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MIJ: Marin traffic worse; drivers rack up wasted hours
Thursday 15 May 2008, 07:02
Filed under: Marin

Good news though, they expect traffic to drop because the high gas prices, and failing economy.

Mark Prado
Article Launched: 05/14/2008 05:21:36 PM PDT

OAKLAND – Marin’s traffic got a lot worse last year, but transportation officials say part of the reason is because of work that will ultimately improve vehicle flow.

The hours of delay in the county grew 19 percent from 2006 to 2007, and southbound Highway 101 weekday mornings constituted the third-worst traffic jam in the Bay Area, according to a report released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the California Department of Transportation.

That will hardly come as a surprise to Marin drivers, who routinely get stuck on Highway 101 jams, in particular during the morning southbound commute in the northern part of the county.

But a $128 million project to close a 4.5-mile gap in the carpool lane between Lucky Drive in Corte Madera and North San Pedro Road in San Rafael could help. When finished in December, a carpool lane will run up and down Highway 101 in Marin.

“Once we have the continuous carpool lane in the county, there will be a dramatic improvement throughout the corridor,” said John Goodwin, a transportation commission spokesman.

But all that work – which is ongoing and causes lane shifts that slow motorists – is part of the reason for the growing delays.

“Any time there is construction you will see delays as well,” said Bijan Sartipi, Caltrans District 4 director.

The No. 3 ranking for the southbound 101 commute was up from No. 4 in 2006, according to the report’s ranking of worst commutes. The ranking was based on traffic
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measured from 6:05 to 9:55 a.m. between Rowland Boulevard in Novato and Interstate 580 in San Rafael.

The northbound commute from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m. on Highway 101 between Seminary Drive in Mill Valley and central San Rafael was 12th worst. And the 3:20 to 6:30 p.m. northbound commute between De Long Avenue in Novato and San Antonio Road ranked 47th.

The report also showed that since 2003, the delays in Marin have increased 81 percent, the most of any Bay Area county.

“That’s why we are investing so much money in that corridor,” Sartipi said. “We have been seeing those numbers and want to close all those (carpool lane) gaps in that corridor.”

Marin commuters lost 11,200 hours a day sitting in traffic in 2007, according to the report, up from 9,400 in 2006. Overall, Bay Area congestion was up 12 percent, and 33 percent since 2003. The study measured congestion in terms of average speeds below 35 mph for 15 minutes or longer.

“Congestion does track employment,” said Scott Haggerty, vice chairman of the transportation commission. “As the Bay Area recovered from the dot-com bust, congestion has also been on the rise. The regional economy really picked up in 2004 and that trend has continued.”

But this year with gas prices rising and the economy ailing, congestion could ease, he said.

“It’s anecdotal, but I see fewer people on the roads,” Haggerty said.

Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@marinij.com

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