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:
The Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (SFDB) Rehabilitation Project consists of several physical modifications to the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor between Highway 101 and Ross and repaving the entire roadway in the unincorporated area of Marin County and the City of Larkspur. The funding source for the project, Measure A (Marin County Transportation) Road Rehabilitation funds, are dedicated to repaving the entire roadway segment and constructing associated, mandated improvements such as ADA improvements. A detailed planning process facilitated the consideration of additional improvements in the corridor. Opportunities analysis by Department of Public Works and the consultant team, along with extensive public outreach, resulted in identification of several potential corridor improvements to address the community’s concerns regarding traffic congestion, safety and the movement of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists along and across the congested corridor.
The additional improvements include modification to the configuration and geometry of several intersections, replacement of traffic signal controls with modern equipment, widening sidewalks and improving roadway crossings for pedestrians, and installation of additional conduits to enable future adaptive signal technology and other fiber optic communications. A separately-funded pipeline replacement project by Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) has also been incorporated into the project as construction of the two projects together is more cost-efficient, less disruptive, and less environmentally impactful than being constructed separately.
The Board of Supervisors certified the project’s Environmental Impact Report and approved a final project for design and construction on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. For information on the EIR and project elements, read the staff report and click here for a summary of project from presentation. The project will now move into design phase, with construction tentatively planned for Spring/Summer of 2019 and 2020. Visit the project website for further information and to sign up for updates.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission awarded a Program for Arterial System Synchronization (PASS) grant to Caltrans, Larkspur, and County of Marin for a signal synchronization project on Sir Francis Drake (SFD) in Larkspur, Greenbrae, and Kentfield. Project area includes the SFD improvement project area (101 to town of Ross) plus 2 lights on East SFD by Larkspur Landing. The Program will update current signal timing to reflect current traffic counts and patterns. The new timing schedule will also provide a baseline for development of the ultimate timing for the modern traffic signals being installed with the SFD Improvement project.
The Project will study and synchronize 11 traffic signals, 9 in County and 2 in Larkspur. Caltrans will review the study, which analyses 2 of its signals located near 101 access ramps. It's currently in early planning stages, requiring analysis of traffic data and determining viable improvement strategies. The grant is roughly $84,000 to help fund coordination of 3 agencies to improve traffic signal timing. It covers 85% of retiming work and half of related GPS clock infrastructure improvements in the estimated $98,000 project. Local funding (approx. $15,000) will be split by County and Larkspur in proportion to number of signals under its jurisdiction (roughly $12,500 and $2,800).
Implementation is anticipated to begin Spring 2019 and completed by summer 2019. Click here to read the press release.
The eastbound third land on the Richmond- San Rafael bridge is now open! The added lane is available from 2 to 7 p.m. every day of the week, allowing Caltrans to retain a shoulder for maintenance work during other times of the day. Twenty overhead signs on the span show a green arrow or red “X” to indicate whether the lane is open and a yellow “X” and arrow during the transition. Cameras to watch traffic on the span also have been added. Drivers should not be in the lane during off hours and face citations from the California Highway Patrol if there’s a violation. Traffic congestion has significantly lessened since the lane opened on April 20, 2018.
A four year pilot for a multi-use path for bike and pedestrians with a movable barrier (with no plan to move barrier except for maintenance) is in planning for upper deck. Usage will be monitored. At request of Marin County Board of Supervisors, Bay Area Transit Authority is currently exploring idea/feasibility of adding travel lane during limited hours in AM by moving the barrier.
Visit the project page on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission website for more information.
SB 1 & ACA 5 – Transportation Funding, Reform and Protection Plan
In spring 2017, the State Senate and Assembly passed SB 1 (Beall), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The $5.2 billion generated annually for California’s state and local transportation system ensures that Californians have safe and reliable streets, roads and bridges and a solid transportation network. Both houses also passed ACA 5, which ensures that revenues generated by SB 1 are spent only on their intended purpose. This action provides significant public benefit for transportation in every county across California, Marin included.
Statewide, cities and counties 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. There is no sunset, and funding grows with inflation. Marin’s average annual share of new funding from SB 1 is $5,300,000 over the next decade.
Counties can 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:
- Gas and diesel excise taxes and diesel sales tax began in November 2017
- Transportation improvement fee began 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 ensures that all of these revenue 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.
In the News
Marin transportation board seeks third westbound lane for Richmond-San Rafael bridge traffic (Marin IJ, January 2019)
Sir Francis Drake traffic light timing aims to ease gridlock (Marin IJ, September 2018)
Marin Supervisors green light Sir Francis Drake overhaul (Marin IJ, May 2018)
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Rehab Progresses (Press Release, May 2018)
It's done - third lane on Richmond-San Rafael Bridge open for business (Marin IJ, April 2018)
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Third Lane Set to Open (Marin IJ, April 2018)
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: November 14, 2018