Peninsula Ave. interchange work begins

Preliminary work has begun on one major freeway project affecting the Peninsula Avenue interchange as city officials begin weighing options for another that could potentially cause some residents to lose their homes.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has begun raising electrical poles so that auxiliary lanes can be added on U.S. Highway 101 between Millbrae Avenue and Third Avenue early next year.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the City Council will resume discussion of a controversial proposal to add southbound ramps to the Peninsula Avenue interchange and close the Poplar Avenue interchange in a workshop reviewing several alternative designs.

San Mateo County Transportation Authority officials said in May that they would reconstruct the Peninsula Avenue interchange during the auxiliary lane project in such a way that southbound offramps could be added in the future.

If built, however, those ramps could require the use of eminent domain and the potential demolition of anywhere from 15 to 40 homes, depending how they are designed.

The City Council also will discuss commissioning studies of the traffic impacts on neighborhood streets of several proposed interchange designs with the new ramps and with the possible Poplar interchange closure, according to Public Works Director Larry Patterson.

“As for adding southbound ramps, that’s a future discussion about planning for an interchange or deciding not to,” he said.

PG&E crews began to install taller poles on either side of Poplar Avenue in July so that construction crews can raise the sidewalks in conjunction with the auxiliary lane project, according to spokeswoman Darlene Chiu. They will finish in September.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Transportation is seeking bids on the $39.3 million auxiliary lane project, which could kick off as early as January, according to spokeswoman Lauren Wonder. As part of that project, crews will also modify the eastern side of the Peninsula Avenue interchange and replace the overcrossing, while leaving the potential for southbound offramps to be added, according to Patterson. Work is scheduled for completion in 2009, Wonder said.

The Poplar Avenue interchange is considered a safety hazard by many in the city. But some say city officials downplay their interest in adding the southbound ramps at Peninsula while continuing to hire consultants and secure funding.

“There is the lingering idea of ripping out the whole neighborhood and building a cloverleaf,” said Gary Parma, whose mother, Albina, lives near the interchange. “We keep seeing developments that bode ill — planning, budgeting.”

The San Mateo City Council meets at 5:15 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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