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Tennessee Valley Road traffic light

I writing to you to express my concerns over the new traffic light that has been put in place at the intersection of Tennessee valley road and highway one.   The new light is causing significant traffic delays making the commute into san francisco up to 30 minutes longer on a daily basis.   I suggest shutting this light down or running it only on weekends.  
Marjorie Grannan November 06, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I agree. I tried it again today, for the first time since it was operational. Although I left quite early it still took an extra 30 minutes to get to the freeway from Tam High. :-(
Lindsey Hickman (Editor) November 07, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Have you seen the previous coverage on this topic? I will do another follow up soon. There are some email addresses linked in the previous articles for caltrans for complaints. I understand this a huge problem for commuters.
Ana Levaggi November 07, 2013 at 11:52 AM
The TV light has not only slowed down traffic, but it has increased the traffic on parallel streets, such as Morning Sun. Aggravated people has been taking the 'short cut' driving fast! Last week a persons knocked over a kid on his bike and didn't even stopped. I called Hwy patrol, to file the complain, still no one has responded! Will it need a fatality to happen in order for things to change?
Clayton Smith November 09, 2013 at 12:59 PM
The problem is much more complex than the traffic light. It also involves parents driving their children to Tam Valley School and to the other schools in town, Tam High and the Middle School. This has been aggravated by the very large increase in Mill Valley's school age population and this is likely to continue increasing into the future. The stabilization of the housing market has brought out the remodeling crews with their trucks. The Park Service is doing a big redo of Muir Beach and visitation to Muir Woods and the other parklands, even during the week, up over 10 percent from last year.
Clayton Smith November 09, 2013 at 01:21 PM
The folks living in Tam Valley have for many years bourn the brunt of this vehicular activity, suffering in the chaos it creates. Additionally, we were separated from the bayside trail through the marsh by Highway 1, having no safe signalized method of crossing the road. Bicyclists and pedestrians could not get across the highway from the trail along the marsh to go out to Tennessee Valley or the other GGNRA hiking opportunities without endangering their lives. So, our previous Supervisor, Charles Mc Glashen, working with the community of Tam Valley, got the funding together to solve this problem and built and new elevated trail and the traffic signals now in place. We who live here can now come and go from our neighborhood in safety. I think that the issue of the traffic light highlights a much larger issue, which is the limits to growth. The traffic flows in and out of Mill Valley have a major negative impact on the neighboring communities. The folks in Mill Valley may not know this or have much compassion for these "externalities." The same may be said to the endless numbers of tourists going out to the parklands. But there are people living here who deserve some kind of rational circulation paradigm to mitigate these negatives. The people of Mill Valley need to get off their butts and go down to their city council and make sure that pressures to develop out the town to satisfy the edicts of the State's housing mandates are effectively resisted. The same is true for the building of high density housing at Tam Junction and Manzanita. Get up to the Board of Supervisors and tell them that you've had enough! Finally, get involved in stopping the Park Service from proceeding with their 180 parking scheme on the Dias Ridge, a project that is as evil as it is unnecessary. The time for sitting on the sidelines has long passed.
Barbara Levinson November 09, 2013 at 06:58 PM
I certainly understand the problem with the neighborhoods in Tam Valley-it seems that there is just many more cars than there were even just a few years ago. Now this increased traffic and the new signal has impacted on the other route out of Mill Valley and the Sycamore neighborhood as we attempt to get out of Mill Valley in a reasonable way. I do not know what the answer is but it is certainly a disadvantage to live in Mill Valley where we have made our home for 45 years. Barbara Levinson
John Parnell November 10, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Clayton - so well said. Although I think a problem is that this falls outside Mill Valley city limits, and the Supervisors have shown us how little they care. Perhaps with enough pressure, the MV council could take an interest in the affairs of unincorporated Mill Valley.
PJ Post November 11, 2013 at 05:11 AM
This traffic stop light addition is downright dangerous. Both going north and south. The backup is insane-- all the way to the Sausalito/Marin City exit going north. And having to stop suddenly on the blind curve coming from 101N is incredibly risky at 35 mph. How could it have been put in place with so little oversight and planning?
