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Silicon Valley produces between 20- 25% of California's annual gross domestic product. While this economic juggernaut has fueled revenue and job growth, it has also created overcrowding on San Mateo Highway 101, the major commute route between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
The rush hour starts earlier and ends later. Travel times have increased while predictablity has decreased. A diabled vehicle at peak hour can create a ripple effect can last for minutes or hours, depending on the speed in which a tow truck can weave throught the backup.
The impacts are economic as well as social. More time commuting means less time being productive at work and fewer hours relaxing at home.
Getting people out of their cars and onto transit has helped, but it’s difficult to promote bus riding when a major incentive is lacking. Highway 101 in San Mateo County has no carpool lane. Buses and carpoolers must ply the same congested lanes as solo drivers.
Shifting traffic patterns have exaserbated congestion. More workers are choosing to live in San Francisco, making a long trip to work and back each day. When motorists drive longer distances, it adds traffic to each bottleneck along the way.
A Solution for an Urban Corridor
Widening projects in urban corridors are fraught with expensive and time-consuming right of way problems. Anyone living on the peninsula for a long time knows that Highway 101 has been widened many times. The question is whether there is any more space for a widening project? It’s an important question because acquiring large swaths of property for freeway expansion is out of the question. The price of real estate in San Mateo County is far too expensive and the process of eminent domain is far too time consuming.
Caltrans engineers found a solution by shifting centerline of the freeway, threading it through the right of way and keeping the shoulders within Caltrans-owned land. A six-foot strips of frontage road will need to be acquired, but that’s all.
The widening won’t be typical. The plans require removing striping and reconfiguring lanes. But the time savings of eliminating right of way issues will be enormous, taking years off the project. Construction is due to begin in May 2019 with the project finishing two year later.
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