With commute times on Highway 101 getting worse, the City/County Association of Governments is moving forward with studying whether carpool and toll lanes can solve the problem.
The C/CAG board is seeking $9.4 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to conduct the preliminary environmental and design work needed before any potential construction can actually take place on the corridor.
C/CAG has also requested another $8.5 million from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for the environmental phase of the project.
The plan now is to bring the lanes south from the Santa Clara County border north to Interstate 380 in San Bruno.
The average peak commute speed on Highway 101 is now about 25 mph, said San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley.
Although a carpool lane, or high-occupancy vehicle lane, will increase speeds by only about 3 mph during peak commute times, “it’s still better than doing nothing,” Horsley said Monday.
Doing nothing, he said, will only make the problem worse.
The ultimate price tag for the project will be up to $225 million, Horsley said.
Horsley is on the C/CAG board that unanimously approved the request in October.
Any money generated from a possible toll lane should go toward funding public transportation, he said.
Daly City Councilman David Canepa is also on the C/CAG board and supports bringing carpool lanes into the county.
Toll lanes, however, are a different matter.
Canepa’s concern is that some county residents will not be able to afford the toll.
“It needs to be studied more,” he said about charging commuters to access an express lane.
Seeking the grants is the preliminary step and it could take up to two years before the studies are complete, said C/CAG’s Jean Higaki.
“We all agree that 101 is problematic and there are several alternatives being proposed. We have to understand what the impacts to the whole system will be,” Higaki said.
Earlier this year, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, introduced legislation that makes congestion relief a priority for the 48-mile stretch of highway between San Francisco and San Jose.
The bill declares that the corridor is the most economically productive and important stretch of highway in the state and that its transportation capacity is “grossly insufficient” to serve the “growing number of commuters.”
It also declares that bad traffic on 101 has led to “serious overcrowding on Caltrain.”
The bill seeks to provide a framework for addressing major congestion through San Mateo County by bringing together the business community, transportation experts and city officials to engage the commuting public on ways to alleviate the congestion.
It’s a two-year bill that is currently being amended, according to Mullin’s office.
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