Clayton Smith November 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Thank you John for your supportive remarks. This traffic situation has multiple sources and has by its recent increase added complexities that our roadways are not suited for. The new city council member, Jessica Jackson, has shown a practical sensibility to this issue that is quite refreshing. Hopefully, she will be able and willing to get a real conversation going to raise the community's awareness as to how important this is to our future well being, not to mention the value of our homes. She has said she sees us in this together, so I am looking forward to a community wide dialogue in the coming year. The rigid out of touch behavior of Caltrans is another story. How we can force them to apply some good situation specific solutions to the flow of traffic through Tam Junction is the big question. There were 8 different individual approvals needed to turn the light on to begin with. What it takes to adjust their thoughts and actions to make the best of our particular situation is unknown at this time.
Clayton Smith November 11, 2013 at 01:27 PM
To PJ Post. The danger you speak of is the result of folks thinking incorrectly when they get off the freeway that they are in the country now. This is not true. There are 35,000 to 40,000 people living in our suburban community. We are also a tourist destination in a larger metropolitan area of over 7,000,000 people. The development interests plan to increase that number by 2,000,000 people over the next 25 years. This is a 30% rise in population. This is a rate of 80,000 per year! I assume that these new arrivals will want to visit Marin. Imagine these thousands of additional vehicles making their way through the Junction without the appropriate signal controls to allow the rest of us to safely make our way to and from our homes. Add to this the current fad of allowing bicycles the same status as passenger vehicles on the roads. Questions, is road widening on the agenda? Are new roadways being proposed? No. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ What is being proposed is building low income high density government subsidized housing at each of the traffic choke points coming into our community. If the Fireside is any example, the tenants living on Section 8 vouchers in these complexes will be recruited from the East Bay and the Peninsula. They will not be people already living here. The people already living here are by definition living somewhere here already. This is what passes for planning at the moment. Another question, PJ Post did you participate in the critique of the Housing Element design and allocation process? Are you actively opposing the construction of the 180 car parking lot on Dias Ridge? Are you working to see to it that Marin County can have its designation as a Suburban, as opposed to Urban, community restored? The traffic you are reacting to is a symptom of something larger and deeper than the new signals. Our community is confronting in a graphic and profound way the limits to growth. Their are few other places in the Bay Area that have to endure what we have been asked to endure on a daily basis. And ask yourself, where is the political leadership in this regard? Is it listening to us or the numerous special interests that hope to make the quick buck from imposing all this stuff on us? If you were there during the remakes of the various planning documents over the last couple of years, you know the answer to that question. It's long passed time to stand up for our rights!
Cosmo November 11, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Clayton Smith thank you for all the valuable information. As a Tam Valley resident I, too am suffering from this sudden onset of gridlock. Thank you for directing our eyes to embrace the "Big Picture". But it seems to me that the moment the stoplight @ Tennessee Valley Rd. was activated, an immediate traffic problem ensued.It's hard not to point the finger of blame directly at that exasperating light! Can't it be deactivated so we can resume normalcy on the roads here in Tam Valley?
