The Atascadero City Council is currently considering a plan to calm traffic along the El Camino Real corridor in Atascadero and if approved, it would transform downtown into a calmer and more business and traffic-friendly hub of activity that could boost business and increase the recreational opportunities for both residents and visitors.
The plan would merge the existing four lanes of the corridor into one lane in each direction, from the intersection of Highway 41 to the intersection of Rosario Avenue, with the purpose to enhance public safety and provide additional facilities for leisure.
According to the City Public Works Department, the design layouts “provide for pedestrian and bicycle safety with enhanced facilities and traffic calming measures. The layouts significantly increase the number of on-street public parking for visitors patronizing businesses and attending special events.”
According to Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore, the plan would create a “sense of place” and increase economic opportunities in the downtown area.
“It would also create a kind of intimacy whereby people can drive in and relax and not just drive through the city,’ he said.
Terrie Banish, Deputy City Manager for Outreach, Promotions and Events, said that the plan would boost business by encouraging people to come downtown to enjoy events — such as farmers’ market, Dancing in the Streets, Colony Days, and others.
It would help the City to show its downtown charm and “showcase our friendly community — classic Americana,” Banish said.
When completed, each of the two lanes would have street parking spaces and also some decorative trees to beautify the sidewalks as well as bike paths for the growing number of cyclists who find the downtown corridor ideal for biking.
The plan is envisaged to invite shoppers and other visitors to the downtown area to get acclimated to a more leisurely pace of life that would encourage people to stop, park, shop and patronize the various bars, restaurants and businesses that are located in the area.
The plan has received favorable comments from some business owners who believe that it would help their businesses to thrive. Annie Guerrero, Assistant Manager of the Carlton Hotel, said that “slowing down cars makes for a better downtown.”
Expectedly, there are mixed reactions from some members of the Atascadero business community to the Traffic Calming Proposal.
Fred Pflum, Owner of Pflum’s Atascadero Muffler & Used Cars, whose shop is at the intersection of El Camino Real and Traffic Way, was very critical of the idea.
“It is the dumbest thing that I have seen in this city. Traffic is already hazardous and if they merge the lanes, it is going to be worse than it is,” he said. He urged the city planners to visit the intersection of Traffic Way and El Camino Real at 7:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on weekdays to see what it is like there. According to him, “ it is a fiasco at this intersection when the kids go to school in the morning or when they get out of school later in the day.”
Dennis Swanson, Owner/Photographer of Studio 101 West was more measured in his response.
“I would rather have the traffic the way that it is because there are no businesses on the other side [Rabobank side] of the street that warrants additional parking spaces.”
According to the Public Works Department, KTUA of San Diego is assisting the City with the analysis and development of the corridor plan while CCTC OF Morro Bay is working as a sub-consultant to KTUA to provide traffic engineering and operations analysis.