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Caltrans wants your opinion.
Beginning today, public comments are sought for an environmental report - compiled by the state agency - that studies the feasibility of widening a portion of Highway 1 through Pacifica. Ultimately, Caltrans hopes to alleviate traffic congestion on the major thoroughfare.
In the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), Caltrans takes a look at impacts caused with a one-lane widening of the highway in each direction between an area 1/2 mile north of Reina Del Mar Avenue to 1/4 mile south of Fassler and Rockaway Beach Avenues. The agency is weighing what the expansion would mean for human and natural features of the area, San Mateo County Transit Authority spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.
Three alternatives for widening the highway are considered in the DEIR: the "no build" alternative, the "narrow median build" alternative and the "landscaped median" alternative.
In the “no build” alternative, widening of the road wouldn’t happen. In the DEIR, Caltrans claims that traffic in future years will get worse but any potential environmental impact, or harm, from the project would be avoided.
Caltrans claims in the study that the "narrow median build" and the "landscaped median build" alternatives are the only practical solution for lessening traffic on Highway 1 in Pacifica, given right-of-way constraints, environmental and regulatory constraints in the area, and Caltrans’ minimum design criteria for its projects.
In the report, Caltrans says the segment under consideration acts as a bottleneck, and during morning peak traffic times can cause backups over a mile long south of Reina Del Mar Avenue. Dunn says the evening commute - between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. - can back up for over two miles in the southbound direction.
The segment of highway under study has not been widened since 1965, when it went from two lanes to four lanes with no median. In 1993, a median barrier was installed for safety.
Currently, the highway has four-foot outside shoulders, and a six-foot wide median and concrete barrier.
In both the "narrow median" and "landscaped median" alternatives, the vast majority of the land needed will be taken from mostly vacant land on the ocean side of the highway.
New pavement for the expansion would vary from 20 to 50 ft. across. Approximately half of the length of the new pavement would be constructed on a new embankment with retaining walls to protect environmentally sensitive areas, while the other half would be dug out of the existing embankment south of Reina Del Mar.
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The main difference between the two alternatives is a 16-foot wide strip of landscaping.
In the “narrow median” alternative, which excludes the landscaping, the existing six-foot wide median would be expanded by 16 feet and would contain a single three-foot tall concrete wall. This alternative also includes ten-foot wide inside and outside shoulders in both directions.
The “landscaped median” alternative tacks on an additional 18 feet to the median for landscaping between two three-foot concrete walls. This alternative would also include ten-foot inside and outside shoulders in both directions.
Both require a partial acquisition of a parcel of land in the Quarry.
In its DEIR, Caltrans concluded that both of these alternatives would require the relocation of one family that lives at 425 Old Country Road and the rebuilding of the Coastal Trail along Highway 1.
Caltrans asserts that once the Coastal Trail is rebuilt, improvements will be noticeable.
Caltrans believes temporary or permanent environmental impacts caused by expanding Highway 1 near well-known habitats will be minimal.
“No natural communities of concern (i.e. shining willow riparian forest, aquatic, or seasonal wetlands) are located within areas of permanent or temporary project impacts,” reads the DEIR.
In order to help prevent negative impacts on the environment, retaining walls would be built to keep the roadwork and highway fill from habitats. Additionally, no construction equipment or staging areas will be west of the highway near Celera Creek.
The agency does admit that “indirect” impacts on water quality in the area are possible during and after completion of the project.
Caltrans expects impacts on local animals to be minimum, with no permanent or temporary effects on the California red-legged frog or San Francisco garter snake communities.
Construction could also impact culturally sensitive land, Caltrans admits, but the agency says in the DEIR that it will take necessary precaution to avoid this.
Two areas known to be Native American sites are near where the highway would be widened. Caltrans proposes working with a Native American consultant and an archeological expert during the construction process to protect the land.
The estimated cost for construction, right-of-way acquisition, and environmental mitigation for the “narrow median” alternative is $45.4 million, while the total cost of the same under the “landscaped median” alternative $51.6 million.
If the agency decides to go forward with the project after public input and funding comes through, Caltrans anticipates starting construction in spring of 2014. The project will last for two years.
All documents relating to the project can be found on the San Mateo County Transit Authority’s website or at the , , the and , Dunn said.
Caltrans will also hold a public meeting for residents to review and comment on the DEIR - also found as a PDF in the gallery to the right - at 6:30 p.m. on September 22 at the Pacifica Community Center.
Verbal or written comments on the DEIR can be turned in at the public meeting or at any time during the review period, which ends October 7 at 5 p.m.
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Mail them to Yolanda Rivas, Branch Chief, Division of Environmental Planning & Engineering, California Department of Transportation, District 4, 111 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA 94623 and make them Attn: Thomas Rosevear. Fax comments to 510-286-5600, or email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned to Pacifica Patch and our Facebook page for updates, including reactions from Pacifica and regional environmental organizations.