We urge all Coastsiders to contact new San Francisco Chronicle editor-in-chief Audrey Cooper and ask her to assign investigative reporters to dig into the Caltrans/SMCTA highway-widening fiasco, a much underreported story in the media over the hill. It's about time a major metro daily newspaper began paying attention to Coastside transportation issues other than "feel good" features about the Devil's Slide Tunnels. If Caltrans screwed the pooch on the Bay Bridge eastern span, what can we expect with its ridiculous highway-widening plan here? We have a need to know.
I spend a lot of time behind the wheel. I guess you could say I am a professional driver because I deliver auto parts (i.e., I get paid to drive). And I’m telling you, people are morons when they drive.
Oh, I don’t mean you or me; we’re great drivers. Actually, I don’t consider myself a great driver. I think I’m good but not great. I make mistakes, but I try to obey the rules of the road and be courteous. The rest of the world, though, well, they are either rude or stupid; maybe both.
Take today, for instance. I was pulling into a shopping center. The center entrance lane went straight without any stop signs. The lanes perpendicular to the entrance lane each had a stop sign at the center lane. I was going straight ahead, but some guy in a newish BMW drove right through a stop sign and cut me off. Not bad enough so I had to jam on the brakes, but I did have to brake. I gave him the both-hands-up “what are you doing” shrug and he gave me the finger. Like I was the one in the wrong! If that was an exception, it would be one thing, but it seems to be more common than not.
Cell phones seem to be a common cause of discourteous drivers. I don’t mean on the highway; out there they are just downright dangerous. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been behind someone at a stoplight and when the light turns green, they just sit there, head bent down as they intently text someone the latest, totally unimportant news. (Cell phones, especially smartphones, are a sore spot with me, regardless. How in the world did we ever along without them?)
Lane discipline is almost completely ignored. I don’t know if everyone is so important that they feel they have the right to inconvenience or endanger the rest of us or if they are just ignorant, but they turn whenever they damn well please. Solid lines have no meaning to them (solid lines are not to be crossed) and turn signals are optional. Every day I watch people cut across multiple lanes of traffic to make a left or right turn, usually cutting off someone else.
Getting on or off a limited-access highway should be relatively easy. The entrance and exit ramps are for acceleration and deceleration, respectively. Too bad people don’t actually use them for that. Traffic may be going the posted limit or higher, but drivers will enter the highway much more slowly, not accelerating until they are actually on the highway, or conversely, slowing to exit while still on the highway. (I remember a Disney cartoon from years ago that compared merging into traffic like operating a zipper. It’s a good analogy for how it should work.)
As far as I know, turn signals have been standard on all cars since the early 1950s – you wouldn’t know that from the frequency with which they are used.
I’ve been driving a long time – since 1965. I’ve done my share of dumb things behind the wheel. But overall, I’ve tried to be a courteous driver. I try to use my turn signals all the time, I try to give the other guy a break, and I try to plan ahead. In fact, if I find that a street that I need to turn onto is coming up fast and I can’t get in the proper lane to make the turn, I will circle the block instead of cutting someone off.
I blame the police, or rather the police departments, for some of the problems on our roads. They just don’t have the presence that is needed. Maybe it isn’t their fault, maybe it’s the fault of the powers that be for not properly staffing police forces, I don’t know. Have you heard of “broken window policing”? It’s the theory that if you don’t enforce the little laws, the big laws become more problematic. I feel the same way about traffic laws; if the police do not enforce the “little” laws (unsafe lane changes, failure to signal, etc.), there are much more severe consequences (terrible accidents, road rage, and so on).
We can become a more tolerant society if we just start observing common courtesies on the roads and in our lives. Think about it.
By Alan Clarkson-Dodds, Special to Riptide
I drove south this morning and the lights at Vallemar were out, I think around 9:30 a.m., but don't hold me to it. Northbound traffic on Highway 1 was backed up past Ace Hardware. Fassler was backed up farther than I've personally ever seen, and Roberts was backed up almost to Crespi with all the short-cutters.
