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Caltrans and San Mateo address dangerous merge: State Route 92 and El Camino Real interchange project moves ahead
March 07, 2015, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Cars back up as they wait to exit westbound State Route 92 onto northbound El Camino Real. San Mateo city officials and Caltrans are coordinating to provide relief.

The current and proposed layout of the State Route 92 and El Camino Real interchange in San Mateo.

Plans to alleviate the dangers of one of the Bay Area’s most hazardous highway intersections are well underway as the city of San Mateo and Caltrans work to remodel the State Route 92 and El Camino Real interchange.

The current full cloverleaf layout was designed more than 50 years ago and provides short weaving distances where drivers must compete to exit and enter the freeway. The configuration also forces drivers to merge onto El Camino Real with wait times frequently causing cars to back up the length of the ramp and spill over onto State Route 92.

Although the entire project is within the state’s right-of-way, San Mateo officials have sincere interest in improving one of the city’s busiest intersections.

After entering into a cooperative agreement last year, the city and Caltrans are collaborating on a $16 million reconfiguration of the on- and off-ramps into a partial cloverleaf design. It will also entail two signalized intersections that will accommodate drivers entering El Camino Real while also providing safer crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians.

On Monday, the City Council further agreed to take over landscaping responsibilities after the completion of the project on top of its $2.75 million contribution — the majority of which came from a federal grant and San Mateo County Transportation Authority Measure A funds, according to a city staff report.

“One of the reasons we initiated the project is we really have a safety concern about the existing interchange, it’s an archaic design,” said City Manager Larry Patterson.

Caltrans is taking the lead on the project as it has the in-house design staff while Patterson said the city is more apt to ensure the landscaped portions of the project succeed.

In the future, drivers entering State Route 92 from El Camino Real will continue to have access to separate eastbound and westbound on-ramps.

For those exiting State Route 92, however, there will only be one off-ramp in either direction that would eventually widen into two or three lanes at a signalized intersection allowing drivers to turn either north or south onto El Camino Real, Patterson said.

The project will add two additional intersections with traffic lights between Bovet Road and 20th Avenue.

“The area of concern that comes up most is now we’re adding two traffic signals to El Camino and that obviously changes what is now a constant green light to having to stop on occasion. So we’ll be coordinating the traffic signals and given there’s traffic signals on either side of the interchange, we don’t anticipate that being a significant impact,” Patterson said.

As the El Camino Real exit is close to the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and Highway 101, traffic impacts are already on the rise due to the area’s job and population growth. While the interchange project will not completely alleviate bumper-to-bumper conditions, Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said it should help.

“There are already issues during a.m./p.m. peak hours with bottlenecking and safety issues due to short weave distances. The project will not totally eliminate future capacity increase, but the design will ease traffic congestions,” Navarro wrote in an email.

Furthermore, state-mandated analysis determined the project wouldn’t have a significant impact on the environment and will provide substantial improvements such as decreases in travel time and increases in service capacity, Navarro said.

The current design is about 65 percent complete and Caltrans hopes to begin construction in July 2016 with the project completed around April 2018, Navarro said.

Navarro said a detailed detour route has yet to be determined and Patterson added Caltrans typically tries to schedule work during the evening or slower times of the day to reduce impact.

While construction still has a long road ahead, Caltrans and city officials said they will continue to work closely to improve safety at the vital intersection.

“Our overall project goal is to reduce traffic congestion and to improve bicyclist and pedestrian travel,” Navarro wrote. “The commitment and interest of Caltrans and the local agencies are to improve the performance at the on- and off-ramps that is creating deficiencies at the [State Route] 92 mainline.”

For more information about the State Route 92-82 Interchange Improvement Project visit

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: project, state, caltrans, traffic, route,

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