What travels below roadways is as important to street and highway planning as what travels upon them. That’s the simple message in a complete streets policy developed and adopted in San Benito County, which is both the southernmost extension of Silicon Valley (reckoning by census bureau designations) and part of the Monterey Bay region in California.
Streets are more than just a place to drive a car…
San Benito County recognizes that roadways provide mobility and access for travelers, and serve other functions that are important to the community. Non-motorized users of roadways have mobility and access needs equal to those of motor vehicle users. Roadways may also provide opportunities for non- travel uses, such as farmer’s markets, parades, etc. In many cases, roadways also include infrastructure for water, wastewater, electric, broadband, and other utilities…
San Benito County shall implement a “dig once” policy by including provision for a full range of infrastructure main line and distribution, above and below ground, as appropriate, in initial roadway design and construction and in reconstruction projects involving more than surface pavement treatment.
It’s part of the county’s drive to attract business and create new jobs, while also trying to preserve its “rural character”, according to the current general plan. Improved telecommunications infrastructure is a key element in that effort. The county and Hollister, its largest city, are already partners in a municipal fiber network, with an eventual goal of improving middle mile connectivity back to Silicon Valley exchanges and extending its reach to areas north of the city that are targeted for industrial and commercial development.
There’s not enough money on the table right now to build all the broadband infrastructure that California needs. The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was topped up last year by the state legislature, but even so choices have to be made. The California Public Utilities Commission has asked the regional broadband consortia that it’s funding to weigh in on how and where to set priorities.
One such is the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, which covers Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties. I’m on the executive team for that project. We’ve taken the CPUC’s broadband availability data and used it to identify which areas in which communities do not have access to a minimally acceptable level of consumer Internet service: 6 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up, which is the standard set by the commission. Then, we added census data and started crunching the numbers.
We’ve started out with ranking communities on four metrics: number of people in CASF-eligible areas in defined communities, the percentage of the community they represent, the density of that population and the number of public agencies and other community service sites. The greater the number of people and community service sites, and the higher the population density and percentage of a community involved, the higher the ranking. We’ll be adding household income data shortly.