COMMISSION MEETING DATE: December 15, 2009
ITEM TITLE: CONSIDER RECOMMENDING THE TOP TIER OF ALTERNATIVES TO THE CITY COUNCIL FOR IMPROVING ACCESS TO AND FROM US 101 VIA HOLLY STREET
Recommend two alternatives as the top tier to be further evaluated in a Project Study Report:
1) The Baseline Project (PAMF Mitigations) enhanced as follows (Attachment 2):
- Instead of a partial widening of Holly Street, provide a dedicated left turn lane eastbound at the intersection of Holly Street and Industrial Road.
- Enhanced striping, pavement markings, and signs to better indicate the presence of parking during non-peak hours.
- Addition of a bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing to improve safety for crossing the freeway ramps at the southeast quadrant of the Holly Street/US 101 interchange.
2) Alternative D (Optimized use of existing curb to curb width on Holly Street plus full conversion to a partial cloverleaf interchange), enhanced to include the bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing described above (Attachment 3).
Additionally, staff recommends pursuing the bicycle boulevard shown on Alternative C, which is compatible with the two alternatives described above (Attachment 10).
The existing revenue stream from the Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee should be sufficient to fund the enhanced Baseline Project, which is estimated to cost on the order of $5 Million. This alterative eliminates the partial widening of Holly Street, which was estimated at $600,000, but adds the bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing, which would cost on the order of $900,000. The overall cost estimate is comparable to the existing costs. Because the bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing is needed to address a safety issue in the baseline project, it is appropriate to include it in the Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee.
Alternative D is estimated to cost on the order of $9 Million, an additional $4 million above the enhanced Baseline Project. (Attachment 9) Although significant, this difference is less than the cost of a separate bicycle/pedestrian bridge over US 101, which would be on the order of $10 Million. The additional cost would need to be funded by state, federal or local grants. Because project readiness is a key criterion to obtain grant funds, it makes sense to include this alternative in the studies that will be done to modify the freeway interchange for the enhanced Baseline Project. There is a relatively small incremental cost to add this alternative to the studies, and the engineering work could result in receiving significant grant funds.
The bicycle boulevard shown on Alternative C is estimated cost on the order of $600,000. This would be far less than the cost of widening Holly Street to include bicycle lanes, which would be on the order of $2 Million. Because it addresses an existing gap in bikeway facilities leading to transit, employment centers, and recreational trails, it should be competitive for upcoming grant opportunities. There are several potential grant sources, including the new Measure A program, funded by the San Mateo County 1/2 cent sales tax for transportation. A call for bicycle/pedestrian projects is expected early in 2010, and the project should be competitive once it is included in an updated Bicycle Transportation Plan.
What is the problem to be solved?
The basic problem is to improve the streets, intersections and freeway ramps which are used to access US 101 via Holly Street to avoid an unacceptable level of congestion as traffic increases due to anticipated growth. Solving the problem requires that connected and safe routes for pedestrians and bicyclists be provided, because the General Plan concludes that it is only possible to avoid unacceptable traffic congestion by shifting 20% of motor vehicle trips to other modes of transportation. The General Plan estimates that an additional 51,052 motor vehicle trips will be added to the City of San Carlos’ street network by the year 2030, with 3,857 trips added during the AM peak hour and 5,062 trips added during the PM peak hour. The San Carlos Center of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) is estimated to generate 882 trips during the AM peak hour and 1,021 trips during the PM peak hour, each about 20% of the total new trips anticipated in the General Plan. The PAMF project was the impetus for a Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee program, initiated in 2008. The Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee program will fund $5 Million of improvements to Holly Street and the Holly Street/US 101 interchange.
What has been learned from the alternatives analysis?
- No feasible alternatives were identified to add capacity at the intersection of Holly Street with Old County Road and El Camino Real.
- The existing capacity of the intersection of Holly Street with Old County Road and El Camino Real is the limiting factor on accessing US 101 via Holly Street.