Eventually, the police set up manual traffic management apparently (according to a cobber who arrived a little later), but for me it was an absolutely abject lesson in what has been postulated for years: Those lights are what ails Pacifica's morning northbound traffic. Three lanes would have made bugger-all difference this morning, so what difference will they make when the lights are still the problem? Something to think about.
I hope someone can maybe do some investigative research, but I don't know if you can get historical traffic data, though I reckon a lot of folk would be interested to see just what the hell happened this morning. It was epic.
Tell MTC, Commute.org, SamTrans, and your elected representatives (city and county) to include the San Mateo County Coastside in all future transportation planning and services. Existing SamTrans bus lines do connect the Coastside to Colma and Daly City BART (including some limited express service), but Coastside commuters really need direct, dedicated, speedy shuttle buses to Oyster Point, Caltrain, and BART transit hubs like Millbrae, Colma, and Daly City.
Caltrans projects are causing big problems throughout the state. Here in Pacifica, while replacing the San Pedro Creek bridge, Caltrans got off to a bad start with its Highway 1 detour. Bottlenecks were particularly bad due to inadequate, poorly located signage. Caltrans paid a little bit of attention to criticism and improved the signage.
But every time I see the lighted sign Caltrans added just past Rockaway that says, “SB detour, right turn ahead,” which gives no hint of how far ahead the detour is, I can’t help but wonder how many cars are wandering around one of the Linda Mar beach parking lots before they get to the detour.
These traffic problems will look small compared to what will come with the permanent devastation to Pacifica’s scenic coastal area if Caltrans goes ahead with its ill-conceived plan to make Highway 1 wider than 280, from Reina Del Mar to Fassler.
We all know about the problems with the Bay Bridge cost overruns due to bad bolts and leakage. Recently, Caltrans actually blamed cost overruns to dismantle the old bridge on the cormorant birds!
But people in the Bay Area may not know what Caltrans is doing up north. In Humboldt County, Caltrans came up with a plan to widen Highway 101 through the Richardson Grove of ancient redwoods to make it easier for large, commercial trucks to drive through. The plan involved destroying tree roots and cutting down old-growth redwoods. In January 2014, a California appeals court ordered Caltrans to reevaluate the environmental impacts of this project.
In Mendocino County, Caltrans is building an oversized freeway bypass, and in the process has destroyed sacred Indian cultural sites and more than 40 acres of wetlands. Caltrans completely destroyed an ancient village after saying it wouldn’t touch the village, violating several laws. Caltrans claimed this was an accident due to faulty maps. Caltrans also passed the buck to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction because of the wetlands. But Caltrans still plans to destroy more Indian sites to build the bypass that local people don’t even want.
Caltrans Watch is a statewide coalition formed to connect the many local groups fighting Caltrans projects. Several members of Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A) brought the PH1A banner to the first Bay Area Caltrans Watch protest on November 18, at the Army Corps of Engineers offices on Market Street in San Francisco.
The Army Corps refused to meet with tribal leaders of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, who sat down in front of one of the doors of the building, which was locked by building security when the protest started. Tribal leaders had contacted the Army Corps requesting a meeting, but had received no response.
The tribe wants the Willits Bypass project to stop or scale down, and an end to the destruction of ancient sacred cultural sites and wetlands. Joining in the protest were people from Humboldt, Mendocino, and other areas, including the American Indian Movement and Earth Defenders.
For several hours, the crowd of 100 was steadfast with drumming and chanting (“Army Corps, open the door!”), as Pomo tribal leaders tried to negotiate with the Army Corps of Engineers and the San Francisco Police Department.
Finally, two tribal representatives were allowed into the building to meet with Army Corps staff. Despite the government’s continuous despicable treatment of American Indians, including Caltrans’ violation of Pomo rights, it was inspiring for us to be there representing Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives, and to be part of this coalition victory as the Pomo Indians continue to fight against Caltrans to save their community.
