After a long standoff between Caltrans and Marin County Public Works over the intersection design of the $3.4 million Tennessee Valley Pathway project, the stoplight at Tennessee Valley Road is on and operating this week.
The light was switched on early Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the crosswalks were striped at the intersection, according to Scott Schneider, an associate civil engineer for Marin County’s Public Works department.
While the drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians who have been frustrated by the inertia of the long-sought safety improvements along Shoreline Highway may be celebrating the new traffic control, commuters along the route have another opinion.
"Tam Junction was, by far, the worst traffic I encountered during the 8:30 morning, rush-hour commute to San Francisco yesterday," said Mill Valley resident Joe Friedman. "It added at least 15 minutes to the commute time."
Other complaints flowed onto the Mill Valley Patch Facebook page, and into the email box this morning, so I decided to drive the route myself.
At 8:45 a.m., Wednesday morning, traffic was backed up on Almonte Blvd. from the Tennessee Valley Road intersection beginning right around the Tam High School soccer fields. It took 18 minutes to travel from the Miller Ave. and Camino Alto intersection until I arrived at Tennessee Valley Road. The southbound traffic cleared up around 9:15 a.m.
A Cal-Trans worker, who would not be quoted officially, was adjusting the light timer during that time, and said that the light is coordinated with other Shoreline Highway lights during the morning hours. During that time, pedestrians may have to wait until there is a traffic break for a walk light to cross, while other times they will be given priority to cross.
The worker admitted that southbound travelers may not like the new light, but that the people making a left turn from Tennessee Valley Road and pedestrians are very happy.
Schneider said the Flamingo and Almonte lights are connected by a wire and can be synchronized, as are the two lights on Shoreline Hwy. closer to Hwy. 101 at Manzanita. But because the Tennessee Valley traffic light is too far from those other lights, it couldn’t be connected and synchronized.
But all five of those lights have GPS time clicks built into them, he said, allowing Caltrans officials to coordinate the lights as needed. That means that Caltrans can monitor traffic patterns in the first few weeks of the new light and adjust the coordination of the five lights to adapt to those patterns, Schneider said.
“It will take a while for everything to get settled in that area, particularly because drivers will adjust their behavior based on the new lights,” he said.
Reader Amy Turner hopes there is a silver lining to the new addition, but has her concerns, telling Patch, "Traffic is already so bad in Tam Valley from people using that route to go to the beach in spring and summer, when school lets out, and from people slowing to turn into businesses, etc. I work in Mill Valley and usually take the shoreline route to get back to 101 because Blithedale gets so backed up; now it appears both routes are congested."
The Shoreline-Tennessee Valley intersection is just one of a number of key safety-related projects in Tam Valley, read more about the project here.