All San Rafael stakeholders must have a say in the highway connector project for 101-580 – Marin Independent Journal


Addressing serious road safety and congestion issues in San Rafael is currently not part of the Transportation Authority of Marin’s plan to link Highways 101 and 580.

There are plans to reduce the evening backup on the 101 by redirecting traffic on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Larkspur to a new junction from the 101 northbound to the 580 eastbound at San Rafael .

Unfortunately, this does not solve long-standing problems, including saving the daily traffic from Bellam Boulevard to 101 and 580. This is not only an inconvenience, but also a recipe for collisions.

The lack of access for 15,000 people living in the southeast of San Rafael, including the canal district, is a major public safety problem. Highways 101 and 580 are a barrier for 25% of the population of San Rafael. Marin County neighborhoods and core businesses would be cut off in a 100-year flood. The problem is further exacerbated by the rising waters.

The solution is to prepare a 101-580 corridor plan now and get the required environmental approvals. This would create “off the shelf” projects allowing final design and construction to proceed in phases as funding is identified. The end goal is to accelerate the realization of the necessary improvements, which saves millions of dollars, decades and lives.

The typical process of fragmenting individual projects results in a series of long deadlines, high costs and inefficiencies. This partly explains why it is four times more expensive to carry out similar infrastructure projects in the United States compared to the European Union, according to a recent study by the Brookings Institute.

A stakeholder-focused corridor plan would solve the problems that have plagued central Marin and the region for decades. This will also ensure that a direct connector does not harm and is coordinated with future enhancements.

Those with the plans get the money. Accelerating the environmental planning and approval process could make Corridor 101-580 eligible for funding from the $ 1.2 trillion federal infrastructure funding program. Route 580 westbound across the bridge and through San Rafael is already recognized as a regional transport priority.

The nonprofit Resilient Shore project presented a possible solution. This would move all of San Rafael’s 580 southeast accesses away from Bellam Boulevard to a new interchange midway between 101 and the bridge. The existing 101-Bellam access would remain unchanged.

The idea is a “moonshot” for solving difficult problems. If it works, it would be a game-changer for San Rafael and the region. It has the potential to eliminate the backup on 101 and 580 and provide better access to South East San Rafael and the services we all depend on.

TAM presented its preliminary connector alternatives during a study session of the San Rafael City Council on November 15. City council and community participants provided feedback to TAM on the various ramp alternatives, including recommendations for the elimination of those perceived to be too expensive and having significant negative environmental impacts. . San Rafael’s guiding principles for the project were also presented to aid in the selection of preferred alternatives.

Residents of southeastern San Rafael continue to voice concerns about emergency access to their neighborhoods and daily traffic jams in Bellam. They want to be included in future discussions as stakeholders. District 1 council member Maika Llorens Gulati asked for information on the current traffic count and a rationale for why alternatives to Larkspur are not being considered.

It was gratifying to hear the recommendation from board member Eli Hill and TAM’s decision to prepare a proof of concept for the San Rafael Southeast Interchange proposal. It is unusual for a transport agency to fairly consider a popular proposal. He shows an open mind and a desire to solve difficult problems. Since TAM is at the very beginning of the planning process, a proof of concept for this new interchange will be inexpensive and timely.

Let us seize this rare opportunity to coordinate the planning of our highways and local roads with a south-eastern plan of the San Rafael canal, as well as a plan of adaptation of the banks and watersheds. These are proposed in the general plan 2040 of San Rafael.

Let’s do the right thing and do the long-term planning first. The direct connector can be built as the first phase as promised to voters.

Jeffrey Rhoads is Executive Director of Resilient Shore.

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