Sunday, July 4, 2010

Highway widening plan aired at public meeting

By Jane Northrop

Pacificans aired their views last Tuesday about two conceptual plans to widen Highway 1.

Both plans are still under consideration. Both would widen the highway from four lanes to six lanes for 1.3 miles from 1,500 feet south of Fassler Avenue to 2,300 feet north of Reina del Mar Avenue, but one variation calls for a landscaped median between San Marlo Way and Reina del Mar Avenue.

Both designs will accomplish the same traffic goals, to improve traffic operations over existing conditions out to year 2035. Although aesthetically pleasing, the addition of the landscaped median will create more of a footprint and will be more expensive. Calera Creek wetlands will not be affected by either variation.

A pedestrian overcrossing at Reina del Mar has been dropped, citing potential pedestrian safety problems since some people will still try to cross but without a crosswalk and signal delay to protect them, the report generated from Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and the city of Pacifica reads.

The need to improve the highway was first identified in the 1980s by those agencies.

As a first step to address issues, a safety barrier was built in 1991. The first scoping meeting for this current project was held in 2004. Environmental review proceeded over the years. In March, another scoping meeting was held. The Pacificans who were present then asked for more time to make comments on the draft environmental impact report. They also asked for more information about other plans that had been scraped.

At the meeting on Tuesday, the walls of the City Council Chambers were adorned with plans that had been scraped in favor of the two variations still under consideration.

A traffic study conducted in 2007 concluded the bottleneck on the highway is caused by the signals at Fassler and Reina del Mar, plus a lot of commute traffic from Fassler. For the morning northbound commute, one third of the traffic enters from Fassler, one third from Crespi Drive and Linda Mar Boulevard and one third from south of Linda Mar. Traffic backs up for one-third to one-half mile. By year 2035, the back-up was expected to increase between one mile and 1.7 miles south of Fassler. Southbound traffic backs up at Reina del Mar between one half and l.5 miles. In 2035, that is expected to extend an average of 1.3 miles to 2.2 miles. The improvements are expected to shave seven to eighth minutes off travel time.

Members of the audience, which numbered about 60, asked numerous questions about what was considered in the study, including fuel costs and mid-coast traffic, wetlands and archeological finds. A couple audience members questioned the wisdom of not building a pedestrian overcrossing in Vallemar. The designers do not yet know if any trees will have to be removed to accommodate the highway widening.

Posted by Steve Sinai

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