Half Moon Bay planning officials put the brakes on a series of Highway 1 improvements last week after a chorus of citizens complained the project was moving forward too quickly.
Dubbed by one attendee as the “largest infrastructure project in Coastside history,” the Highway 1 proposal would drastically alter the city’s main thoroughfare. The plan would add three crossing signals, various sections of new traffic lanes and a further extension of the adjacent trail for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Those renovations were a lot to swallow for attendees at the meeting, who questioned why such a large capital project was being brought before the city’s new planning director for a decision. The hearing was held at the Ted Adcock Community / Senior Center on June 19, before the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.
The proposal would install new traffic signals at Poplar Street, Roosevelt Boulevard and Terrace Avenue — the last spot being a lightning rod of land-use politics for local residents. Those same sections would also be widened to four traffic lanes with other areas of the highway expanded to include a center turn lane. The trail extensions would add new swaths to the Naomi Patridge Trail, pushing it north to Mirada Road and, on the southern end, to Miramontes Point Road.
“You don’t approve something like this at the director level,” said Half Moon Bay resident Dana Kimsey. “This project was way too big and presented too many questions.”
Acquiescing to public demand, Interim Planning Director Pat Webb postponed making a decision herself on the plan, and she agreed to instead bring it next month to the Planning Commission.
But she insisted the planning director-led hearing was the appropriate venue to review the Highway 1 package because it was seeking only a coastal development permit. Projects requiring multiple approvals must go before the Planning Commission.
The notion that the Highway 1 project was racing through approval is just not accurate, city officials say. In their report, a city planner pointed out the improvements were part of an 8-year-old traffic study already approved by the City Council and Planning Commission. The highway improvements project came forward last week because city officials wanted to get a CDP in hand so they would have a better shot at competitive grants through the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.
The city staff reports did not give an estimate of the total cost of the project. The 2004 traffic study reportedly pegged the cost at $17 million.
Webb said the city could lose out on this year’s round of transportation funding now that the project is being delayed. But she admitted that the postponement would give her more time to research the background of the project.
“People were fearful of approving the entire thing,” Webb said.
Webb said she would consider one suggestion from the audience — to split the bike trail extension and the highway upgrades into two separate projects. That could make individual aspects of the project more palatable to the public, she said.
“It’s clear there’s a whole lot more support for the bike trails than for the traffic lanes or the signals,” she said. “It sounded like it would be easier for the public to digest if they were split.”
No date has been set for the Planning Commission to review the project.