San Mateo plans to build pedestrian bridge 

Narrow walkways and the lack of bike lanes make crossing U.S. Highway 101 on Hillsdale Boulevard treacherous, bicyclists and pedestrians say, but some potential users say the plan to fix it will only add inconvenience to a dangerous path.

A plan to build a new bridge, discussed Wednesday night by the Public Works Commission and set to go before the City Council in May, will allow the city to apply for Measure A funds for construction. Although costs were originally estimated in the $6 million range, Senior Engineer Gary Heap said that as the project has taken shape, the price tag has risen to more than $7 million.

Hillsdale Boulevard is a major artery between San Mateo and Foster City, and as development begins at Bay Meadows — northeast of the overpass — the pedestrian and vehicle traffic is only expected to increase.

The ideal overcrossing, according to Steve Vanderlip, president of the Peninsula Bike and Pedestrian Coalition, would be north of Hillsdale Boulevard. That would give residents a direct line between the residential areas around Norfolk Street and the retail area around the Whole Foods shopping center to the west.

"We want this project to provide good, safe routes, but it should also encourage their use," he said.

The southern bridge being considered would force users traveling to the Bay Meadows development or shopping center to cross Hillsdale Boulevard twice if heading east over the freeway.

Given the inconvenience of having to walk bikes across a busy intersection twice, Vanderlip said, many riders will forego the new bridge and travel directly over Hillsdale Boulevard, where there is no designated bike route.

In response to that concern, Heap said the city will ask Caltrans to install bike lanes on the existing overpass. Such a project would require a design change because narrower lanes than are permitted would be required.

"We will request that Caltrans reviews it, but it’s their structure," he said.

Construction for a new structure could take up to two years, but Heap said a starting date has not been identified because they have not reached planning and design phases. Although this is a city project slated to use Measure A "gas tax" funds, Caltrans is involved by offering the use of state land for the east landing. The organization will also oversee any changes to the existing overpass.

A plan to build north of the existing overpass was nixed at the end of last year because it would require the city to build on the new Kaiser office site at 900 Franklin Parkway. The extended slope or switchbacks that would make the bridge accessible to all pedestrians would take up too much of Kaiser’s property, Heap said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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