The San Mateo City Council is seeking nearly $1 million from local transportation officials to undertake projects aimed at improving bicycle and pedestrian safety.
The council will meet Monday, Jan. 4, to consider applying for funds to support a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge across Highway 101 on Hillsdale Boulevard as well as a road diet along a portion of San Mateo Drive to create bike lanes — two projects outlined in the city’s plans to promote safety and encourage commuters to ditch their vehicles.
“Our Pedestrian and Bicycle master plans that we approved a couple years ago are a step in the right direction,” said Deputy Mayor David Lim. “I’m happy we’re considering funding sources outside of our general fund to address some of these improvements.”
The San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which allocates revenue from the voter-approved half-cent sales tax Measure A, has issued a call for bicycle and pedestrian projects on which to spend up to $4.9 million, according to a city staff report.
San Mateo officials have long discussed creating a bridge across Highway 101 that would allow pedestrians and bicyclists traveling on Hillsdale Boulevard to avoid vehicles merging on and off the freeway. The bridge would run parallel but separate from Hillsdale Boulevard and comes with a hefty price tag. Although a final design hasn’t been chosen, preliminary construction estimates range between $20 million and $30 million, said Public Works Director Brad Underwood.
“I think it’s important not only to encourage alternative transportation, but to make our roadways and sidewalks safer for everyone. The 101 overpass has always been flagged as a dangerous portion of Hillsdale,” Lim said. “It’s definitely an area we want to address.”
The city is seeking $800,000 to continue the design and right-of-way phases of the large overcrossing project. While the city has already received about $1.3 million from the TA to work on the initial project phases, officials estimate the total cost of these initial phases as well as designing the project and securing right-of-way space will be about $9.8 million, according to the report.
Various city commission and community meetings have been held to discuss the design alternatives for the bridge that is the only crossing over Highway 101 between 19th Avenue about 2 miles to the north and in Belmont about 2.5 miles to the south.
The city is considering holding a design competition for firms to submit their proposals before a final one is chosen, ideally sometime in the next six months, Underwood said. Once a design is solidified, the city will have a better sense of the construction costs, Underwood said.
If awarded the Measure A funds for the design and right-of-way phase, the city will seek to leverage the money while applying for alternate grants — such as seeking $8.91 million from the Caltrans Active Transportation Program Cycle 3 next spring, according to the report.
The city plans on spending more of its own funds to take on the San Mateo Drive improvements that include a road diet between Peninsula and Poplar avenues. It’s seeking an additional $200,000 from the TA to support the increased construction cost estimates, which in today’s dollars have reached $1.6 million, according to a staff report.
The improvements would include converting the existing four-lane street into a three-lane street — with one lane for each direction of traffic and a two-way left turn lane down the center. It would add bike lanes as well as additional bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, such as high visibility crosswalks and curb extensions, throughout the corridor.
San Mateo could be more competitive for this lesser amount as grants typically require a 10 percent matching fund commitment yet the city has already allocated $1 million toward the development of the project, according to the report.
Resolutions supporting both grant applications are on the council’s consent calendar and are due by Jan. 15, according to the reports.
In other business, the council will also be considering a range of new policies to kick off its first meeting in 2016.
• Officials will join many others throughout the region by discussing the possibility of entering into a joint powers agreement to participate in the San Mateo County Community Choice Energy Program.
The local community choice aggregation allows local municipalities to pool their energy demands and purchase electricity from renewable sources instead of relying on Pacific Gas and Electric.
As an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, participating in the program is estimated to offset 23,720 metric tons of carbon dioxide in San Mateo — which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the city’s goals outlined in its Climate Action Plan, according to a staff report.
Mayor Joe Goethals has served as the city’s representative on the advisory committee and said he’s extremely excited by the program that could greatly promote sustainability initiatives in San Mateo.
While Lim agreed it’s important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he expressed some concerns as to whether the city could opt out at a later date if the program ends up increasing local residents’ electricity bills.
• San Mateo will consider amending its municipal code to clarify that people are not allowed to sleep or live out of their vehicles.
In a response to a recent appellate court decision concerning the city of Los Angeles, the amendment wouldn’t change existing policies, but clarify language so the local regulation passes constitutional muster, according to a staff report.
• The council will consider amending the design guidelines for taller buildings lining El Camino Real between Ninth and 43rd avenues.
The new design criteria would cover new building projects between 40 and 55 feet tall on lots more than 100 feet deep. The guidelines would not increase allowable building heights, but provide more specific criteria for staff and officials to evaluate new development proposals.
The City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, at City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., San Mateo. Visit www.cityofsanmateo.org for more information about the upcoming meeting.
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