While City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) and other county officials officially say all the options included in the San Mateo 101 Managed Lanes Project Environmental Impact Report (EIR) are still on the table, the agency’s State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) budget indicates they’ve already privately decided to widen the highway from eight to ten lanes.
Transit advocates have urged the agency to convert existing lanes on Highway 101 to Express Lanes, arguing that the savings in cost will enable the funding of more transit service, taking more cars off the highway than C/CAG’s favored ten-lane widening.
According to the agency’s October 12 Board of Directors report, C/CAG is proposing to pour $34.5 million into the Highway 101 Express Lanes project, out of $48 million available from STIP over the next five years. But when the agency plans to spend the money – in 2018 and 2019 – is a dead giveaway that widening Highway 101 is already being carried out. Extensive costs for acquiring private land being budgeted so soon means that converting existing lanes to Express Lanes – which doesn’t require any right-of-way acquisition – isn’t really being considered by agency officials.
“The proposed funding in the 2018 STIP is an early commitment to fund the right of way capital and contribute funds towards the construction phase, in an effort to leverage other grants.” – C/CAG Executive Director Sandy Wong, October 12, 2017
C/CAG’s guiding principle has long been to favor highway expansion over investment in transportation alternatives, the agency’s San Mateo Countywide Transportation Plan 2040, adopted February 2017, being the most recent major example. But the agency’s Board of Directors will not “formally” decide between (a) widening to ten lanes with new Express Lanes and (b) converting existing lanes to Express Lanes until Fall 2018, when the Highway 101 Managed Lanes Project Final EIR is published.