Thursday, July 28, 2016
Marin IJ Editorial: [Marin County] Grand jury’s advice on Drake Boulevard is helpful
There was something for everyone in the 2015-16 Marin County Civil Grand Jury’s assessment of the debate over planned improvements for Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
The citizens’ watchdog panel did a terrific job slicing through the rhetoric and offered some recommendations that deserve consideration.
It reviewed the county’s plans to “improve” the busy stretch of Sir Francis Drake, from the Ross town limits to Highway 101.
The project mostly involves repairing and repaving the four-lane stretch of asphalt, but it has sparked criticism because the plan also includes narrowing traffic lanes to 11 feet and safety improvements at heavily trafficked intersections, such as Eliseo Drive and Barry Way.
The grand jury, after looking into proposed improvements, concluded they “strike a good balance” in terms of easing congestion and improving safety.
But the grand jury asks important over-arching questions: What is the goal of the project? What are its measurable objectives?
If it is about improving traffic, then planners need to do a better job of showing the public how changes will help meet “measurable goals,” such as “level of service,” a much-used measurement of traffic congestion.
Likely, the plan isn’t going to do much to improve traffic, although the grand jury is right in recommending officials consider activating metering lights at the entrance onto southbound Highway 101 and that the Transportation Authority of Marin fund school buses, in this case, for Kentfield School District students.
When it comes to school-related traffic, surveys have shown that better than 20 percent of the commute-hour traffic is generated by schools, mostly parents dropping off their children.
The grand jury points out that metering lights and school buses could help ease traffic jams, but TAM, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Caltrans spend millions on bike improvements that have not proven, despite their cost, to relieve congestion.
Those costly improvements should instead be spent on projects “that benefit a larger population.”
The grand jury also takes a shot at the “fragmented” funding and goals between TAM and the regional and powerful Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“They do not themselves produce, nor require, holistic integrated programs engineered to address traffic problems that span geographic jurisdictional and political boundaries.”
The grand jury is right, but that problem is much larger and more complex than deciding what’s best for Drake.
There is no question that Drake needs help. The four-lane stretch was designed in the 1960s to handle 20,000 vehicles per day. Today, the road is handling 50,000 vehicles daily.
The road needs to be kept in good repair. Safety problems need to be addressed. But this project is not going to be an instant fix for Drake’s daily traffic jams. There’s no room for widening Drake — and likely, that’s not going to change.
July 14, 2016
Marin Independent Journal