Nothing elicits a collective gnashing of teeth on the Coastside like our frustration with traffic on daily commutes, during pumpkin season or on those special days when it seems like everybody from the Central Valley needs to escape the heat. This is not a new problem and lots of smart people have tried and failed to make a lasting impact.
So how do you fix it?
Many ideas, big and small, could have an impact. I've heard otherwise reasonable people talk about flying cars, gondolas and expanding Highway 92 to four lanes. They are a mixture of fanciful, far-off, or self-defeating. The sticker price on these starts around $50 million and gets to more than a billion dollars pretty quickly. Also, when we talk about big projects, we expect results in decades, not months. We should look at big ideas, but for immediate results we should focus on more modest ideas.
In reality, many improvements have been made to traffic over the years. Roads are safer. Highways 92 and 1 have seen major improvements. Lights at Poplar Street and Fairway Drive have been reprogrammed. Hard to believe, but if these and other modest improvements hadn't been made, traffic on the Coastside would likely be even worse.
As the new year approaches, I'm focused on three areas for improvement.
First, we should look at the intersection of Ox Mountain Road and Highway 92 by Lemos Farm. This intersection blocks westbound traffic during daily commutes home and becomes a major bottleneck into town on the weekends. As citizens, we pay a tax in our time stuck here. I don't know how to fix it. We need the professionals we pay at San Mateo County and Caltrans to come together to do a formal traffic study and give our community recommendations that work for drivers and the businesses in this area.
Second, we need to take a big picture view of Highway 1 from North Main Street to Frenchmans Creek. This chokepoint perpetually slows down traffic when we need to get up and down the coast. It turns my delightful five-minute drive to Sam's Chowder House into 30 minutes of clenched steering wheel. The city of Half Moon Bay and SamTrans have budgeted $10.8 million to make improvements up to Grandview Boulevard. While this is promising, I'm not sure more asphalt or another light on Highway 1 is the best solution. We also create the prospect of pushing the congestion farther north. Before we break ground, Caltrans should give us a big-picture view of how this will improve traffic.
Third, we need to get cars off the road. Asking Californians to stop using their cars feels like asking Texans to give up their guns. But we are the Golden State, with a better climate and we are in way better shape. We just need more attractive options. The county is starting a private-public shuttle service on the Coastside in January. We should all give that a try and give feedback on how it can be better.
Another thing we can do is accelerate the East Side Trail along Highway 1 from El Granada to Moonridge. This bike and pedestrian path will make the option of biking up and down the coast safer and more convenient for high school kids, folks who work in town and even for the odd duck like me who is willing to bike for groceries. It is already planned for completion this decade. Instead of waiting, we should push to have the trail completed in 2023.
You may have different priorities. As for me, this is where I'm going to focus my energy in 2023 and I would love your help. Your City Council and new county Supervisor Ray Mueller would love to hear your feedback. So would Assemblyman Marc Berman and state Sen. Josh Becker.
Rich Hernandez is a resident of Half Moon Bay and a member of the Planning Commission.