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Caltrans: New Tam Valley Traffic Signals to Go Live in Early January

Signals on Shoreline Hwy. at Tennessee Valley Rd. and Flamingo Rd. will be synchronized to improve traffic flow, but road officials say bugs will get worked out in first few weeks of operation.

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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Robin Keller December 01, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Ricardo speaks the truth when he says that the traffic signal changes in Tam Valley are not intended to improve the traffic flow of Hwy. 1. It's hard to argue with safety, but the fact remains that the traffic in Tam Valley will worsen once these changes have been implemented. We won't see the full impact until the tourists return with better weather. Our local and state government officials have chosen to solve the easy problem while ignoring the more difficult problem of total traffic flow in the area. Note that this larger problem will only be exacerbated with any new housing projects anticipated for the valley.
Kathy Mcleod December 04, 2012 at 07:40 PM
David Edmondson's blog on Tam Junction tells it like it is. http://thegreatermarin.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/tam-junction-isnt-going-anywhere/ Check it out.
Kathy Mcleod December 04, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Jack, the answer to your question is that in September the kids go back to school and all the parents drive them to and from even though they are only minutes away if they go by bike. Parents choose to drive their children because they don't see where it is safe enough to bike. Hopefully it will be better when the Tennessee Valley Pathway is done but it is still not perceived to be safe going over Almonte and into Tam Junction even with the crossing guards. Hopefully that will also change after the Caltrans/TAM study on ADA, pedestrian and bicycle improvements is done and engineering is complete which will all happen AFTER the lights are in. The only way is for kids to bus or bike to school. Imagine 1000's of parents driving to and from Mill Valley and Tam Valley every morning and afternoon on a two lane road between Edna Maguire, Tam Valley Elementary, the Middle School, Old Mill, Strawberry and the High School, not to mention the private schools, the nursery schools and the preschools. Back and forth and then off to work or back to the house they go. That is why the traffic is so bad starting in September.
Jack December 05, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Thanks Kathy. Alas, I fear your comments may be on the mark. Parents of grammar school kids I know tell me they drive their kids 3 blocks to school so that they won't be scorned by paranoid parents of other kids, and parents of high school kids I know tell me they drive their kids 3 blocks to school because their kids are whiners. And those crossing guards. If ever there was a traffic hazard, it's those crossing guards dashing out into 19 mph traffic frantically waving, then dashing back to their spot. We don't need no steenking tri-lateral traffic studies. We need parents (and crossing guards) to just stay home. Let the kids walk and run and ride bikes and skateboards and meet up and talk and kick rocks and wear raincoats...
Rico December 05, 2012 at 03:45 AM
So true Jack ! The kids who live in Tam Valley should normally attend the school in their area, which is Tam Valley school. The kids who live in Mill Valley should attend their local schools, there should be no need at all for any elementary school kids to be sported in automobiles to get to school. The kids who attend Tam High need buses to transport them from Bolinas, Stinson Beach and Muir Beach to get to Tam High if they don't own cars during their freshman year.. There is no danger for Tam High kids in Tam Valley walking or biking along Almonte, or taking back roads (even safer) during their entire 4 years, but most smart kids get their drivers licenses by the time that they are sophomores. What I have observed, is that the worst traffic is parents shuttling their kids to school in the weekday mornings and the afternoons. The epidemic of fat kids is getting worse, and the parents are partly to blame by driving them to school and everywhere else these days. These kids need to get out and exercise, walk and bike to school, (rain or shine). The new traffic signals are mainly designed for automobile access to Hwy 1, and for pedestrians and cyclists to cross Hwy 1 at Tennessee Valley Rd. to access the $3.4 million new bridge replacement and new elevated Manzanita path. There are no schools in Manzanita, and I think that at least some of the $3.4 million should have been spent to build (stripe) a new crosswalk at the Fireside Public housing project.

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