Opinion:  Foothill Bypass, Part III: We can’t afford it


By on Wed, May 10, 2006

Mike Ferreira is a former member of the Half Moon Bay City Council and a former member of the city’s Planning Commission.  This is the third part of a three-part article.

The Official Foothill Bypass won’t solve our traffic problems and is fraught with environmental and legal complications. And we can’t afford it. One of the biggest flaws in the long-standing Foothill Boulevard proposalin the City’s LCP is its configuration as a City of Half Moon Bay operated "bypass". This is a city of less than 13,000 people which historically has had chronic budget problems and which couldn’t even maintain its own streets until the Ritz started laying its golden eggs just a few years ago.

The idea that a city of such a small size could construct and maintain—yes, maintain—a 4-lane eastern bypass stretching from Young Avenue and Highway 1 in the north and over creeks and wetlands to connect with Highway 92 just east of Hilltop is downright zany. But that’s how it’s drawn up in the city’s Land Use Plan.

Assuming it could even be permitted, it would have to be constructed to highway standards or it would be reduced to rubble by highway traffic usage in a relatively short time. Conservatively, such a bypass would cost at least $150 million and the city would have to set aside millions per year for maintenance and reserves to operate it. I am not familiar with any other small coastal city that operates a bypass of State Highway 1—not Monterey, not Moss Landing. not Watsonville, not Aptos, not Capitola, not Santa Cruz, not Pacifica, not Daly City, and certainly not Bolinas.

And that’s why so many of us have concluded that the only purpose for its inclusion in the Land Use Plan back in the 80s was to facilitate the development of vacant parcels in the City’s foothills. It’s the only sensible explanation for its existence, because there’s no other credible rationale.

The idea of building a below grade intersection at Highway 92 is not new. It was the city’s traffic engineer’s preferred alternative when he studied the issue in the late 90s during the city’s Foothill negotiations with Ailanto over Pacific Ridge. The problem was that it would have added $8 million to the project (The cost has certainly gone up since then).

The city manager then proposed that a traffic signal would be the "short term" solution (for which the developer would pay) and the below grade connection would be the "long term" solution (for which the public would pay). This interesting, to say the least, proposal was never tested at the City Council. The Foothill alignment ran into other problems with wetlands and ensuing problematical realignments, so no Coastal Development Permit has ever been applied for.

In conclusion I would say that CCF’s re-proposal of the Bayview/Foothill Bypass of the 90s, reducing it to two lanes, and restricting it to autos would reduce the overall cost of building it and maintaining it, but it would still be very expensive. And, it wouldn’t really function as a bypass, just as an extra side street with some limited circulation value. And certainly not enough of such value as to justify a significant public expenditure. Or emergency permits.  Or throwing in the towel on lawsuits.  Or looking the other way as laws are ignored or fudged.