Too many Peninsula roadblocks

Commuters across San Mateo County are enduring an almost perfect storm of funding delays for key roadways that are vital to the smooth flow of commuting and regional commerce. Sources of the funding needed to complete these projects in a timely manner are unrelated. But they reflect the modern complexity involved in financing California transportation projects.

The most recent delay announcement concerned the much-needed widening of Highway 92 at its interchange with Highway 1 in downtown Half Moon Bay. This will now be pushed back until at least September, when the Devil’s Slide closure for landslide repairs is hopefully due to end.

But Half Moon Bay is scrambling to obtain more funds from the county in order to pay for bids that came in 40 percent higher than the original $10 million estimate. So there is no firm guarantee as to when work on western Highway 92 could actually begin.

Meanwhile, backups of 15 to 30 minutes are commonplace every weekday morning, as Highway 92 remains the only open route out of the coastside south of Pacifica. Fortunately, federal money is funding the latest emergency repairs of fragile Devil’s Slide and also the costly tunnel that is to permanently bypass the often-closed cliffside two-lane road as of 2011.

San Bruno also just got some bad news. Caltrain might delay the start of construction for as long as five years on the railway overpass across the complicated and dangerous street intersection at San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues, an area where three people died in accidents during 2000.

Community factions debated for two years before agreeing on placement of the overpass and location of the new San Bruno Caltrain station. The final decision was presented to Caltrain last July and groundbreaking on the project was expected this year.

But then the overpass cost projections soared nearly one-third to $200 million, while Caltrain found itself bogged down in repairs of aging bridges and replacement of old track sections necessary to keep the trains running safely and on time. Caltrain is now re-evaluating its long-term infrastructure priorities in a study titled “Project 2025.”

The news this week that the state had granted more than $60 million for Peninsula transportation projects, including Highway 101 upgrades, was welcome indeed. But just as in the already funded projects, the challenge for local officials will be to ensure that the design and construction are accomplished on time and under budget.

Those goals should be their highest priority. Smooth-running transportation from San Francisco to San Jose is a foundation of the region’s continuing prosperity and its residents’ quality of life.

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