Several San Mateo County transportation agencies commemorated the construction of U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park today with a groundbreaking celebration.
The auxiliary lanes, which will span three miles along north and southbound Highway 101 from Marsh Road to University Avenue, is an attempt to relieve congestion that has plagued Peninsula drivers.
Roseanne Foust, San Mateo County Transportation Authority chairwoman and emcee of the morning, noted that today was also the 42nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.
“We’re taking one small step to reduce congestion on Highway 101,” she said.
But the larger step, Foust said, was to improve the overall quality of life for San Mateo residents.
The speakers spoke to a background track of cars zooming through the lanes of the 101 directly behind the presentation.
“Highway 101 is the backbone of transportation in the Peninsula,” said Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi.
Sartipi said the auxiliary lanes will cut nine minutes in travel time during peak hours, save 5,600 gallons of gas per day and ultimately improve air quality while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Residents will now drive quicker, safer and with a little extra cash in their pockets, he said.
Though many present at the breaking of grounds were transportation officials, San Mateo County voters were often recognized for their contributions to the project.
“The voters of San Mateo County have always supported transportation projects,” said Adrienne Tissier, Metropolitan Transportation Commission chair and San Mateo County Supervisor. “It really took our voters to say this is what we want to do with our money.”
Half of the funding for the auxiliary lanes is provided by Measure A funding, a 2003 voter approved initiative that ensures funding for transportation projects through 2033. Sartipi said that funding was also provided by Proposition 1B and bond funds.
“It is so important we have those dollars available,” he said as he thanked the voters.
Menlo park Council Member Kelly Fergusson also mentioned an additional project that she hopes will be approved and in construction in the near future. Fergusson would like a sound wall constructed adjacent to Kelly Park as improvements to Highway 101 are made.
“We’ll see if he can work his magic on that one,” she said said of Sartipi.
For Menlo Park, Fergusson said, the auxiliary lanes to Highway 101 means more dependable mobility and the preservation of atmosphere. By having more cars on the highway, she said, this means having fewer cars take residential roads.
“In Menlo Park we really prize our quiet tree-lined residential neighborhoods,” Fergusson said. “This translates to improved quality of life.”
She also advised those present to really think about the potential impact of the nine minutes San Mateo County drivers will not be stuck in traffic.
“Those nine minutes are nine more minutes parents will get to spend with their kids everyday,” she said.
Tissier praised the cooperative collaboration of various San Mateo County transportation agencies working together to create a project beneficial to all communities.
“San Mateo County collaborates better than most counties in the state,” she said. “We’ll continue to work on projects together.”
City officials and transportation agency representatives then took up gold plated shovels illustrate with U.S Highway 101 signs and broke ground on the new construction project.
“These are the days we celebrate,” Foust said.