As we all know and experience nearly daily, traffic volumes are at an all-time high and the ensuing congestion a major frustration for everyone dependent on our local roads to get around. The increase in traffic is impacting our overall quality of life, the environment and challenging our mobility as a community. Traffic volume has grown significantly over the last several years with a robust bay area economy and ensuing job growth (both within Marin and regionally) being the primary drivers. Add to that a booming school age population, meaning more car trips to and from school as well as after-school activities.
And, yes, those of us without children at home are driving more too. The average Marin County household generates 10-12 trips per day now, versus six trips per day when I was growing up. In fact, that six trips per day per household number was used by traffic engineers and city planners to calculate roadway capacity needs going forward when many of our major roadways were expanded in the 60's and 70's.
Addressing today's traffic congestion will take a multi-prong approach including: maximizing the efficiency of existing roadways, reducing the number of cars on the road, and improvements in public transportation, including school bus programs, and programs encouraging biking, walking, carpooling and alternative commute modes.
The good news – there are currently several public agency efforts underway at addressing traffic woes.
See below for more information about these efforts:
Sir Francis Drake Improvement Project
The Sir Francis Drake Improvement Project was launched in spring of last year and the project's aim is to improve efficiency of the roadway and safety for all modes of travel through the Sir Francis Drake Corridor from Ross to 101, with a focus on improving traffic flow and increasing pedestrian safety (e.g. intersections, sidewalks). Importantly, this project will tie into future work on East Sir Francis Drake per improving access to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and increased throughput made possible with the opening of a third lane on the bridge.
County engineers and design team have conducted a comprehensive process which has integrated expertise in engineering and traffic planning with community input, observation, and real world experience. This process has resulted in a list of project components aimed at improving congestion and safety in the corridor that have gone through technical analysis, been publicly vetted and discussed, and refined in response to public comment and concern. Total price tag for all of the improvements is estimated at $19.2 million, while current available funding is $13.2 million. Separate grants or other sources of funding will be sought to implement those improvements that won’t be funded with existing budget.
The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process for the project has begun. By early summer, the various components of the project will be analyzed and a draft EIR prepared for additional public review and discussion, including alternative approaches incorporate or exclude various project components based on public comment. Through the EIR process and alternative scenarios analyzed within it, a hierarchy of projects and their feasibility will evolve which can then be discussed by the Board of Supervisors and community at large to develop the final project components.
Information about the project is currently available on the project website and you can also subscribe for updates.
Preparations and data collection for the EIR process have been under way over the last few months. The first opportunity for public comment will be coming up in December 2016 and January 2017 with the release of the Notice of Preparation (NOP). This will initiate a month-long comment period on the scope of the EIR. A scoping meeting will also be held later during this period to provide the public an additional opportunity to comment on what the environmental analysis should entail.
Richmond-San Rafael Third Lane Project
As we all know and have experienced, traffic backs up regularly from all points connecting 101 to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, thus the pressure on Cal Trans to hurry up the opening of the long dormant third lane (eastbound). I’m happy to report that construction of elements/improvements needed to accommodate third lane will begin this year, clearing the way for a projected December 2017 opening.
The third lane on eastbound I-580 will be open to motorists during the heavily congested weekday evening commute, allowing Caltrans to retain a shoulder for maintenance work during other times of the day. Project elements include:
- Reconfiguring the Main Street on-ramp from the San Quentin Village area of Marin County with a retaining wall to improve the traffic merge with the new lane
- Replacing pavement on the bridge approaches to accommodate heavier traffic loads
- Relocating a retaining wall in Richmond to achieve safe sight distances for vehicles traveling in the new right lane
- Constructing a barrier-separated bike/ped path from Castro Street in Richmond to Point Molate
Visit the project page on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission website for more information.
SB 1 & ACA 5 – Transportation Funding, Reform and Protection Plan
In early April, the State Senate and Assembly passed SB 1 (Beall), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The $5.2 billion that will now be generated annually for California’s state and local transportation system will ensure that Californians have safe and reliable streets, roads and bridges and a solid transportation network. Both houses also passed ACA 5, which upon voter approval will ensure that revenues generated by SB 1 are spent only on their intended purpose. This recent action provides significant public benefit for transportation in every county across California, Marin included.