You can now use your Clipper card to ride the new elevated train between Coliseum BART and Oakland International Airport. Instead of exiting Coliseum BART station at the regular fare gates, take the escalator, stairs, or elevator to get to Platform 3. Tag your Clipper card at the fare gate and proceed to the "BART to OAK" boarding area. Returning from the airport, simply tag your card at a fare gate to exit Platform 3 at the Coliseum BART station. Catch a train to your final destination. Trains run every five minutes. Make sure you have either cash value or a High Value Discount (HVD) ticket on your card. Clipper will deduct your fare from your card’s balance whenever you enter or exit the "BART to OAK" boarding area. Visit bart.gov/airport for more information.
In an upset victory in the November 4 elections, Pacifica voters sent a clear and unequivocal message of opposition to a Caltrans proposal to widen one section of Highway 1 in southern Pacifica, and of support for alternatives to the widening.
Anti-widening candidates were elected to two of the three seats by significant margins. Incumbent Councilmember Sue Digre, who opposes the widening, finished as the top vote-getter, with just under 20% of all votes cast, significantly ahead of the other incumbent, Mike O’Neill (just over 17%).
Even more striking was the victory of newcomer John Keener, who centered his campaign on the highway issue, opposing widening and favoring alternatives. Keener garnered 16.5%, just half a percent less than veteran O’Neill, and well ahead of several other candidates who had far more experience and name recognition in Pacifica politics, and who spent far more money.
Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PHIA) strongly endorsed and supported Keener's and Digre's campaigns. PH1A held two large public forums and several rallies, carried out a high-profile campaign gathering more than 1,000 petition signatures to get the Pacifica City Council to hold public hearings and hire an independent consultant to explore more effective, less disruptive alternatives to the Caltrans widening.
Cynthia Kaufman, PH1A
A Riptide reader reports on the November 3 AAUW meeting advertised as Mayor Mary Ann Nihart discussing the Highway 1 widening:
"I went to the meeting tonight only to find out that the Tribune article announcing Mary Ann's talk was wrong. She never planned to talk about the highway, and in fact refused to even answer questions about it, as the City Council has all along. A number of us had come for the highway discussion, including several who had read it on Riptide."
Caltrans' San Pedro Creek bridge replacement project at Highway 1 is going into hibernation to spare migrating steelhead and wandering red-legged frogs during the upcoming winter rainy season (hopeful).
But the wildly unpopular detour past Pedro Point shopping center will continue to slow traffic flow and frustrate motorists for at least another year, and possibly into 2016. Bridge work resumes April 2015. (Source: Jane Northrop, Pacifica Tribune)
Pacifica Riptide welcomes back car columnist Bruce Hotchkiss.
Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A) endorses John Keener, Sue Digre, and Matt Dougherty for Pacifica City Council, based on their responses to PH1A'S questionnaire on the proposed Caltrans highway-widening project.
All three candidates expressed clear opposition to the current proposal to more than double the width of a 1.3-mile segment of Highway 1. All three candidates have shown that they support the city applying for grants to have independent professionals evaluate alternatives to improve traffic flow, enhance safety, protect our environment, and beautify our town.
In PH1A'S outreach to thousands of Pacifica residents during the past two years -- public forums with large turnouts, petitions to City Council, tables at FogFest and throughout town -- it has found that an overwhelming majority of people it has spoken with support its position.
Caltrans has already certified its own Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the project. The San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) has programmed funds for the final design.
Pacifica City Council could formally request that SMCTA allocate those funds. Then the final design would be done and the project would move forward. Caltrans finalized the EIR for this project with very little input from the City Council. Now all council can do is either accept or reject the Caltrans widening plan.
I was born in Pacifica and have lived here all my life. As a lover of the natural world, I have pitted myself over the years against any development that would not add to but only take away from the quality of life here on the coast.
