The Coastal Post - March, 1997

Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

BY JOAN REUTINGER

There have been innumerable studies on transportation in Marin, especially on Highway 101. There were studies in 1972 and again in 1986 when the 101 Corridor Study took place, but the latest study (costing $400,000) drafted a plan calling for nearly $900 million, and will probably be brought before the voters in Marin and Sonoma counties for a half-cent sales tax measure. Sounds small, doesn't it? But the plan will focus on widening Highway 101 to add high-occupancy vehicle lanes both in Marin and Sonoma, and rail service to be restored on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.

This lengthy study by Berkeley planner Peter Calthorpe admits that rail won't help traffic buildup on 101. And we are all afraid that once rail goes in, there will be a buildout in uncodified zones, particularly in wetlands areas.

Just think of all the money wasted on the formation of these plans, enough to pay part of the $900 million.

Rail has been big ever since the supervisors voted that rail would run from Novato to Healdsburg. The tracks still are there, but what about the other tracks from Novato down to Larkspur Landing? There's a tunnel to repair, let alone the tracks that have been torn up that would need to be replaced. We'll wait and see if a railroad is possible. Something should be done, because the traffic along 101, especially during commute times, is impossible.

The early studies decided that HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes would do the trick, but we know now that they won't, although they help. There was talk of greatly increasing Transbay ferries to San Francisco, but as long as the cost is so high, we know that won't do. They even talked of businesses letting people out at different times. They talked of Pedestrian Pockets, but that is long since past.

In the 1972 plan, they said, "The county should remain sufficiently flexible in its transportation planning so that adoption of new ideas can be made with minimal disruption in the planning process. Innovative transit systems, not studied in Phase II, appear to be a possibility by 1990." But there is no innovation that we haven't discussed, except increasing bus service, and that wasn't even mentioned in the Peter Calthorpe study, so we in 1997 have no options. So, what do we do now? Pass the tax? It would be no better or worse than the traffic during commute times or after an accident.

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