SMCo. plans $30m system to detour 101 traffic onto city streets
- Published Sunday, January 4, 2008, by the San Francisco Examiner
County to unveil 'smart' plan to ease gridlock
San Mateo plans to reroute traffic through city streets when major
accidents happen on U.S. Highway 101.
By Beth Winegarner
Commuters on the Peninsula tired of tangling with gridlock every
time there's a major accident on U.S. Highway 101 will get their
first crack at an escape route this fall.
San Mateo is readying to spend $1.6 million on the first piece of a
sweeping $30 million system, called the Smart Corridor, designed to
guide traffic away from major accidents and through city streets to
alternate routes, such as El Camino Real.
The San Mateo City Council will vote on the funding Monday, which
would go toward a system that would reroute motorists through the city
if there's a major accident between Hillsdale Avenue and Highway 92,
according to a report from Susanna Chan, deputy public works director
in San Mateo.
Last January, when a tanker overturned and spilled 2,500 gallons of
gasoline onto the freeway, a part of Highway 101 shut down for more
than a day. Cars picked their way through neighborhood streets --
and many couldn't find their way to El Camino Real, said Rich Napier,
executive director of the City/County Agency of Governments, which
is coordinating the corridor.
"That's not good for the traveler, or for locals," Napier said.
January's crash was just one of three big-rig accidents in the past
18 months that brought Highway 101 to a standstill, a thoroughfare
that is already notorious for its commuter traffic.
The Smart Corridor plan would add a series of electronic signs to
provide traffic updates to motorists -- and would coordinate traffic
lights along alternate routes to help speed detoured cars along.
Cameras and GPS devices would be used to track traffic patterns and
provide updates to signs, telling drivers up to five miles away to
seek alternate routes, according to plan documents.
Once the San Mateo project is completed in late 2009, C/CAG plans to
roll out similar high-tech amenities along the length of El Camino
Real, according to Napier. Ultimately, systems in cities from San
Bruno to East Palo Alto would divert Highway 101 commuters from
snarled traffic between Highway 380 and the Santa Clara County line.
But some residents, including a group called the C/CAG Oversight
Group, say the Smart Corridor will only take traffic off major
highways where it belongs into beleaguered neighborhoods.
"Gridlock on 101 is one thing," said group member and Belmont
resident Gladwyn D'Souza. "But gridlock on my corner?"
Napier admits it won't be a perfect system, but is optimistic about
the Smart Corridor's prospects.
"You can't take two or three lanes of freeway and have them flow
on city streets, but it will be better than it is now," he said.
A new system, the first piece of which is planned to roll out in
San Mateo in the fall of 2009, could help ease the flow of traffic
on U.S. Highway 101 during major auto accidents.
199,000: Weekday cars on Highway 101 in San Mateo County
26 miles: The Peninsula's portion of Highway 101
$30 million: Funding secured for Smart Corridors project
3 to 6: Estimated times the plan would be used annually
Sources: C/CAG, Caltrans, MTC congestion report