San Rafael roundabout project faces resistance
Residents of San Rafael are sounding the alarm about a proposed roundabout at a busy interchange on the 101 Freeway.
Community members who attended a briefing on Wednesday said they were concerned the $4 million Caltrans project at the Manuel T. Freitas Parkway interchange could cause safeguards and unsafe conditions for cyclists .
The long-planned work was first introduced as a project to relocate the bus stop to the northbound exit ramp to Freitas Parkway. The bus stop is unsafe as it forces riders through highway-bound traffic, and it needs upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, planners said.
The proposed roundabout on the east side of the freeway at the intersection of Redwood Freeway and Civic Center Drive became the centerpiece of the project. The roundabout aims to make traffic flow more smoothly and to make it safer.
“The roundabout is really the result of having to move the bus stop due to ADA improvements,” said Matt Korve, engineer at AECOM, the company that designed the project. “Improvements for cyclists thanks to the interchange are not part of the project in the current scope.”
Shirley Fischer, co-founder of the North San Rafael Housing Coalition of Residents, said drivers would compete for access to the roundabout from the freeway exit and eastbound Freitas Drive.
“This project must consider safety a high priority,” Fischer said. “Who is going to know who has the right of way to enter this circle?”
Korve said the line of cars from Freitas Parkway would have the right of way because that entrance to the roundabout is in front of the freeway exit entrance.
When it comes to bike access on Freitas Parkway on the east side of the freeway, Fischer said planners also need to think about safety for cyclists.
“It has to be a plan for the next 20 or 40 years,” she said. “Looking only at public transport and pedestrians is not enough.”
The project would relocate the northbound bus stop to the north shoulder of the Redwood Freeway, a frontage road parallel to the freeway. A retaining wall at the corner of the Redwood Freeway would be extended, and a northbound pedestrian and bicycle path would be added from Civic Center Drive to the bus stop. The pedestrian path connecting the Redwood Expressway to the bus stop will be removed.
On the other side of the freeway, the southbound bus stop would remain between the on-ramp and the southbound off-ramp. The stairs leading to Freitas Parkway would be removed and an accessible path would be added. A refuge median would be added to the Freitas Drive crosswalk.
Cyclists pleaded for a southbound bike lane from Redwood Highway through the roundabout to Civic Center Drive.
Matthew Hartzell, director of planning and research at Transportation Alternatives for Marin, said: “Overall, this is a really exciting concept.
“However, I must say that from the perspective of the cycling community, this project does not quite meet the aspirations and the hope that we would like,” he said.
Hartzell said the road from Civic Center Drive to Redwood Highway is an unfinished segment of the Bay Trail system, a network of bike paths across the Bay Area.
“I think it’s clear that this is a big change at the intersection, but obviously people are going to get used to it and understand that it’s a different setup,” Bill said. Guerin, Director of Public Works.
After hearing the feedback, Guerin said, Caltrans will revamp the roundabout in an effort to better accommodate bicycles. However, he said the city was working on a separate project to add a cycle lane along Merrydale Road which would connect cyclists on the east side of the freeway to the Northgate shopping centre.
“It would be a more direct and safer route for runners,” he said. The project is in the design phase, he said.
Vice Mayor Rachel Kertz participated in the meeting.
“It’s going to be a huge change for the Terra Linda community directly, but for anyone coming off the highway,” she said. “This will not be the last conversation.”