Legislation introduced Tuesday aims to fast-track opening a third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to help ease evening commute congestion on Highway 101 and Interstate 580 in Marin.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, introduced urgency legislation AB 157, which would require that a design to open a third lane get started while the project is undergoing environmental review. That could speed up the project by as much as 18 months, Levine said. The two processes typically are separated.
Presently only environmental work has begun on the project.
“The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is one of the worst bottlenecks in the North Bay evening commute,” Levine said. “This bridge was built and designed almost 60 years ago to have three lanes in each direction. Restoring the third eastbound lane will relieve a great deal of congestion. There is no doubt that the lane is needed and it is prudent to do the design work immediately to speed up the process.”
The northbound commute from 3:30 to 7:10 p.m. on Highway 101 from Marin City to north of Tamalpais Drive has been ranked as 15th worst in the Bay Area. Drivers in that pocket lose 2,040 hours a day in traffic, according to Metropolitan Transportation Commission figures.
The Transportation Authority of Marin spent $190,000 to look at ways to ease gridlock during that commute, including opening a third lane eastbound on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The slowdown around the span causes traffic to back up onto northbound Highway 101 and on eastbound I-580 in Marin, and opening a third lane could help ease the congestion, transportation officials said.
“The MTC has long favored anything that would speed up a project,” said John Goodwin, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman. “It often takes too long from the concept phase to the concrete phase.”
The commission is working with Caltrans and the Transportation Authority of Marin on the plan to get the third lane open in the evening, eastbound toward Richmond. As part of the study of a traffic lane, planners are also looking at opening a bike lane on the bridge. Concerned the dual study could also slow progress on the traffic lane, planners home to “de-couple” the projects within the month, Goodwin said.
AB 157 reads in part: “In the interest of improving traffic flow, maximizing existing resources, and reducing the environmental impacts resulting from the traffic backup on the eastbound bridge approach that impacts traffic on Highway 101, it is necessary that the third lane of the bridge to be opened to traffic at the earliest possible date.”
It would likely take another year or two before the lane could be opened because of the needed studies, transportation officials have said.
“This project will reduce commute times substantially,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Congestion on the bridge extends all the way to Highway 101 and affects not only commuters on the bridge, but also commuters heading north. This legislation will bring those commuters much-needed relief.” Because it”s an urgency measure, if approved and signed by the governor it would take effect immediately instead of Jan. 1, 2016 as with regular bills. Levine thought the law could be in place by spring.
“The back-up is frustrating and this signals to commuters that government is hearing their concerns and wants a resolution as soon as possible,” Levine said. —— (c)2015 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Visit The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) at www.marinij.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC AMX-2015-01-21T00:01:00-05:00