Redwood City adopts plan to improve El Camino Real

Pedestrians and residents near two housing sites on El Camino Real will soon have a safer, easier time walking to nearby transit after plans and funding for updated crosswalks were adopted.

The first of a regional effort to turn El Camino Real into a “grand boulevard” with enhanced transit access and mixed-use development, the project, adopted Monday, includes updating crosswalks where Madison Avenue and Maple Street cross El Camino Real. Places for pedestrians to wait for green lights will be added and U-turns will be eliminated to improve pedestrian safety.

Redwood City risked losing the $387,900 Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant if it didn’t adopt the plans by June 30, MTC transportation planner Doug Johnson said.

Once finished, the $901,000 project will help residents at Franklin Street Apartments and the nearly finished Villa Montgomery site get to local SamTrans stops as well as Caltrain’s Sequoia Station one-third of a mile away.

El Camino’s six-lane width makes it difficult for pedestrians to cross safely. The regional grand boulevard plan is aimed, in part, at making the thoroughfare more walkable and friendlier to public transit, Community Development Director Peter Ingram said.

When it comes to funding the grand boulevard in Redwood City, “We’re going to be very opportunistic,” Ingram said. “To get it built, it’s going to be incremental. [Having a plan in place] is a way to snag some grant money.”

Although Redwood City has secured the MTC grant, the city may need to set aside an additional $501,047 to fully fund the project, according to a report from Ingram.

Already, most cities along the El Camino Real corridor have gotten their grand boulevard planning under way.

Millbrae has charged ahead, improving medians, landscaping and trees on El Camino, creating better links between El Camino and downtown Millbrae and adding a number of new housing developments that will add more than 350 new units along the roadway, Millbrae Community Development Director Ralph Petty said.

So far, Millbrae has spent $3 to $5 million on those improvements, Petty said.

As El Camino plans come alive, the region could capture even more grant money, Johnson said.

“We’ll try and keep folks moving on their projects,” Johnson said. “You can’t do the Grand Boulevard $400,000 at a time, but pursuing some large, meaningful sources of funding is going to be a challenge.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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