County to look at Central Ave. ‘drag strip’

By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


The stretch of Central Avenue between Anna Sparks Drive and Turner Road at the south end of town has been called a “drag strip” on more than one occasion.

The problem, neighbors say, is that the two southbound lanes merge into one lane before Mill Creek. Some drivers, especially those in the far right-hand lane, race to get ahead of the other cars before the lane comes to an end. This has resulted in a few McKMAC.websiteaccidents in the area, with cars going off the road before Mill Creek.

At the Dec. 19 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee, one neighbor said that some drivers speed up to 60 mph in the area.

“It’s a fatal accident waiting to happen there,” the man said.

County Public Works Deputy Director Chris Whitworth said that the speeding was an “enforcement issue” that needed to be dealt with by law enforcement.

But then McKMAC member Pat Barsanti suggested a solution – why not require cars in the right-hand lane to turn into the Mill Creek Marketplace, and have the other lane for cars continuing up the hill? This would force drivers to pick a lane further north up Central Avenue, rather than racing toward Mill Creek.

Whitworth said that the idea should be studied. “We could look at that,” he said.

Meanwhile, this summer the county plans to widen Central Avenue from Bartow Road to the driveway just uphill from Mill Creek. The county is basically installing shoulders on each side of the road for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Dow’s Prairie Road

The county had attempted to get grant funding to build sidewalks on Dow’s Prairie Road so children could get to school safely.

However, a survey of Dow’s Prairie students showed that most of them are driven there by parents. This made the grant application for Safe Routes to School funding less competitive for this particular project.

As an alternative to doing nothing, Public Works is creating a wider shoulder on the west side of Dow’s Prairie Road. The area is being trimmed and graded. The next step is to put down asphalt grindings.

Little Pond median project

Whitworth also showed the McKMAC a computer rendering of the median island that will be built on Murray Road at Little Pond Street next summer. There will be a raised median in the center of the road, with bulb-outs on either side of Murray Road. This will provide a safer place for students to cross. The project is estimated to cost $100,000.



Roundabout at Murray?

Although there’s no time-line for the project, Public Works has suggested that a four-way traffic stoplight might be needed at the intersection of Central Avenue and Murray Road due to increased traffic.

In last week’s edition of the McKinleyville Press, resident Scott Baker suggested in a letter to the editor that a roundabout be considered for the intersection. The idea was briefly discussed by the McKMAC.

“It’s one of the tools in the box,” Whitworth said about roundabouts.

He noted that if a roundabout was built at the intersection, traffic on both Murray and Central would need to be narrowed to a single lane in each direction before reaching the roundabout.

Whitworth said that contrary to public opinion, roundabouts work quite well. They also reduce accident rates.

As for the idea of a stoplight at the intersection, McKMAC members said they thought it might actually slow traffic at a location that seems to work well with the existing stop signs.

“It almost seems as if a light would back up traffic,” said McKMAC member Kevin Dreyer.

The McKMAC can be reached at







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3 responses to “County to look at Central Ave. ‘drag strip’

  1. Driver_8

    The drivers in the left lane on southbound Central Avenue are just as guilty of “racing” as are the drivers in the right lane. There is nothing wrong with choosing to drive in the right lane up to the merge point. Drivers need to stop queing up early in the left lane and punishing those drivers who choose to use the right lane. More traffic gets through each cycle of the traffic light if traffic uses both lanes and zipper (cooperate) at the merge point.

  2. "Henchman Of Justice"

    Thank You John (Guest) and Pat (McKMAC).

    Part of the problem is funding and enforcement. Years ago, people spoke with Public Works Staff, county planners, etc.., like the Elsebusch’s, Newman’s, and a few other locals including HOJ. Infact, it was mentioned to COHPW that the right lane between Ana Sparks Way and the southern most exit/entry should be a dedicated right turn only (with left lane arrow alert markings prior to a raised curb or vehicle cones like the Golden Gate Bridge uses to delineate lanes to be traveled) that additionally allows for a safe right-hand turn for motorists needing to get onto Turner Road.