Now we face what a growing number of Pacificans realize is the WORST AND STUPIDEST IDEA: widening Highway 1 between Rockaway and Vallemar. If you think the traffic mess at the Pedro Point bridge project has been rough, just wait. This massive construction project between two major stoplights at the center of town would go on for two years at the very least, and judging by how far off-schedule Caltrans has been on other projects (Devil's Slide Tunnels, Bay Bridge), it likely would be MUCH longer.
Thanks to Caltrans shutting out public commentary and railroading the review process, this mess is about to happen, something most coastsiders do not realize. And for what? Imagine, if you will, a section of 280, a freeway more than twice the width of Highway 1, bordered by 14-foot-high concrete walls—a freeway that encourages drivers to bypass local businesses and jockey for position as the lanes squeeze back down into the existing road.
Why is Caltrans so eager to transform Highway 1 into a freeway with bottlenecks at both ends? Is it so that demand for another section, and then another, would follow? NOTHING in this plan would improve commuter traffic! Even traffic consultants working with would-be quarry developer Don Peebles said this approach was expensive and useless.
Don't take my word for it. These pork barrel projects have been happening everywhere. Let's not make the same mistake! This article spells it out better than I can. Check out "Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse":
Bigger Is Not Better
Without support for transparency and a fair process in our own city government, this may be a done deal. A new City Council seems to be our only remaining recourse. Keener, Digre, and Dougherty are the candidates who have the backbone to say, "This makes no sense. It's WRONG for Highway 1." Without their votes and voices on council, this may be a done deal.
Alternatives that could actually address congestion have not been fully examined. Please contact Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives PH1A or on Facebook. Heads up, Pacifica. We are being railroaded, in the true meaning of the word.
I'm John Keener, Ph.D., research biochemist, small-business owner, and medical writer, now retired. My wife and I have lived in Pacifica for seven years. We were attracted to Pacifica by its many hiking trails, open spaces, and beautiful coastline.
I've made the Highway 1 widening plan the centerpiece of my campaign for Pacifica City Council. The 1.3-mile Caltrans project from the Fassler/Rockaway intersection to just north of the Vallemar intersection would add an additional lane in each direction to the existing four-lane highway.
In doing so, the proposed project would more than double the width of the roadway, from 64 feet to 144 feet, 12 feet wider than a typical eight-lane interstate freeway. Caltrans must acquire all or part of 27 parcels, including residential and business, to accommodate the increased highway footprint. Mature cypress trees lining the existing highway would be removed, and retaining walls up to 22 feet tall would be needed to stabilize cuts into hillsides.
I oppose the widening project because it wouldn't work to reduce traffic congestion during peak commute hours. This is because, at either end of the project, three lanes would merge back to the original two lanes in each direction, causing traffic jams. Other Caltrans widening projects have resulted in similar problems, notably in Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties.
Funded mostly by San Mateo County Measure A funds derived from a half-cent surcharge on sales tax within the county, the current price tag of the Highway 1 widening proposal is estimated at $55 million. I question the use of taxpayer funds without adequate public input. Comments on the Environmental Impact Reports for the widening project that were inconsistent with Caltrans’ vision were rejected.
Caltrans approved its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) in August 2013. At this point, the decision on widening Highway 1 is a yes or no vote — no modifications are permitted to Caltrans' plan without starting over.
The major hurdle before construction could begin is a formal request by Pacifica City Council to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for the $55 million needed to fund the project. I think such a request is a waste of taxpayer money on a design that won't alleviate congestion and is out of scale with community needs.
So I oppose funding the Caltrans plan. Instead, I support opening the process to the public and exploring alternative solutions that would effectively reduce traffic congestion on the Highway 1 corridor.
I'm running for one of three open seats on Pacifica City Council in November. More information about my positions on the highway widening and other issues may be found on my campaign website: