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SMCo. plans $30m system to detour 101 traffic onto city streets

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    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2009
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      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.

      Smart project

      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
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