Our Peninsula source says, "Some city councils are not subservient to Caltrans!"
Daily Journal story by Angela Swartz (text below edited for clarity):
Burlingame city officials want Caltrans to slow down and provide more information about a controversial safety project to fix the intersection on Floribunda Avenue and El Camino Real that could remove heritage eucalyptus trees if a left-turn signal lane is installed.
Burlingame City Council was to vote December 16 on sending a letter from Mayor Michael Brownrigg to Caltrans stating that the city wants Caltrans to adopt the most cost-effective option with incremental changes.
The letter states that “in the strongest terms, the city objects to adding the turn signal lane on historic, cultural and aesthetic grounds ... any improvements should be made with the least possible impact to the environment.”
“This is a really important point of principle and identity for Burlingame,” Brownrigg said. “It’s not just a few trees; it’s the very nature of the part of El Camino that passes through Burlingame. The character is more than just a couple of trees.”
The city recommends that both it, the town of Hillsborough, and Caltrans adopt the least invasive means of enhancing safety first and then assess the impact on the accident rate — roughly 10 accidents a year over the past decade, the letter states.
“If the accident rate has not diminished sufficiently over the next 18 months (for example), then the next more invasive solution would be adopted,” the letter states. “But more than that, it would ensure that the most draconian and irreversible solution — that of creating a multi-lane expansion to El Camino Real with dedicated turn lanes — is the LAST solution to be tried, rather than the first.”
Other options for the location where Hillsborough and Burlingame meet include signal timing modifications, prohibited left turns, and splitting of the main line with left turns to reduce accidents.
Some residents and council members were frustrated with Caltrans' scoping meeting in late November, with many stating that they wanted more statistics and information on the potential effects of different options for the intersection. One resident stated that the meeting seemed like crowd control rather than residents being able to talk with knowledgeable experts. (Editor: Sound familiar, Pacifica?)
Caltrans, which oversees El Camino Real, has filed a Notice of Preparation with the California State Clearinghouse to prepare an Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment to address safety concerns. There have been 107 collisions from January 2002 to December 2011, with 63 collisions left-turn related, according to Caltrans.
The city of Hillsborough wrote its own letter to Caltrans dated December 10. It states that the city “strongly resists any plan to remove [the trees].” It is also asking for another public meeting. The letter was spurred by a need for more data and details on the proposed plans, said City Manager Randy Schwartz.
There is a national register listing for the Howard-Ralston Eucalyptus Tree Rows that flank El Camino Real from Ray Drive to Peninsula Avenue. The listing means that the historic status of the trees needs to be considered as part of environmental scoping. These trees are a defining characteristic of the city and, without the trees, Burlingame is just another city that has opted out of the trees, said Councilman Jerry Deal.
For more than 15 years, Caltrans has been made aware of local interest to improve intersection conditions in the area, including at Bellevue, Oak Grove, and Forest View avenues, said David Reel, vice president and principal of design and planning at AECOM, Caltrans’ consulting firm on the project. Funding of $2 million to improve safety at the intersection was approved in 2011.
Caltrans can’t comment on either letter at this time since it has yet to see either, said Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro. Written comments on the Notice of Preparation will be accepted until December 21. Caltrans will consider hosting another meeting following the deadline, Navarro said.
Please mail comments to Yolanda Rivas, District Branch Chief, Office of Environmental Analysis, California Department of Transportation, 111 Grand Avenue, Mail Station 8B, Oakland, CA 94623-0660; fax 510-286-5600; or email Yolanda_Rivas@dot.ca.gov
(Reported by Angela Swartz: email@example.com, 650-344-5200 extension 105)
(Posted by John Maybury, Pacifica Riptide)