Clayton Smith November 11, 2013 at 04:49 PM
To Cosmo: Thank you for your attention and concern on this issue. Question, how are the pedestrians and bicyclist going to be able to cross the highway when they use the newly opened elevated walkway connecting Tennessee Valley to the Bay Side Pathway to Sausalito and Mill Valley? How about all the park visitors looking to turn left onto Highway 1 and go up to Mill Valley or Mt. Tam after visiting Tennessee Cove and Oakwood Valley? Are they to make their way over to Flamingo? The unsafe conditions that existed before were bourn routinely by those of us who had to bear them, which is why we protested our endangerment and asked for the signal as part of the pathway. Are we to be forced to drive down Flamingo and use that intersection, and clog up those streets and the intersection and at the Junction? What many of us had to do in the past was to make a right at Tennessee Valley Road onto Highway 1, go down to the Holiday Inn, turn right there across heavy traffic, then do a U-turn in their driveway, make an additional right to get back on the road to go down to Mill Valley. Or we had to go down to Manzanita, make a right a do a loop through the parking lot, back to the freeway entrance, then through the traffic light by the Fireside, making a left there to return to Highway 1 again. So, whose convenience takes priority? As the car count has increased this work around has become intolerable. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Solution: Better timing control of the light. Restoration of the right turn lane at Tennessee Valley Road. A right turn green light for when the left turn is enabled from Highway1 unto Tennessee Valley Road in order to empty Tennessee Valley Road of built up traffic. Coordination of all three signals along Highway 1. Better control over the chaotic activity at the Arco station. However, the long term solution is lane expansion towards the bayside of Highway 1, including a second bridge over the Creek, dividing the highway with a large multi lane signalized roundabout at Tam Junction. The roundabout will require building an underground pedestrian walkway shaped in the form of an X to facilitate the continual flow of walkers to and from each of the intersections four corners without impacting vehicular flows. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Right now, we need to get the bus stops pushed back far enough off the roadway so that the other vehicles on the road don't have to either stop and wait for them, or try to maneuver (often dangerously) around them. We also need a fixed barrier in front of the Arco station to prohibit left turns into the station from across the highway. The strip center circulation needs to be review and better engineered. We started to do this as a community project many years ago, but as many have now come to know, most of the new money the State has coming in goes to two particular items, the failing school system and the gaping holes in the Public Employee Pension Funds, the consequence of the unions looting the States taxpayers, leaving us little money left over to solve all these acutely pressing problems. Now, we are back to the whole over burdening of the decaying under-invested-in infrastructure discussion again. Time for some good government, if that is even possible anymore.
Schwing Nutter November 12, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Clayton thanks for enlightening us all on how complicated the flow of traffic is but let me point out the obvious the new light is causing the problem yes many factors come into play but we all know the day they turned that thing on the problem started
Clayton Smith November 12, 2013 at 03:44 PM
To Schwing Nutter: First, they reset the light a Tam Junction to make it more pedestrian friendly and we heard the numerous complaints on its effect of "slowing down the flow of traffic." But this was done because of the unsafe conditions for the kids coming and going from school. It took a severe accident, nearly taking the life of a child making his way home along that stretch of roadway to get the needed attention to make that change. After that, came the long awaited signalization of the intersection at Flamingo Road and Highway 1 and again numerous complaints came that this "slowed down the flow of traffic." However, for the first time traffic could move out of the local streets safely in both directions onto Highway 1. Now, the light at Tennessee Valley Road has been turned on and again we have the numerous complaints that this has "slowed down the flow of traffic." Yes, it has and for good reason. The people who need to use this intersection have some right to a safe environment to drive, walk and bicycle in. For years our safety has been ignored. Due to the construction of the Charles McGlashen Path connecting the our neighborhood with the Bayside Path along the marsh, and visa versa the Bayside Path with the hike and bike opportunities in parklands of Oakwood Valley and Tennessee Cove, this neglect has come to an end. Question, does speed of transit to the freeway take a front seat to the safety of your neighbors? Has not the neglect of concern for our safety masked the deficiencies of Highway 1 and the main Southern road into Mill Valley? These questions were dealt with in depth over 20 years ago in the Transportation Element of that time. I have a copy of it. It recommended adding lanes. This was never done. So here we are. The truth is before us. Either we follow those earlier recommendations or face the fact of our traffic congestion.
Clayton Smith November 12, 2013 at 04:02 PM
To continue: The traffic count data from the study I referred to above tells us that the traffic volumes at Tam Junction even then rivaled the volumes at the Tiburon Exit on the freeway. In the 12 hour period between 7 AM and 7 PM, 14,500 vehicles pass through the intersection EACH DIRECTION! Do the Math. This is a rate of over 1,200 cars per hour, or 20 cars per minute in each direction, one car every 3 second in each direction. So turn on a traffic light for one minute and of course, you have 60 cars behind it. So, now the 60 cars stack up between Tennessee Valley Road and the Junction. Take away the light and they will stack up at Manzanita. The difference is that there are two lanes at Manzanita to accommodate the stacking. First, I would recommend a new traffic study, modeled on the one done previously. Second, we need to get some order into the flow at the Junction and down through the strip to Tennessee Valley Road. The existing chaos must be abated. And the bus stops have to be corrected so as to reduce their negative impact on the rest of us while they are letting of and taking on passengers. And median dividers must be installed across from the Arco station. We are tired of the abuse that business imposes on the rest of us.
