Woodside Interchange Begins Sucking Up Funds

The massive new Woodside Road & Highway 101 interchange will include an extensive network of off-street paths. Image: Caltrans

Redwood City’s massive reconstruction of the Woodside Road and Highway 101 interchange has finally begun the long process of cobbling together grants for land acquisition and construction. The city applied for and has been recommended by San Mateo County transportation officials for $8 million dollars from the 2018 – 2023 State Transportation Improvements Program (STIP). Led by pro-highway county officials, the city is pinning its hopes to reduce traffic congestion on the long-failed strategy of widening the interchange and surrounding roadways with new traffic lanes.

Woodside Road will expand from six to eight lanes under Highway 101 and all the way to Bay Road, consuming a slice of now privately-owned land along its western side including a Denny’s restaurant. The intersection of Woodside and Broadway will grow to a massive nine traffic lanes across Woodside by seven lanes across Broadway. New flyover ramps will connect Veterans Boulevard with both northbound and southbound Highway 101, and new intersections are to be built at Bay Road and Blomquist Street.

The monster interchange reconstruction is now estimated to cost taxpayers a whopping $142 million, a record for any highway interchange project in the county. Just two and a half years ago the public was promised by city officials that it would cost “only” $60 million. Redwood City hopes to pay for the new interchange with $71 million from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) New Measure A Highway Program, $12 million from the county’s share of the state STIP program, $33 million from the federal INFRA grant program, and $25 million from the city’s own budget.

The project’s high costs are a result of its unusually extensive footprint, including not only the two Veterans Boulevard flyover ramps but also five newly rebuilt intersections, and long widened stretches of Woodside Road, Broadway Street, Bay Road, Spring Street, Seaport Drive, and East Bayshore Road. Project planners call most of these “relatively short turn-lane improvements.”

The intersections of Woodside Road with Bay Road and Broadway Streets are to be widened for more car traffic. Broadway will feature a bicycle protected intersection. Image: Caltrans

Such a bloated highway project budget would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the passage of Senate Bill 1 in April 2017 and the likely adoption of Regional Measure 3 in 2018 will create major new sources for highway expansion projects. The city’s most recent report on the Woodside/101 Interchange was published in December 2016 and excludes these new sources.

The city does hold one major advantage over competing projects in its quest to secure funding – a network of off-street multi-use paths built into the interchange. The paths sprawl on both the east and west sides of Woodside Road, including along a rail line, underneath the Veterans Boulevard flyover ramps, and even on the southbound flyover ramp to connect to Charter Street. Bicycle lanes and sidewalks will also adorn the future Woodside Road, although their narrow widths at six feet will remain uninviting to people walking and bicycling to due the proximity of so many traffic lanes.

The design also includes a bicycle protected intersection at the massive Woodside Road and Broadway Street, though the intersection’s long crossing distances create major hazards anyway for people walking and bicycling through it. Redwood City officials haven’t stated how long pedestrians will have to cross the intersection.

Redwood City began studying the expansion of the interchange in the 1990s, with successive studies advocating more lanes and ramps published in 2000 and 2007. Interest in the project among city officials grew as the implementation of city’s 2011 Downtown Precise Plan brought a surge of office and housing development downtown while major land use expansions like Stanford in Redwood City promised to bring even more workers to Broadway Street.

Unfortunately the City Council and staff don’t believe they can accommodate this growth with better transit service and better infrastructure for walking and bicycling. City officials estimate the earliest possible construction of the new Woodside/101 interchange would be from 2020 to 2023 if all the required funding is obtained, a schedule most observers regard as far too optimistic.

  • Isabel

    IF the only NEW lanes were TRANSIT ONLY lanes, then we’d be onto something great!

  • Thomas Mayer

    100 years from now this will be an excellent spot to go fishing…