Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Octavia Blvd. and I-280: A cautionary tale

Another Octavia Blvd?

From the Examiner's story (Demolition of one-mile stretch of I-280 part of proposal to link Mission Bay with surrounding area) on city planning for the I-280/railyard area in San Francisco:

A one-mile portion of Interstate 280 at 16th Street could come down to make way for a boulevard, which would link Mission Bay with its surrounding neighborhoods, say city planners. The highway’s potential demolition is included in “The Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility Study,” which was released [last]Tuesday by The City. The report explores a plethora of changes to the area. The study looks at relocating the 4th and King Streets Caltrain railyard, a more than $2.6 billion proposal to connect High Speed Rail and Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center, and to create a 1.3-mile tunnel from the transit center to Mission Bay in anticipation of the new transbay tube.

From the Curbed story on the community meeting on the plans:

The natives are getting restless about an idea circulating in the San Francisco Planning Department to demolish the northernmost stretch of the Interstate 280, starting at Mariposa Street. But Gil Kelley, director of citywide planning, was quick to assure the 150 or so grumbling citizens who crowded into the Potrero Hill Recreation Center center last night (an overflow crowd in the small room) that it’s only an idea, and nobody is firing up the wrecking balls just yet. "We don’t yet have a proposal," Kelley said. "We’re at the very beginning of the process. The freeway idea is just one part of this study, and we honestly haven’t considered the details of it yet." Every time Kelley mentioned the freeway, the crowd hissed. "Yes, I hear the hissing," he said.

People in that part of town probably know what happened when the Central Freeway over Hayes Valley was demolished: most of the traffic that used to go over the neighborhood on the freeway---100,000 vehicles a day---is now coming through the middle of the neighborhood on Octavia Boulevard and other surface streets, creating chronic, area-wide traffic congestion. 

Shortly after the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd. opened to traffic, it was carrying 45,000 vehicles a day through the neighborhood. In 2012 the traffic count on The Boulevard of Dreams was up to 63,000 vehicles a day.

Mayor's transportation director on the right

More from the Examiner:

“These sites also become the catalyst for the next round of center city job creation,” she[Gillian Gillett] continued, “in the same ways that the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway and the former Central Freeway elevated off-ramp became economic catalysts.” It also aids The City’s goal of adding 190,000 jobs in the next 30 years, she wrote, which would be further bolstered by new regional transit---like high speed rail. “The payoff,” Gillett argued, “is a continued dynamic region that allows people to live closer to work and makes commuting easier for those that do not. This vision increases the wealth of the region.”

According to Caltrans (page 19), that I-280 segment carries more than 58,000 vehicles a day, which would be the real traffic "payoff" for that part of town if the freeway is demolished.

I understand that City Hall lives in a bubble rarely penetrated by reality, but here's the bad news: high-speed rail will never come to San Francisco or anywhere else. Gillett and other City Hall bobbleheads need to do some homework on the issue, starting here, here, and here.

Why did the High-Speed Rail Authority dump the Southern California route in favor of Northern California? Because they were thwarted by the folks down south just like they will be thwarted by folks on the Peninsula.

More on this tomorrow.

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