Proposed Highway 1 sign illustration
The state transportation agency suggest a series of illuminated signs in the area to allow drivers to understand traffic conditions on the road ahead. Illustration courtesy Caltrans.

Caltrans officials were surprised Thursday evening as their virtual meeting to discuss potential improvements to Highway 1 drew quite a crowd and some local opposition.

The project would feature six wireless detection systems to send real-time traffic data to a center in Oakland that would inform five “variable message signs” protected by guardrails along Highway 1. The illuminated signs would display travel times to destinations ahead. Some vehicle maintenance pullouts and associated service and controller cabinets are also proposed.

The signs are planned for five Highway 1 intersections. Looking northbound, signs are planned for Seymour Street in Half Moon Bay and just south of Moss Beach. Looking southbound, signs would go at Coral Reef Road in El Granada, Clarinada Avenue in Daly City and near Reina del Mar Avenue in Pacifica.

Project Manager Nandini Shridhar said the improvements are aimed at providing current roadway information so drivers can make real-time decisions upstream and take appropriate detours, such as Highway 92.

“This project is intended to benefit the traveling public and the community in that it will enable traffic to move more smoothly along the corridor, especially in incidents when a two-way highway like Highway 1 could be closed or heavily congested,” Shridhar said.

Caltrans District 4 representative Mark Powers explained that the project gained priority for Caltrans after a similar one was completed on Highway 50 on the way to South Lake Tahoe. Leaders at Caltrans hoped it could be applied to other areas typically affected by visitors during high-traffic times.

“That's how this project got priority,” Powers said. “They saw the success and affordability on Highway 50.”

Funding for constructing the $2.5 million project is committed, Shridhar said, but how to cover costs for ongoing maintenance is still to be determined. The project is estimated to be completed by June 2023.

The meeting drew dozens of public comments and questions, many of which couldn’t be addressed in the allotted hour. The public comment period for this first environmental review stage of the project is open until Sept. 13, and comments should be sent to nina.hofmarcher@dot.ca.gov. Members of the public, including Half Moon Bay City Councilman Harvey Rarback, were most worried about maintaining views and the Coastside’s rural character, particularly with regard to the size of the 5-by-12-foot signs.

“They are not consistent with the coastal feeling the council has worked toward,” Rarback said.

Planners said they chose the signs because they are small and tried to choose the locations to minimize visual impact. Some of the aesthetics, engineer Hung Do said, like the guardrails and sign size, are limited by safety requirements.

“I think that those are the smallest signs we can get that people can still read traveling at those speeds,” Do said.

Lindsay Vivian, who worked to prepare the environmental document for the project, said comments and questions are welcome through the end of September as they further refine the project design. She also noted that visual impact issues will be addressed again during the Coastal Development Permit process. Additional details about the project are available on the Midcoast Community Council’s website at midcoastcommunitycouncil.org. r

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