By Bill Collins, Riptide Correspondent
The proposed widening of Highway 1 generated so much controversy in Pacifica and environs that the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) is delayed while 213 public comments are being considered. That moves release of the EIR from June to October. As the transportation staff says, this downgrades the Calera project from "green" for "on time" to yellow for "delayed."
Will alternatives suggested by the public be evaluated, studied, and given an estimated cost so the most cost-effective option(s) can be known? Before more than $50 million in sales tax (not gas tax) revenue is spent on a controversial, costly, and unsustainable “solution,” all the options must be considered and compared.
These suggestions may not all be effective, but we’ll never know until they’re studied. They came from citizens who participated in several public meetings:
1. Facilitate car-pooling. Most cars have just one occupant.
2. Add a flex lane in the middle, northbound in the morning, southbound in the afternoon.
3. Time intersection lights to reduce stops. There are no backups where Highway 1 is two lanes and without stoplights.
4. Adjust school schedules. This is a schoolday problem only.
5. Provide vans for schoolchildren (without parents driving their own kids).
6. School(s) could coordinate parents driving other nearby kids to and from school.
7. Study putting an underpass at the intersection to obviate the stoplights.
8. Institute more frequent and better bus service with benches and shelters at each stop. You shouldn’t have to use a car to get around in Pacifica.
9. Provide vans to major commuter destinations.
10. Limit turns onto Highway 1 to allow north/south traffic to flow with fewer stops during peak commute times.
11. Meter the flow of traffic entering Highway 1.
Some of these options may be effective in conjunction with others. Even if the highway were widened, car-pooling makes sense. But the transportation bureaucrats have already decided which option they prefer. (Clue: It's the one that allows them to let big contracts to the road builders.) They've stubbornly refused to study the alternatives, ignoring the public's suggestions and declaring our only options to be “widen or nothing.” While some people may not be able to envision other modes of getting around, most aren’t so easily misled.
Those who don’t or can’t drive deserve better transportation. They also pay the sales tax that funds the Transportation Authority, whose staff is eager to fund the widening. We have a two-tier transportation “system.”
Each of the alternatives is probably less costly and less harmful to neighborhoods and the environment, and offer sustainable traffic relief sooner than the widening (slated for completion in 2016, but probably even later now). Sustainable because the TA staff admits that someday even the wider Highway 1 would become congested. Then what—another round of widening? Remember when Highway 1 was just two lanes?
We'll never know what's the most cost-effective use of tax monies until all the options get equal study, so they can be compared. Why hasn’t that happened? Why do those who purport to care about traffic congestion advocate only the widening, which offers no traffic relief for another five years, at best?
Widening highways is a 1960s fix widely discredited for its many limitations. You shouldn't need a car to get around in Pacifica, but that's how almost all of us get around, for lack of alternatives. That'll change as Pacificans demand more options to get around.