With a project planned to transform the Highway 101 interchange at Peninsula Avenue, Burlingame officials and community members raised concerns that surrounding neighborhoods may be inundated by traffic.

The Burlingame City Council hosted Matt Zucca, San Mateo’s deputy director of Public Works, during a study session Monday, April 19, to discuss the project.

Zucca was invited to lead the conversation because the project is located in San Mateo’s boundaries, which means Burlingame’s sphere of influence in determining its design is limited, even though the interchange runs along the border of the two cities.

Recognizing that Burlingame officials have no voting power on the project, Councilmember Michael Brownrigg noted his obligation to advocate for members of his community who harbor deep reservations about their quality of life.

“What we are trying to do is deal with a community that feels that if there is a much more robust intersection, by logic, it will bring a lot more traffic,” Brownrigg said.

His comments echoed those raised by residents living in the Lyon Hoag neighborhood who feared the new project would invite drivers to cut through their streets, generating concerns about safety and congestion.

What’s more, some Burlingame residents claim their concerns are being ignored by San Mateo officials who ultimately will be motivated only to accommodate the needs of their own community.

“We are concerned that you have to have this meeting, but in reality, you don’t really care,” resident Lynn Feeney said, who raised fears that drivers will start populating streets surrounding her home once the project is complete.

Zucca assured Burlingame residents their perspectives on the project were being considered, noting that the public comment segment of the environmental review process is intended to give equal consideration to all community members.

The project is intended to relocate the existing Highway 101 southbound on- and off-ramps from East Poplar Avenue to Peninsula Avenue, creating a single, full-access interchange at Peninsula Avenue and Airport Boulevard. Poplar Avenue’s ramps would close, as they do not meet current standards and cause traffic congestion.

San Mateo is moving the southbound ramps to Peninsula Avenue because it has multiple lanes, no parking in sections and has shoulders and bike lanes, all advantages over East Poplar Avenue.

Two different formats have been proposed for the interchange, both of which would require San Mateo to acquire property through eminent domain west of Highway 101. While an alignment has not been selected, the design with a larger footprint could require the city to purchase Bayview Apartment complex at 851 N. Amphlett Blvd.

The three primary partners are San Mateo, the project sponsor, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the funding partner, and Caltrans, responsible for reviewing the environmental process and approving the project. San Mateo will work with Caltrans to select a preferred design and produce a final environmental document, Zucca said.

Zucca said the project is critical to improve traffic flow through the area and accommodate growth in both Burlingame and San Mateo, as well as across the region.

“The Bay Area is really going to be growing and, in our mind, it really deserves the infrastructure it needs to support that kind of travel,” he said.

When discussing projected growth, officials acknowledged that the intersection will be likely used heavily by workers accessing the new Oculus office building located east of Highway 101 in Burlingame.

Looking ahead, Zucca anticipated that a draft environmental impact review will be published in spring of next year, and a final version of the document will be out in fall 2022. The project should be approved late next year.

As the project advances, Mayor Ann O’Brien said she too harbors reservations that traffic backups around the area will encourage drivers to start navigating through residential neighborhoods in search of shortcuts.

For his part, Zucca said if the new intersection is functioning as designed, traffic flow should be eased and there will be no incentive to look for other routes. What’s more, he expressed confidence that the project will be an improvement for the entire area.

“We really do think this is a regional benefit project,” he said.

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