Council to review traffic study of tricky interchange

Residents and city officials want to know how improvements to a hazardous San Mateo intersection — dubbed by some as “Russian Roulette Avenue” — will affect residents in Burlingame.

Burlingame has been working with San Mateo to determine the scope of work for a traffic study into the Peninsula Interchange project, a controversial effort that dovetails Caltrans’ U.S. Highway 101 auxiliary lanes project in the area.

The Burlingame City Council is expected to approve this scope of work, which now includes a look into possible improvements at Poplar Avenue and Amphlett Boulevard, at its Monday meeting. Burlingame city staff also asked that the study examine how 15 key intersections in the city may be affected by the project, Assistant Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said.

Burlingame is expected to contribute $25,000 to the study.

The interchange project aims to improve or completely eliminate the difficulty of navigating the Poplar Avenue and Amphlett Boulevard intersection in San Mateo. One way to improve safety, according to a 2004 report by Hexagon Transportation Consultants, is to close one or both freeway ramps at Poplar and replace it with a southbound ramp at Peninsula Avenue — near the border between the two cities.

But Peninsula Avenue residents in San Mateo were up in arms when they learned that eminent domain might be used to seize their properties located within the proposed project area.

The intersection sees drivers exiting from southbound Highway 101; another set of cars heading toward the southbound Highway 101 on-ramp; and a third set on Amphlett trying to dash across both sets of traffic.Burlingame Mayor Cathy Baylock urged the San Mateo City Council in February not to go forward with eminent domain near Peninsula Avenue, suggesting instead to have councils from both cities discuss improvements to the Poplar/Amphlett intersection instead.

Residents echoed the sentiment at a Burlingame City Council meeting two weeks ago, when they poured into council chambers and asked both cities to do just that. The council asked that the study include further analysis into that option as well.

“We as a staff want to make sure that we have full understanding of each option’s impactto our communities,” Murtuza said. “Once we know the full extent of each option’s impact, we can make a decision in their best interests.”

Murtuza expects the Burlingame portion of the study to start immediately if approved Monday.

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