San Mateo abandons offramp plan 

While residents are breathing a sigh of relief after learning this week that their homes will not be demolished to make way for a new offramp, city officials are still looking for other ways to make two dangerous intersections safer.

High accident rates at the Poplar Avenue exit prompted officials in San Mateo and Burlingame in 2006 to explore the possibility of closing the southbound exit from U.S. Highway 101 and adding a southbound exit at Peninsula Avenue. However, doing so would have required taking anywhere from 15 to 40 homes by eminent domain — a prospect that has simply proved too costly, according to study results announced this week.

"We’re thrilled, absolutely thrilled," said Burlingame resident Cheryl Bower, whose home was in the path of the proposed ramps.

The study did not pinpoint exactly how many homes would be taken through eminent domain, nor exactly how much money it would have cost to acquire them,according to San Mateo Public Works Director Larry Patterson.

"I’m relieved we won’t be looking at the kind of expense we would have been looking at if we were buying all those homes," Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell said. "To condemn all those homes, that’s not going to compete well for state funding."

Now, however, officials must return to the drawing board and look at other ways to make Poplar Avenue safer, such as closing it to cross traffic at North Amphlett Boulevard and at Idaho Street. Accidents occurred at five times the expected rate at Poplar and Amphlett, and more than 10 times the expected rate at Poplar and Idaho, Patterson said.

However, Bower and others, such as Harold Mindell, who owns a 76-unit apartment on Amphlett near Poplar, maintain those intersections aren’t any less safe than others near the freeway.

Between 1996 and 2006, the Peninsula Avenue offramps saw 34 accidents while the Poplar Avenue offramps saw 28, according to the California Highway Patrol. The Peninsula Avenue interchange will receive a new pedestrian and bicycle overpass as part of the plan to add Highway 101 auxiliary lanes between Millbrae Avenue and Third Avenue.

"Our new focus is making sure that pedestrians and bicyclists have safe use of the new overpass. There’s going to be four lanes of traffic there and we still aren’t clear on how it can be used safely," Bower said.

Residents are organizing a town hall meeting to discuss future proposals for Poplar Avenue on March 10 at 10 a.m. at the Burlingame Recreation Center, 850 Burlingame Ave.

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