SMCTA Highway Program Has $28 Million Surplus

Woodside Road and Broadway Avenue will both be widened, and flyover ramps connecting to Veterans Boulevard will be constructed for $142 million. Image: City of Redwood City

The San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) has received applications from only 5 of the county’s 20 cities for funds from the agency’s Measure A Highway Program this year. SMCTA issued a call for projects in October, announcing that $75 million is available for expanding or maintaining highways and major roadways in San Mateo County. The SMCTA itself is a co-applicant along with the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) for $22 million to widen 14 miles of Highway 101 to ten lanes with toll lanes.

The applications, due November 20, total $46.8 million in funding requests. Since the total funding requests are less than the amount of highway funds available, all six projects are expected to be awarded the money by the SMCTA Board in early 2018.

SMCTA staff report that the resulting $28 million surplus will be included in a 2018 Measure A Highway Program call for projects. Still, it’s odd to see such low interest in highway expansion projects.

In 2015 the agency’s Measure A Highway Program call for projects offered $125 million up for grabs, and doled out $108 million for eight interchanges along Highway 101. SMCTA rejected all the projects that proposed reducing highway traffic congestion by providing alternatives to driving such as the pedestrian bridge component of the reconstructed Highway 101 and Holly Street Interchange, active transportation improvements in Belmont’s Ralston Avenue Corridor Plan, and  the extension of Railroad Avenue under Highway 101 in South San Francisco.

This year, $22 million will go mostly to the design of a new 14-mile segment of Highway 101 widened to ten lanes with new toll lanes, a project co-led by SMCTA, C/CAG, and Caltrans. The estimated cost ballooned from $300 million just six months ago to $534 million in November. All the agencies are “full speed ahead” seeking the remaining hundreds of millions of dollars in construction funding needed. If all goes according to plan, the new toll lanes will open in 2024.

Redwood City requested $20 million for its massive reconstruction of the interchange at Highway 101 and Woodside Road, now projected to cost a whopping $142 million. That project has thus far secured $8 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), awarded by the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) in October. $28 million down, $114 million to go.

The next largest request was far less, $2.07 million for the planning phase for “direct connectors” – new flyover High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) ramps connecting Highways 101 and 92 and their interchange in San Mateo. The grant will fund the Caltrans Project Initiation Document (PID) phase, which is then followed by the environmental, design, and construction phases. The city estimates construction costs will be between $40 million and $93 million for the favored alternatives. San Mateo also requested $630,000 for the PID phase of a separate project to widen an on-ramp and realign several off-ramps at the interchange “to reduce delay and congestion during peak hours.”

The City of Pacifica requested $1.2 million for the “Preliminary Planning” and PID phases of a project to widen the Manor Drive Bridge over Highway 1 from four to six lanes. Somehow by widening the roadway the city hopes to “alleviate the peak hour traffic congestion and improve vehicular as well as bicycle and pedestrian safety.”

South San Francisco requested $630,000, also for the Preliminary Planning and PID of phases of a long-awaited project to extend Railroad Avenue under Highway 101, connecting the east and west sides of the city with a new underpass. The city promises to include “accommodating facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians” in the underpass.

Menlo Park made the smallest request, $250,000 for adaptive traffic signal timing on Bayfront Expressway, Willow Road, and Marsh Road to carry more peak-hour vehicle traffic on those roadways. The request was prompted by longer traffic jams and neighborhood cut-through traffic caused by the reconstruction of the Willow Road/Highway 101 Interchange.