The arrival of bad weather tends to make the already rough rush hour commute through Tam Junction even worse.
Some much-needed and long-delayed help is on the way in the form of a pair of traffic signals at oft-dicey intersections, as well as related improvements in the area, with all work set to wrap by early January, according to county and Caltrans officials. They hope the projects will both ease traffic conditions in the area and improve safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The help comes in the form of the $4.6 million Tennessee-Manzanita Pathway Project, a multi-faceted project that includes a new traffic light at Shoreline Hwy. and Tennessee Valley Rd., as well as a new traffic signal on Shoreline as it bends toward Tam Valley at Flamingo Road. Ernest Klock, principal civil engineer with Marin County Public Works, said county crews should be finished with Tennessee-Manzanita project, which seeks to connect the Mill Valley-Sausalito multi-use path, Tennessee Valley Road and Tam Junction for bicyclists and pedestrians, by the end of December, as well as the Flamingo intersection project.
From there, with all equipment in place, Caltrans will take over, and hopes to flip the switch on both intersections in early January, according to spokesman Steve Williams. The two new lights will be synchronized with the light at Shoreline and Almonte Blvd., Williams said.
Exactly what that means will be determined in the days and weeks after the lights go live, he said, as Caltrans traffic engineers monitor the lights “and work out the bugs. The goal, he said, is to get traffic moving through those intersections more and smoothly than they have in recent years.
For residents and local transit officials, the improvements are welcomed, albeit long overdue. The traffic signal at Flamingo Rd., for instance, was a condition of approval when the Marin County Planning Commission approved the construction of Walgreens at 227 Shoreline Hwy. nearly 14 years ago. The $525,000 project was delayed for years due to Caltrans review and budget shortfalls.
“The bottom line is these lights are going to be great because it really couldn’t get any worse than it is now,” said Tam Valley resident Kathy McLeod, a longtime local advocate for safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians in the area. “We’re just sort of waiting to see. We want it to be better. The experts say (these projects) are going to make it better. I hope they time it so people coming out of Highway 1 would only have to stop once.”
“Little by little, safety improvements are being made in Tam Junction,” said Mill Valley City Councilwoman Stephanie Moulton-Peters, who sits on the Transportation Authority of Marin board and chairs the Mill Valley Safe Routes to School Task Force. “The new signals will make it easier and safer for everyone to access Shoreline Highway from Tennessee Valley and Tam Junction: bikes, pedestrians, and autos. The safety benefits of the new signals are significant."
While the traffic signals rightfully have gotten much of local residents’ attention, the Tennessee Valley Rd. project includes a number of other significant improvements. The most prominent of those was the installation in June of a 100-foot bike and pedestrian bridge across Coyote Creek along Shoreline near Tennessee Valley Road.
The larger project has a number of additional components, including: a raised boardwalk along Coyote Creek that allows for safe passage during high tide on both sides of Shoreline Hwy. and an offshoot path near Frantoio Ristorante connecting the path to Shoreline closer to Hwy.101, near the Manzanita Park & Ride.
The construction of the raised boardwalk east of Shoreline was delayed from early 2012 to Sept. 1 due to environmental protections for the California Clapper Rail bird. The existing dirt path along Coyote Creek has been closed since early fall. Klock said the boardwalk installation should be finished in December unless there are lengthy rain delays.
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