San Mateo overpass stirs debate

Local cyclists and pedestrians are still divided over the plan to build a separate path for them over U.S. Highway 101 that will keep human traffic from competing with vehicles on Hillsdale Boulevard.

On Wednesday night, the San Mateo Public Works Commission approved the alignment study for the proposed $7.1 million pedestrian bridge.

But Steve Vanderlip, president of the Peninsula Bike and Pedestrian Coalition, said the plan is not ready to be placed on the books. He maintains that improvements to the existing Highway 101 overpass — including bike lanes and signalized crosswalks at either end — would save the city money and encourage more people to walk or bike between San Mateo and Foster City.

“They should have changed the focus to ‘provide a safe access for pedestrians over Hillsdale,’” he said. “It wouldn’t cost as much to build bike lanes and traffic signals.” Senior Engineer Gary Heap said the city looked into each of the ideas proposed by residents, but many were found to be physically or financially infeasible.

Crosswalks at both ends are not likely because lights at high-speed ramps onto Highway 101 from Hillsdale could lead to accidents and back up traffic onto the highway.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chairman Matt Jordan said many stakeholders want a structure built north of Hillsdale to allow easy flow between retail areas around Bay Meadows and the rest of the city.

“One reason for wanting it on the north side is because that is where the shopping center is, but that is economically infeasible,” Jordan said. “The city would need to buy public right of way to build it.”

While it may be slower, Jordan said the crosswalks and bike paths leading onto the proposed structure will cater to a larger number of residents.

“The whole point of this is that going over Hillsdale right now is scary for bicyclists and pedestrians, and we’re looking at something to improve that,” Jordan said. “The hardcore bicycle commuter is fairly confident riding over Hillsdale and they probably will, but the common rider I’ve talked to is not, and this will get them out there.”

jgoldman@examiner.com


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