Traffic, Road Safety & Accessibility Concerns
"Something has to to be done. I feel trapped in my own home. It's beginning to become a quality of life issue. A trip to the local grocery store is a nightmare..."
- Coastside resident posting on Next Door
The San Mateo County Midcoast is unique in that there is only one road in, through, and out. There are no alternate routes - residents and visitors are served exclusively by HWY 1, a small two-lane highway. On the other side of the hill, there are highways with multiple lanes, expressways, and surface streets that connect communities, as well as services such as hospitals interspersed throughout the peninsula.
Any serious traffic accident or emergency situation on HWY 1 closes the highway, leaving Midcoast residents and visitors stranded. During 2019, wildfire risk added a new concern as PG&E imposed several power outages lasting 24+ hour periods which resulted in total traffic congestion and temporary closures of many operations. PG&E predicts more mandated outages over the coming years as necessary to reduce wildfire risk. This raises serious safety concerns. How does one get to the hospital in an emergency if the only highway we rely on is congested? What happens in the event of a natural disaster? Options are severely limited in case of wildfire when evacuation is necessary. There are no clear options for an effective solution in the near term.
Increasing density of the Midcoast compounds these problems. Our fixed infrastructure doesn't support increased development. Expanding HWY 1 through the scenic areas along Montara Beach to Lantos Tunnel and at the south end of HMB is prohibited by the Coastal Act. Little can be gained by adding lanes in between.
Traffic is a serious issue throughout the Bay Area. Along the San Mateo coast, commute times and tourist traffic are steadily rising with no road expansion opportunities available in the foreseeable future. Rising seas and erosion are visibly impacting HWY 1 along the Midcoast south of the Lantos Tunnel and near Princeton Harbor.
Connect the Coastside, San Mateo County’s Comprehensive Traffic Management Plan for our coast, was released on January 15, 2020 as a final draft version. It is long overdue and so relies on 6 year old traffic data as it looks to the future (2040) and how cumulative traffic could be handled on HWY 1 and Rt 92 for buildout based on current property zoning. In a nutshell, regarding Hwy 1 from HMB to Montara/Lantos Tunnel, it recommends 14 new pedestrian crossings and 5 new traffic lights/roundabouts with a preference for roundabouts. Three of these roundabouts would be in Moss Beach over a distance of approx 1 mile, at 16th St, California St, and Cypress St. It attempts to mitigate some hazard and Level of Service issues of increased traffic brought on by development, however, it proposes slower traffic. It does not include any assessment of evacuation concerns due to wildfire risk. It also does not assess development impacts on neighborhood streets. Preliminary cost estimates for implementation are included and funding options discussed, however the study notes that costs for land acquisitions, grading, retaining walls, etc., are not included. Roadway project estimates run up to tens of millions of dollars and are proposed to impact developers as well as current residents. This traffic plan still needs to go through a review process for approval at the County level and then requires Coastal Commission certification. Stay tuned!
Links for further information:
Neighborhood Road Safety:
Road safety is a key concern as our semi-rural coastal character features roads that are narrow and lack sidewalks. As congestion increases, traffic is pushed and/or rerouted to these neighborhood streets through apps like Waze, thereby raising safety concerns for pedestrians and children walking and biking to school.
Traffic will increase on 2nd Street, 3rd Street, Sunshine Valley Road and Etheldore Streets to bypass the Montara / Moss Beach gridlock on Highway 1 that will be created by more development and traffic lights.
Neighbors started sharing their concerns regarding parallel roads on the coastside Nextdoor website:
- "We live on 3rd and Farallone. We can always tell when traffic is backed up late afternoons on weekends for traffic going North. Without fail, a stream of cars fly down Farallone to 2nd Street to avoid the backup on Higway One."
- "I've also seen cars going 50+ MPH on Carlos St. in Moss Beach during busy weekends. That's a very narrow road and super dangerous if going fast. I've had cars whiz by while I'm biking there with my kids".
Other communities are seeing the effects of these apps:
Increased traffic on narrow, quiet side streets will destroy the semi-rural, coastal character of these communities.
Current traffic problems (before Big Wave or MidPen developments in Moss Beach)
AM commute on Northbound HWY 1 in Pacifica
Saturday Afternoon in Montara