Clayton Smith November 12, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Correction: The sentence beginning with "So turn on a traffic light for one minute..." should read "So turn on the traffic light for one minute and of course, you have 20 cars behind it. So, now the 20 cars stack up between.... ."
Schwing Nutter November 12, 2013 at 06:40 PM
The problem is some planner came up with a really bad idea and a bunch of people went along with it , you are saying that the new light is a safe solution I say that it is a problem waiting to happen a crosswalk on a blind curve in a 35 mph zone feels far from safe to me , a small tunnel would have been way safer for pedestrians and it would not have effected traffic. very to simple to engineer so it does not flood and people can cross safely 24/7
Clayton Smith November 12, 2013 at 08:05 PM
To Schwing Nutter: Yes, the pedestrian tunnel idea would go a ways towards resolving one part of the issue. In fact, when the tide is out and it hasn't been raining, under the bridge access is available. Biker have to walk their bikes. Horses are not possible and this upset the equestrian crowd. The bike riders wanted something that would allow them not to dismount. So when this was being hashed out the idea was scuttled. Obviously, the speed limit has to be reduced to 25 miles per hour and more notice given to the folks coming off the freeway that they are not now on some country road but traversing through a populated and congested area. A little bit of enforcement might go a long way. But the other point I have been making still stands, which is how people trying to get on Highway 1 from Tennessee Valley Road can do so safely? Neither you nor anyone else who has complained about this traffic light have show any concern for us. Oh, we hear the stock "we feel your pain" kind of stuff, but a genuine concern for our safety is not to be found. I was surprised when Mc Glashen agreed to it to begin with, but I think he was able to visualize the unseen parties. He did not see the incredible incompetence of Caltrans is executing what should have been a very easy transition to signalization. But neither did I. The light timing is not a difficult task, but government workers have come to demonstrate such a contempt for the rest of us that I think we should always expect the worst whenever we have dealings with them. They need to coordinate the signals in such a way that the traffic can clear and then load in a more efficient manner, but to do so they have to send someone here. For all the folks complaining about what you are seeing today, remember the more residential activity, the more traffic. A two lane road can only handle so much. The abrupt right turn at the Fireside was not there years ago. The County, when the built Fort Rose at the Fireside closed off what was a seamless entrance Southbound onto the freeway to appease the low income housing gods, housing we didn't need or what. So now when it floods.... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The big question really is how did we get the government we got? Is this arrogance, insensitivity and incompetence what we deserve? Why are our local politicians and the bureaucracy that is supposed to serve them so out of touch with the reality the rest of us live in? Why do the voters think that writing about this endless litany of government failures is enough, or that voting is enough? In the last election our supervisor ran unopposed. What did she do with all her unnecessary campaign contributions? It just goes on and on. We live in essentially a one party state, which is in turn breeding a host of "rotten boroughs." The principle agenda at the Civic Center is how they can transform our communities into something their planner friends have design to better control us. The millennial generation have a point in their occupy movement. We older boomers should listen up.
John Larner December 30, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Clayton, Yes there are many issues around traffic & government in Tam Valley, but the cause of the current traffic backups is clearly the new lights, period. When they went in, suddenly the usual problems became much worse. The timing needs to be adjusted, cross streets made blinking yellow at rush hours, SOMETHING! The convenience of a few hundred residents who use Tennessee Valley Road should not outweigh the HUGE inconvenience of the thousands who use Hwy. 1 and Almonte. Bike riders & peds who need to cross safely at Tennessee Valley can just wait longer - i don't see very many of them using the cross walk anyway, esp. at rush hours. Again, over-concern about safety, and the convenience of the few, should not override the needs of the many.

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