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City Looks to Ease Traffic on East Blithedale

Because of traffic signal malfunctions and light malfunctions, consistent backups have continued despite the end of the school year.

As the controversial Blithedale Terrace residential project has begun to in recent months, staunch opponents have rattled off a number of reasons why they think the city should reject it.

The most prevalent among those is traffic along East Blithedale Ave. from Elm Ave., where is, past the project site near Mesa Ave. and out to the Hwy. 101 interchange. But according to city officials and likely anyone who drives the narrow artery, traffic is pretty bad right now, regardless if the city approves a 20-unit residential development at the base of Kite Hill or something less than that.

“We know East Blithedale is just a major clog of a road right now,” said City Councilmember Stephanie Moulton-Peters.

City officials are realistic about what can done to improve traffic on the narrow roadway, which is hemmed in on both sides by homes. And though the city has $9 million in Measure A funding that has been allocated to the city’s overhauls of Miller and East Blithedale avenues, most of that money will go towards to over the next several years.

“We are simply not going to be able to widen most of East Blithedale,” Moulton-Peters said.

So what can be done in the meantime?

Two years after setting aside $25,000 in its capital improvement budget to study that question, city officials plan to find out. City Manager Jim McCann has given the go-ahead for the city to contract with a traffic consultant to see what sort of timing adjustments can be made to the four traffic signals along the backlogged section of East Blithedale: at Elm, Camino Alto, Lomita Dr. and Tower Drive.

“Blithedale traffic is going to be there one way or the other, and the signals are the low-hanging fruit,” said Councilmember Stephanie Moulton-Peters. “We have to see what can be done, if anything, with the timing of those lights, whether it’s improvements in technology or engineering to make traffic move through those intersections more quickly.”

In addition to the city’s efforts, local and county officials are hoping to make improvements to the Hwy. 101 interchange with East Blithedale and Tiburon Blvd. The Transportation Authority of Marin’s executive committee met earlier this month to , and a $200,000 study of the interchange to see what can be done to improve mobility through it for all, including bicyclists and pedestrians, is among them. The TAM board won’t formally approve the OBAG-funded projects until the fall, according to TAM Executive Director Diane Steinhauser.

That Hwy. 101 interchange, and specifically the traffic light at Tower Drive right before it, has been a pressure point of late, according to McCann. The signal’s malfunction several times in recent weeks have caused backups even worse than usual. Unlike the other the other four traffic signals within Mill Valley city limits, that signal is under the auspices of Caltrans, adding an extra bureaucratic step to getting it fixed or adjusted, McCann noted.

Moulton-Peters said there’s no magic bullet but that the city has to do what it can to ease the burden on commuters.

“Are we do everything we could be doing – that’s the questions,” she said.

Cathy Rosekrans June 28, 2012 at 04:36 AM
How about relieving traffic on in-bound East Blithedale by carving out a bus pad into the Blithedale Terrace project area. Maybe add some commuter parking. Scale down the Richardson project. Food for thougth.
Cathy Rosekrans June 28, 2012 at 04:37 AM
thought.
Lee Kleinecke June 28, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Start at the source of the backup and fix the interchange with 101. When Tiburon / Strawberry bound traffic gets blocked at the light and backs up onto the overpass, it blocks the entrance to 101 North. As two lanes of eastbound traffic from Mill Valley generally try to merge together to take this ramp, the backup starts. More frequently, the action of cars merging together to take that ramp is enough to cause the backup that extends to Kipling and beyond.
Chuck Wong July 25, 2012 at 10:42 PM
How about opening up Hamilton Drive Southbound so that people that want to get to the freeway can use it?
Alan Abrams July 26, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Sorry, that's too easy a solution...

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