- Adding travel lanes to Holly Street between Old County Road and Industrial Road would not add capacity to the street system for accessing US 101 via Holly Street.
- It is not necessary to widen Holly Street to avoid an unacceptable level of congestion at the intersection of Holly Street and Industrial Road.
- The existing pedestrian/bicycle problems are significant and would be made worse by the PAMF mitigations, unless other solutions are developed.
- A bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing at the southeast quadrant of the Holly Street/US 101 interchange is a feasible solution to address safety issues for bicycles and pedestrians at that location.
- One-way traffic schemes would have unacceptable impacts.
- A roundabout at the intersection of Holly Street and Industrial Road would have unacceptable impacts.
- A full conversion of the Holly Street/US 101 interchange to a partial cloverleaf would reduce congestion, benefit traffic safety and enhance bicycle/pedestrian routes.
- A bicycle boulevard on East San Carlos Avenue would be a feasible solution to address an existing gap in east-west bicycle facilities.
For additional detail, see Attachment 1.
Will anyone’s homes or businesses be negatively impacted by the preferred alternatives?
The only widening affecting private property for the enhanced Baseline Project or Alternative D would be to add a second through lane on Industrial Road northbound at Holly Street. No widening would be required in the residential portion of Holly Street.
Will the environment be negatively impacted by the preferred alternatives?
The final Alternatives Comparison Matrix found that Alternative D would be comparable to the Baseline Project in terms of environmental impacts. The Baseline Project was included in the 2030 General Plan, and the Environmental Impact Report for the General Plan did not find significant impacts associated with the project. A more detailed environmental review will be performed after the Project Study Report is complete.
What are the next steps?
The next step in the project is to prepare a Project Study Report for the preferred alternatives, which is the formal process for initiating a project affecting a state highway. The PSR will take the sketch plans used for alternatives analysis to a more detailed level of engineering, and Caltrans will be heavily involved in the process. Preliminary cost estimates will be prepared, environmental issues identified, and compliance with Caltrans standards will be checked. The PSR itself includes an alternatives analysis process, although that should be streamlined, given the extensive alternatives analysis that has already been done by the City of San Carlos. The results of the PSR will be brought back to the Transportation and Circulation Commission and the City Council for approval.
Following the PSR, a Project Report will be prepared concurrent with an environmental report. City Council, Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration approval is needed on these documents prior to programming any federal or state funds. This phase is referred to as Project Approval/Environmental Documents (PA/ED).
After project approval/environmental documents, the final design will be prepared, right of way will be acquired, and agreements will be made for implementing the project.
How long will it take before any improvements are actually completed?
Seven or eight years would be a typical timeframe between beginning a Project Study Report and actually starting construction of an interchange modification. The PSR can require up to two years, the Project Approval/Environmental Documents can require three or four years, and the final design phase can take up to two years. The City of San Carlos would like to reduce that timeframe significantly, but each of those phases will require at least one year. A detailed schedule for implementing the project will be prepared as part of the PSR.
What can be done in the short term to improve traffic flow in the Holly Street corridor?
Improvements are being planned in the short term to improve traffic signal operations eastbound on Holly Street at Industrial Road. Often, only three or four vehicles get through on a green light in this direction, even though many vehicles are backed up waiting to go east. This is referred to as a “dropped call”, and the Caltrans traffic engineer who maintains the signal said that this occurs as gaps in traffic develop, particularly as vehicles exit the driveway from Holly Gas. This problem can be corrected by installing an “advance loop detector” which senses the presence of vehicles approaching the intersection. Installation of an advance loop detector has been authorized and should be completed in the next three months.
It would make sense to enhance the striping, pavement marking and signs on Holly Street between Old County Road and Industrial Road to better indicate the presence of parking during non-peak hours. This should be done when Holly Street is next resurfaced.
