County lands $60M to upgrade Highway 101 

San Mateo and San Francisco counties were awarded almost half a billion dollars for highway projects Wednesday, out of a total of close to $1.8 billion in bond funding allocated to Northern California highway improvements.

The California Transportation Commission granted San Mateo County $60 million to install auxiliary lanes along U.S. Highway 101 between Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto and Marsh Road in Menlo Park.

San Francisco officials — after their $175 million request was initially recommended for rejection — received $405 million to seismically upgrade Doyle Drive, the southern entrance onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

"This is a major infusion of resources into the Bay Area’s major problem," said Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman. "For a region that needs to compete globally, we have to address our major challenges, and congestion is one of them."

The Highway 101 funds came from the $4.5 billion available for highway improvement from last year’s $20 billion state Proposition 1B. County transportation officials hope to start work on the auxiliary lanes, which are expected to ease backups caused by merging traffic, by April 2011.

With auxiliary lane projects already planned between Millbrae and Third avenues and between Embarcadero Road and Highway 85 in Santa Clara County, the lanes will eventually extend almost the length of the Peninsula.

"I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the actions today mean people are going to spend less time on the road and more time home with their families," Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler said.

The Doyle Drive project funding, nearly half the project’s full cost, came out of separate bond funds designated for Caltrans improvement projects, allowing the commission to award more than the amount initially requested by The City.

State Sen. Carole Migden, who made a public plea Tuesday for the Doyle Drive funding when the project looked likely to get passed over, said the next challenge will be to figure out a work schedule. The road can’t be closed, so The City will need to balance the need for improvements with the needs of commuters and visitors, she said.

"It’s scary and unstable, and 150,000 cars a day travel across it," Migden said. "Without question we need to fortify the road."

According to the report from the California Transportation Commission, the target for a contract on the project is late 2010.

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