Coastside Communities Weigh Safety Improvement Options on Highway 1

Raised medians or rectangular flashing beacons? Street widening or advanced warning signs and new pavement striping?

These decisions may not seem life-altering, but for San Mateo County’s Coastside communities, which deal with the heavy traffic and questionable pedestrian conditions of State Highway 1, these options can have lingering impacts on their small towns.

On March 11, community members gathered to discuss potential pedestrian safety upgrades at several crossings along Highway 1, covering a seven-mile stretch from Gray Whale Cove near McNee Ranch State Park to Mirada Road in Half Moon Bay. The public meeting was part of a Highway 1 Congestion and Safety Improvement Project—a study that has been allocated $500,000 in Measure A funds from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA). Measure A funds are the voter-approved ½-cents sales tax revenue dedicated for transportation and infrastructure improvement projects in San Mateo County.

Representatives from Caltrans and AECOM, the private consultant on the project, along with San Mateo County Supervisor and Transportation Authority Board Member Don Horsley, offered up two pedestrian-safety alternatives for most of the crossings, which were situated in the communities of Half Moon Bay, Moss Beach and Montara. The key was finding answers that improved walkability without making the already-difficult traffic congestion on Highway 1 worse.

Most alternatives ranged from low-impact, cheaper plans, like pavement striping and additional lighting, to more robust projects like street widening and raised medians. Plan costs ranged from $380,000 for the installation of rectangular flashing beacons and pavement markings at Mirada Road in Half Moon Bay, to $7.25 million for the addition of a new vehicle lane and elimination of a two-way left turn between 1st and 9th streets in Montara. Based on funding availability, projects could be completed as early as 2018 or may take until 2020 to wrap up.

During the March 11 meeting, held at Cypress Meadows in Moss Beach, most of the 30 or so attendees backed the alternatives that were cheaper and quicker to install, although some preferred neither option. Measure A funds could be available to pay for these projects, if the communities opt to pursue these pedestrian safety upgrades.

For now, Caltrans, the TA and other local community leaders are just gathering feedback on the alternatives for Highway 1. Whatever comes out of the Congestion and Safety Improvement Project will have to be folded into a larger, separate project, called Connect the Coastside, a more comprehensive transportation management plan that covers Highway 1 from the just south of the Devils Slide Tunnel to the southern city limits of Half Moon Bay and Highway 92 west from Highway 1 to Interstate 280.

Decisions may not be coming immediately, but the Coastside communities are engaged in a process that will eventually make Highway 1 as safe and easy-to-drive as it is scenic.

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