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Concern about work mounting

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With groundbreaking on the U.S. Highway 101 auxiliary lane project rapidly approaching, some nearby residents say they fear being railroaded by a construction plan they say could eventually hurt their property values, if not force them to move.

In conjunction with the highway widening between Millbrae and Third Avenue in San Mateo, Caltrans and the City of San Mateo are studying whether to reconstruct the southbound exit ramp now located at Poplar Avenue at Peninsula Avenue in San Mateo. The project could require using eminent domain to acquire some homes, a prospect that has prompted residents to organize and consult an attorney.

A total of 15 to 40 homes could be taken if the Peninsula overpass is reworked, according to officials.

“I’m trying to live one day at a time and let it be, so I don’t get sick thinking about it,” said Edith Schlesinger, whose house is one of those that could be taken if the southbound Poplar Avenue exit is relocated to Peninsula Avenue. At times, she has felt stuck on the tracks with a train coming toward her, Schlesinger said.

Residents have complained at nearly every turn that they were never notified of the plans to widen the highway, let alone reconstruct Peninsula Avenue. “If we would have known, we would have said something,” said Joanne Bennett, a homeowner on nearby Idaho Street.

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Bennett not only opposes the use of eminent domain in the neighborhood — which still isn’t a done deal — but wants trees and vines to hide the Peninsula Avenue overpass and sound walls so that homeowners

aren’t left staring out their windows at a concrete monolith. “If you’re looking at some stark industrial looking overpass, who is going to want to buy a house near something like that?” Schlesinger said.

The city and San Mateo County Transportation Authority are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the overpass. While the $90 million auxiliary lane project will include changes to the Peninsula overpass that will make a new offramp possible, the new ramp would be a separate project and has not yet been approved.

E-mail: ecarpenter@examiner.com

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