Pescadero Gets $4 Million for Flood Control
Shame on Caltrans: Highway 1 Still Dirty & Dangerous

Danger Lurks @ Gray Whale Cove Pedestrian Crossing

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Beachgoers crossing Highway 1 between Gray Whale Cove and the parking lot east of the highway face extreme danger every day as speeding vehicles, heavy traffic, fog, and blind curves add up to a disaster waiting to happen. San Mateo County is dragging its feet on a solution: crosswalk, flashing lights, overpass. Why does it take government so long to fix an obvious major safety hazard?


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Crossing "improvements" that work on city streets don't work on rural state highways with through traffic. (Again, the urban mindset fails.) Slowing traffic to 25 will only increase the already bad traffic backups there, with their frustrated, distracted drivers not particularly concerned with pedestrians as they try to force their way to their destination along with too many other cars. Anything that actually stops heavy traffic cold is even worse.

If a cheap partial solution at grade is what is wanted, entrance/exit from the parking lot in the northbound direction only is a very inexpensive step that should be first on the list. The next at-grade step that would fit with that would be the two-stage crossing with a center refuge (island). A center-merge suicide lane would only confuse drivers unfamiliar with the location and, with the limited sight lines north and south from the entrance to the parking lot, would be another unsafe element. (For example, the merge lane in Montara, with the same speed limit and an inadequate sight line to the north, is mostly a failure; many locals turning left onto the highway won't use it because of its frightening aspects.) Also, adding a center lane to the roadway in the short length of highway in question at Gray Whale Cove would increase the distance pedestrians must cross if it does not incorporate the center refuge.

Simple solution:

sell Gray Whale Cove to Vinod Khosla.

Problem solved!

Given that projects like this are never given unlimited budgets, the best solutions (north-only entrance and a pedestrian bridge) are unlikely. Safety measures would be cost-effective, such as lower speed limits in both directions to 25 MPH, with signs alerting for pedestrians crossing as well as crossings that light up when a pedestrian presses a button. Cars and trucks can stop much quicker and safer from 25 than 55, the typical speed approaching the parking lot from either direction. Such a crossing would require paint and lighted yellow markers, with their associated wiring, minimal asphalt work, some poles, some solar panels and batteries to power the unit, eliminating the need to connect to the grid, although remnants of a power drop are nearby. The southbound egress and ingress could be improved with a middle lane that would separate cars turning left and parking lot exiting vehicles turning left into a distinct merging lane. I have seen enough southbound cars wallop the rear ends of cars turning left into the lot in the past. There is enough width of roadway to have southbound traffic jog more toward the right as well as northbound traffic shifted slightly to the east; the west side guardrail could move more to the west for added road width. Add the cost of a few traffic signs in each direction and the goal of a safer crossing is achieved with a minimum amount of work and materials needed. The beach for the most part is already under Caltrans jurisdiction, so it should be paid for out of its budget. An alternative option to complement these changes would be a traffic light that the pedestrians could push the button for. No people to cross, then traffic flow continues as normal.

"Government" doesn't intend to fix the traffic and safety problems at Gray Whale Cove. The need for a safe crossing there has been discussed for several decades through a bunch of local committees and traffic studies.

At present on busy weekends, southbound cars trying to turn left across northbound traffic and into the parking lot and cars leaving the lot making left turns across traffic to head southbound back traffic up almost as far as Linda Mar. During the same busy periods, people crossing to get to and from the beach at the same location also stop traffic. Too many people, too many cars for the situation.

Any at-grade crossing with devices that further slow or stop traffic will only make the situation worse. That, of course, will feed the usual idiotic push for more lanes and lights south of the tunnel in the Green Valley/Gray Whale Cove area, providing even worse backups. And so on. The unprotected median area approved by the county for the road crossing at grade will make the crossing more dangerous than at present because pedestrians would have farther to go (picture families loaded with beach gear and little kids by the hand).

People don't like tough but obvious solutions. The only future foot crossing here that would not make traffic and safety worse is a pedestrian overcrossing. Cars should be allowed to enter and exit the Gray Whale Cove parking lot only in the northbound direction. No left turns that do not back up traffic are possible here. (This is similar to the parking-lot mess and light for the asphalt strip park at the south portals for the tunnels. Entrance and exit to the lot there should have been allowed only in the southbound direction, eliminating the need for the light.)

Palindrome-loving pedestrians agree that danger lurks for them at Gray Whale Cove: "Gray Whale peril: I repel a hwy. Arg!"

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