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Redesign of Bay Area's El Camino Real is a Royal Pain

One road, two counties, 19 cites - that's what and who is involved in a far-reaching plan to redesign El Camino Real, the first paved road in California, from Daly City in northern San Mateo County to San Jose in the heart of Santa Clara County.
December 31, 2012, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The Royal Road" is the English translation of El Camino Real, a road that stretches over 50 miles from the San Francisco border to San Jose, though it is called Mission Street in Daly City and The Alameda in San Jose.  

Will Reisman, The (San Francisco) Examiner's transportation reporter, examines the six-year effort of the Grand Boulevard Initiative, particularly the different approach taken by transportation planners and the task force of the two counties involved.

"Planners have long hoped to adorn El Camino Real with bike lanes, pedestrian amenities, and residential and commercial development projects well-served by transit. Yet a consensus has been elusive regarding how to transform a boulevard that passes through 19 cities and two counties, leading to the glacial pace of the rehabilitation project.

In San Mateo County, cities are encouraged to adopt smaller, localized projects that fit within the vision of the Grand Boulevard Initiative. There is no countywide framework for these efforts, although transit-oriented developments have sprouted up in Redwood City and South San Francisco.

The situation is markedly different in Santa Clara County, where the Valley Transportation Authority has proposed a series of robust improvement projects for El Camino Real. The authority has recommended installing two dedicated lanes for bus rapid-transit vehicles in the center of El Camino Real, adding trees and bike paths, improving sidewalk lighting and shortening the length of crosswalks."

“The San Mateo version is very community-oriented, but it could take 60 years to accomplish,” said Kevin Connolly, an authority transportation planning manager. “We could get ours done in four years.”

While progress at transforming the state-owned road may be slow, the governing body, the Grand Boulevard Task Force and its staff, has been successful at getting funding.  

According to the website, "(a)s of March 2012, the Grand Boulevard Initiative has secured $8.6 million in grant funding from programs and agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER II Grant Program, the California Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Climate Initiative Program, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Local funding also is provided by the San Mateo County Transit District, which covers administrative expenses, and from the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which provide the local matching fund requirements for the current grant work."

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Published on Sunday, December 23, 2012 in San Francisco Examiner
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