Heavy trucks could be diverted off of Holly Street. The City’s commercial vehicle ordinance is due for an update, and this ordinance will be brought before the Transportation and Circulation Commission in 2010.
Bicycle and pedestrian improvements along Old County Road are in progress. Curb ramps were recently installed using federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A grant has been obtained to install Class II bike lanes between the Redwood City limits and Bransten Road. A grant application is pending to properly implement the Class III bike route from Bransten Road to the Belmont City limits. Additional pedestrian improvements are being considered for funding through an available Transit-Oriented Development grant; these improvements would include properly designed curb ramps at the intersection of Old County Road and Holly Street.
Additional signs along El Camino Real could encourage drivers to access US 101 via Brittan Avenue instead of Holly Street when appropriate. The City/County Association of Government is implementing a project called the “Smart Corridor” project. It would provide electronic signs directing drivers to and from El Camino Real during a closure of US 101. The electronic signs could be designed to direct drivers to Brittan Avenue during non-emergency conditions.
At Brittan Avenue and Old County Road, a simple striping change would improve traffic flow. On Brittan Avenue in the westbound direction, the right lane must turn right, but that is not a heavy traffic movement. By changing the right turn lane to a right/through lane, a small amount of additional capacity would be added, providing a slight relief to the Holly Street corridor.
How much will the improvements actually cost?
At this point, cost information is at the accuracy of a rough order of magnitude – an approximation of costs based on past projects. During the Project Study Report, a preliminary engineering design will be prepared, allowing for a more detailed cost estimate. During Final Design, that cost estimate will be further refined. Actual costs will be highly dependent on the bidding climate when the project is constructed.
Why not study all of the alternatives in a Project Study Report?
The engineering costs to perform a Project Study Report are significant. The consulting fees and schedule can be kept to a minimum by limiting the number of alternatives.
Could the improvements be completed in phases?
Yes, it would be possible to complete the improvements in phases. However, no congestion relief will be achieved until the interchange is modified. Because of the lengthy process to obtain approval for an interchange modification project, it makes sense to complete the improvements in one phase.
Alternative I includes a bicycle/pedestrian path in the Holly Street median over US 101. Could this alternative work without the roundabout at the intersection of Holly Street and Industrial Road?
No. The roundabout and the median island were combined into one alternative because the roundabout eliminates the need for left turn lanes on Holly Street westbound at Industrial Road. There isn’t enough width in the existing roadway to accommodate the left turn lanes and the
Is the City of San Carlos obligated to take action at this point?
Because bonds have been issued by the San Carlos Redevelopment Agency, the City of San Carlos is obligated to diligently pursue the improvements. The City Council has set a due date of February 1, 2010 to consider a recommendation from the Transportation and Circulation Commission on improving ingress and egress from US 101 via Holly Street. The City Council could choose to extend its internal deadline, but the City could not stop working on the project.
When will the public have an opportunity to comment on the plans again?
When the Project Study Report in drafted, it will be brought back to the Transportation and Circulation Commission and the City Council for approval. This should be about one year after the City Council selects the top alternatives to be further evaluated in a PSR and authorizes consultant services.
1) Recommend that an enhanced Baseline Project and an enhanced Alternative D be further evaluated in a Project Study Report and that grant funds be sought for the difference in costs. Additionally, recommend that Alternative C be included in the Bicycle Transportation Plan and that grant funds be sought to implement it.
2) Alternative I would be the next best alternative to be evaluated in a Project Study Report.
3) Other alternatives could be further evaluated.
Robert Weil, P.E. Public Works Director/City Engineer
1) Report on what has been learned from the Alternatives Analysis
2) Sketch of enhanced Baseline Project
3) Sketch of enhanced Alternative D
4) Report describing bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing
5) Paper on roundabouts
6) Letter from Vikram Singh
7) Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Bicycle Technical Guidelines
8) Letter from Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
9) Final Alternatives Comparison Matrix
10) Sketch of Alternative C
11) Raised Intersection fact sheet