Community sounds off on freeway walls

Caltrans will meet with residents Saturday to discuss roadway structures

SAN MATEO — Residents, California Department of Transportation officials and an aspiring state senator will pow-wow Saturday over the design of soundwalls, retaining walls and other structures that will be rebuilt as Caltrans adds auxiliary lanes along U.S. Highway 101 next year.

Adding the auxiliary lane through San Mateo will involve rebuilding the Peninsula Avenue pedestrian overcrossing, and work is due to begin in the spring, according to San Mateo Public Works Director Larry Patterson. Neighbors in the North Central area have called the meeting to offer suggestions, such as landscaping that will mask new structures and prevent graffiti, according to resident Joanne Bennett.

Extensive attention has been given to the height of the soundwalls, with the city holding several meetings to broker a compromise between residents and businesses. Some in the region, however, said they felt excluded from the actual design process for the improvements.

“Everything’s been approved, and we would like to know what it’s going to look like,” Bennett said. “None of the neighbors were notified about this until it was already approved.”

Some local suggestions include adding plants or creeping vines to disguise walls, and improving the bicycle and pedestrian pathway that extends into Coyote Point.

Representatives from Caltrans, which is constructing the auxiliary lanes and replacing the overcrossing, will be on hand to answer questions and field suggestions, according to spokeswoman Gidget Navarro.

However, final say in the look of new structures along the 101 corridor may be up to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, not Caltrans, according to Caltrans communications manager Jeff Weiss.

Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, will also attend the meeting, in part because he will represent the San Mateo area if elected to the state Senate this fall, according to his press secretary, Adam Keigwin.

“He’s not familiar with the situation, but he’s going on Saturday to hear their concerns,” Keigwin said.

The meeting will take place Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the King Center, 725 Monte Diablo Ave., in San Mateo.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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