Statewide, cities and counties will evenly share an average of $1.5 billion/year in new local road funding from SB 1. The funds are non-competitive and will come to the County in monthly disbursements from the State Controller once the gas tax increase takes effect in November 2017. There is no sunset, and funding will grow with inflation. Marin’s average annual share of new funding from SB 1 is $5,300,000 over the next decade.
Counties will also be able to access grant funding from active transportation, congested corridors, and goods movement programs funded by the bill, which also includes significant ongoing funding for transit services and state highway maintenance.
The revenues will be phased-in over a multi-year period:<>/p
- Gas and diesel excise taxes and diesel sales tax begins in November 2017
- Transportation improvement fee begins in Spring 2018
- The price-based excise tax will be reset to 17.3 cents in July 2019
- New Zero Emissions Vehicles will begin to pay an additional registration fee for road maintenance in 2020
ACA 5, which will go to the voters in 2018, ensures that all of these revenues sources are constitutionally-protected and cannot be diverted to non-transportation purposes.
Reducing School Related Traffic Congestion
School related traffic comprises anywhere from 20-40% of a.m. traffic within various communities throughout Marin. It is an obvious target for efforts geared towards reducing local surface street traffic - hence Safe Routes to Schools, Transportation Authority of Marin's crossing guards program and other efforts addressing school related traffic. These programs have been successful, significantly increasing the numbers of students carpooling, biking, walking and riding transit to school, but as school populations have increased so too traffic, and thus efforts to do more. Here's the latest on two projects I have advocated for and are now being implemented by Marin Transit and partners
Looking forward, Marin Transit is closely monitoring the yellow bus pilot as part of the recently completed countywide student transportation study by Marin Transit (in coordination with the Transportation Authority of Marin, the Marin County Office of Education, and the Safe Routes to School program). The study is aimed at increasing "best fit/green trip" transportation solutions for public schools throughout the county. Yellow Bus Service being one tool of many that will play a role in reducing school-related traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and getting kids to school safely, happily, and on time.
McAllister Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project
The Department of Public Works, in coordination with the Kentfield School District Safe Routes Committee, has identified engineering and safety opportunities along McAllister Avenue (adjacent to Bacich School). Phase 1 of the project is fully-funded and consists of a sidewalk gap closure between Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Stadium Way on the east side of McAllister Avenue and a new crosswalk at Stadium Way. This project was completed summer 2016 and reported to be widely used by Kentfield School District students.
Phase 2 of the project is still in development and County will be asking for feedback from the community on the design concepts in Winter/Spring 2017, while also seeking funding opportunities. Project goals include; sidewalk gap closures, correcting sidewalk ponding between Bacich Elementary and Berens Drive, pavement rehabilitation, and sidewalk trip hazards. Click here for project slides from initial public outreach meeting.
In the News
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Lane Addition Project Underway (Marin IJ, January 2017)
Lane Addition Project Underway (Marin IJ, January 2017)
Forum Set on Drake Boulevard (Marin IJ, December 2016)
Richmond-San Rafael third lane plan goes to Caltrans (Marin IJ, Jumly 2016)
Pathway Upgrades coming for Bike Riders, Walkers (press release, July 2016)
Stop by June 1 Open House on Drake Boulevard Project (press release, May 2016)
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Plan reflects community input (Marin Voice, March 2016)
Drake Traffic Forum is a good start (Marin IJ Editorial, March 2016)
Marin Residents give Sir Francis Drake Rehab Project mixed reviews (Marin IJ, March 2016)
Provide Input on Potential Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Improvements (press release, February 2016)
County of Marin Roads – learn about road closures, projects and maintenance; get contact information for questions and complaints, subscribe for updates
Transportation Authority of Marin - information about meetings, events and projects
Marin Transit – information on bus schedules, services, maps
Metropolitan Transportation Commission - information about projects, meetings, opportunities for involvement
Page last updated: April 2017