Drivers’ gain may be Burlingame merchants’ loss

The long-awaited replacement of the mazelike Broadway interchange on U.S. Highway 101 is drawing concern from local businesses that question whether the project is worth the expense and the potential harm to nearby merchants.

Officials in Burlingame — who are partnering with Caltrans and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority on the project — say the city’s only connection to Highway 101 confuses drivers and is inadequate for handling the area’s traffic flow.

But Ross Bruce, president of the Broadway Merchants Association, said the multiyear construction project could “devastate” the 100 or so businesses along Broadway, many of which are small and family owned.

Bruce said he isn’t outright opposed to the project and agrees the interchange is “antiquated,” but he said he thinks the $74 million would be better spent on other, more pressing issues such as funding education or helping prop up the struggling Caltrain system.

The interchange “is entirely functional, albeit confusing to newcomers, who are a distinct minority of users,” Bruce said.
“I just can’t justify the expense of those millions and millions of dollars, as well as the disruption of our community.”

Burlingame Public Works Department Director Syed Murtuza said minimizing any closures during construction, anticipated to start in 2014, is a “key interest” for the city.

“A lot of efforts have been expended in ensuring the design is done in such a way, the construction is done in such a way that the bridge is not closed down for an extended period of time,” Murtuza said, adding that construction details still must be worked out.

However, even if the interchange isn’t closed, construction will likely cause some customers to use other routes, potentially hurting businesses and sales tax revenue for the city, said John Kevranian, owner of Nuts for Candy.

“We need vehicles through the street,” said Kevranian, whose family has done business on Broadway for three decades. “For most of our businesses, people see the stores, they stop by, they shop, and if people take other routes, it will definitely hurt our business.”

The $74 million project would replace the existing four-lane curving overpass, first built in 1949, with a seven-lane straight span connecting Broadway and Rollins Road to the west to Bayshore Highway to the east, according to a recently released environmental report for the plan.

Murtuza said the interchange was deemed at capacity in the 1980s, and traffic conditions have only become worse since then.
Funding for the project will come in part from Measure A, the half-cent sales tax. Once the environmental review is complete, the project will be in a better position to compete for state and federal funds, Murtuza said.

Properties may be seized for space

The owners of up to four commercial or industrial properties around the Broadway interchange with U.S. Highway 101 may have to part with their land to make way for the $74 million replacement of the overpass, according to the latest plans for the project.

The city of Burlingame would relinquish three city-owned properties to Caltrans and parts of four other private properties may be taken, though the plans have not been finalized. No homes would be affected.

Among the affected landowners on the east side of the highway is the 76 Conoco Phillips gas station at 1200 Bayshore Highway, which would be acquired so the overpass could be realigned about 170 feet north of its current location, according to a state environmental report. A vacant lot next to the gas station and part of an office-park property may be affected as well.

Golshan Westphal, who owns the gas station but not the land, declined to comment on the project, other than to say it’s not clear whether the station would relocate or close.

On the west side of the freeway, a two-story vacant warehouse building at 1212 Rollins Road and part of two industrial parcels may be acquired and removed, according to the report.

About 20 properties also could be affected by temporary construction easements.

So far, the city hasn’t received any negative feedback about potential property acquisitions, said Public Works Department Director Syed Murtuza.

The waiting game

Delays, in seconds per vehicle, for intersections around the Broadway interchange during the morning and afternoon rush hours:

Broadway/101 northbound onramp    
Morning: 16.1
Afternoon: 19.3

101 northbound offramp/Airport Boulevard
Morning: 31.9
Afternoon: 22.1

Broadway/101 southbound offramp/Rollins Road signal    
Morning: 40.9
Afternoon: 45.6

Cadillac Way/101 southbound ramps/Rollins Road signal

Morning: 35.1
Afternoon: 45.6

Broadway/Carolan Avenue signal
Morning: 20.8
Afternoon: 24.6

Broadway/California Drive signal
Morning: 30.9
Afternoon: 41.0

Cadillac Way/Carolan Avenue one-way stop
Morning: 20.6
Afternoon: 30.6

Source: Caltrans

Slow going

48 mph: Average speed on northbound Highway 101 between Broadway offramp and onramp during morning peak driving times
26 mph: Average speed on northbound Highway 101 between Broadway offramp and onramp during afternoon peak driving times
37 mph: Average speed on southbound Highway 101 between Broadway offramp and onramp during morning peak driving times
28 mph: Average speed on southbound Highway 101 between Broadway offramp and onramp during afternoon peak driving times

Source: Caltrans

Your two cents

Caltrans is seeking public comments through Sept. 29 on the environmental documents for the Broadway interchange project.

Comments should be sent to:
– Thomas_Rosevear@dot.ca.gov
– Department of Transportation, District 4, Ed Pang, Attn: Thomas Rosevear, P.O. Box 23660, Oakland, CA 94623-0660

See the plans: www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/envdocs.htm

Info: Call Caltrans Public Information Officer Gidget Navarro at (510) 286-5574

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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