    Plus, the sidewalk needs to be extended at least to Turner Road from MCSC and around the corner a bit because the water collection infrastructure is essentially easy to complete less funding constraints (as compared to east side of Central Avenue). That stretch is bad at times to walk more often than not because no sidewalk exists. Still confused why no sidewalks lead into the MCSC at either the southern exit/entry and Anna Sparks Way(???)(ADA limitations???).

    Also, another “race track” is at that aforementioned MCSC southern exit-entry, along Healthsport, behind the garden center at K-Mart, right turn along cargo box freightliners, then a quick brake and gun-it between the properties in the back leading to the movie theatre.

    Other suggestions/concerns by some in the neighborhood were:

    1) To use cones (HOJ suggested to COHPW & CHP to consider the model that is used on the Golden Gate Bridge to get people to merge over sooner, as well as for #3 below).

    2) More enforcement and tickets (CHP says the county did not mark the road correctly, so they can’t ticket illegal turns)

    3) A raised curb or cones could surve a dual purpose to stop those dangerous drivers illegally parking/standing in a turn lane dedicated for the opposing traveled traffic lane. When heading south on Central Ave., Driver One needs to legally use the turn lane to get onto Bartow (easterly); yet, when another vehicle named Driver Two is illegally parked/standing to take a left turn (westerly) into the Mill Creek Shopping Center, it is a safety issue too (Head On near misses).

    4) Due to increased traffic speeds, the window of opportunity to pull onto Central Avenue shortens considerably. It gets to take so long that many motorists want to look farther up the hill to see an open spot that is few and far in between.

    5) HOJ spoke with CHP on markings and speed enforcements. Essentially, CHP stated for lowering the speed limit to say 30 MPH, the county will have to go through an ordinance process so that the road is properly registered within the county maintained road system for enforcement to occur at those standards. So, it seems a little political involvement is needed, and not much else it appears.

    5) Everyone seems to be in consensus regarding lack of funding, but it sure would suck if something bad happens again like the older lady who was killed between Bartow and Turner Roads on Central Avenue years ago (and that was when less motorists were on the road + CHP has stepped-up their patrolling which has had a positive effect imo even though they can’t get ’em all)

    6) After the Project going-up the hill, it seems the race track becomes wider and more amenable to higher speeds, thus threatening the very walkers and bikers being encouraged to use the newly constructed infrastructure, which, at times, can be very wet and debris laiden with all the water draining down the hill causing slippery surfaces.

    As far as the “Little Pond Median Project”, we need public education as to “what is considered within the crosswalk”.


    When cross-walkers stop at the median (in between), are they considered legally crossing; or, are they considered “as if” up on a sidewalk, yet to have stepped-off or away to walk within a crosswalk? Often, there are delays, some PEDS just walk through, others stop and wait for traffic to clear. Part of the problem is a median is like an island, it is its own sidewalk or curb so to speak, not a visually consistent or connected painted marking as seen by a motorist.

    Round-a-bouts work well too, especially when you understand them. Scott Baker did a good write-up. Since the road on Central is already a single lane between Humboldt Sanitation and the RV Park heading north to a point, seems to be a good project WHEN it is needed. Kevin made an excellent point about current traffic flows being adversly affected if traffic lights are installed.


    Ps. Thanks Jack Durham for project reporting

  3. "Henchman Of Justice"

    Driver – 8,
    Actually, traffic is often “stalled” at McD’s because of the right turns from motorists already in the right lane –> this causes a “drag strip opportunity” for the cars in the right lane on south side of intersection or cars that swerve from the left lane, to get into the right lane to speed-up, just to cut back in front of a driver who was driving the actual speed limit in the left lane.

    Sometimes, when drivers in the right lane drive all the way to the southern most exit/entry point to MCSC, their right turn will back-up traffic immediately prior to the bottlekneck inflection point (kinda a springboard effect like a severely shorted stock that burns shorty’s pants).


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