avenues in Town. By synching the lights, the Town will be able to create better traffic flows throughout Los Gatos. However, as with so many transportation issues, synching the traffic signal lights will work much more effectively if implemented regionally. Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is evaluating the adoption of a regional traffic signal synching program. Ms. Owens supports this regional approach over a city by city approach. At the very least, it is critical that the Town's system is compatible with whatever systems VTA is considering.
Bicycle and Pedestrian
Having served as a Town of Los Gatos Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commissioner, Heidi Owens is committed to implementation of the Town's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.