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SamTrans Dumbarton Plan Pushes Highway Expansions, Blocks Bike Path

SamTrans owns the Dumbarton Rail Bridge that crosses San Francsico Bay just south of Highway 84. Photo: SamTrans

While the Dumbarton Corridor Study released last week by the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) proposes a set of ambitious bus and rail service improvements to ferry commuters over the Dumbarton Bridge, it also pushes massive highway traffic expansion projects, and blocks a ped/bike path favored by the local community and Facebook officials. SamTrans is still stuck in the same “build our way out of congestion” traffic management strategy that’s only been effective in inducing even more demand for driving. New interchanges with massive new flyover ramps are proposed at the three Bayfront Expressway intersections in Menlo Park (University Ave, Willow Rd, and Marsh Rd) and planners want a car traffic tunnel under Willow Road from Bayfront to Highway 101.

Bayfront Expressway would be built into a double-decker freeway over these intersections and over Chilco Street where a traffic-separated walking and bicycling path connects to the San Francisco Bay Trail. Higher volumes of rush-hour car traffic could then pass over all the traffic signals on Bayfront without stopping. While SamTrans claims these “improvements” are meant to speed up buses and carpools, solo drivers would also cram into the new ramps and overpasses. On top of inducing more motorized traffic, the new interchanges and tunnels will create new barriers to walking and bicycling here, where a popular segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail runs.

Proposed highway interchange at Bayfront Expressway & University Avenue. Image: SamTrans

The study lumps together the costs of these ramps and interchanges with alternatives to construct express lanes on the Dumbarton Bridge, so the “freeway-izing” of Bayfront Expressway can’t be evaluated separately from the transit improvements. Including highway expansions and express lanes for buses and carpools, SamTrans estimates $1.1 billion in capital costs; adding rail service over the Dumbarton Rail Bridge brings the price tag up to $2 billion.

SamTrans planners want to secure funding for an expansion of the Marsh Road & HIghway 101 interchange with new flyover ramps. Image: SamTrans

SamTrans is also trying to bury a proposal for a 4.6-mile multi-use trail from Redwood City to University Avenue in Menlo Park favored by Facebook, ironically the study’s funder. Staff claim that pedestrian overcrossing bridges are needed at Marsh Rd, Willow Rd, and University Ave, ballooning costs to $60 million. At least two-thirds of that could be cut if traffic signals were installed instead.

The study rejects such a multi-use rail trail on the grounds that it will take up too much space and leave too little for the construction of a new two-lane street along the tracks from Highway 101 to University Avenue. Bus-only lanes are supposed to zip commuters between destinations in Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View by bypassing congested conditions on the area’s other streets. But the Dumbarton rail right-of-way is 100 feet wide, plenty of space to run two tracks, two bus lanes, and a 12-foot wide path for walking and bicycling.

The draft Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study will be reviewed at the following public meetings before a final version is approved by the SamTrans Board of Directors in October.

Wednesday, August 16 6:30 pm
East Palo Alto City Hall Community Room
2415 University Avenue, East Palo Alto

Thursday, August 17 7:00 pm
County of San Mateo Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
San Mateo City Hall
330 W 20th Avenue, San Mateo

Thursday, August 24 7:00 pm
North Fair Oaks Community Council
Fair Oaks Community Center
2600 Middlefield Road, Redwood City

Tuesday, August 22 7:00 pm
Menlo Park City Council
Menlo Park City Hall
701 Laurel Street, Menlo Park

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 pm
Redwood City Complete Streets Advisory Committee
Redwood City Hall
1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City