Previously: Motorists Foiled When Driving to Doyle
For Golden Gate Bridge commuters and San Francisco residents not aware of potentially serious traffic delays an expedited $1 billion Doyle Drive reconstruction project will cause, the scenario was given public air at a bridge board meeting in San Francisco today.
“This is a huge issue,” Golden Gate Bridge District board member Brian Sobel said.
A huge issue, not just for drivers, but also for bridge toll revenues, board members agreed.
Gene Gonzalo, a Doyle Drive project director for the California Department of Transportation, the agency that owns and is leading the demolition and reconstruction of the 1.5-mile southern approach of U.S. Highway 101 to the bridge, gave a presentation detailing the project timeline and its expected impacts to the Bridge District this morning.
Doyle Drive has long been considered structurally and seismically deficient and in need of replacement. It was given a structural integrity rating of 2 out of 100 by the Federal Highway Administration.
The $1.05 billion Doyle Drive project, originally set to begin next year and finish in 2014, was recently accelerated in order to qualify for $50 million in federal stimulus funding. The Golden Gate Bridge District also approved $75 million of its money for the project last year.
Construction is now scheduled to start in October and finish in 2013.
The new Doyle Drive, to be called the Presidio Parkway, will keep the raised section of the roadway but with wider lanes and emergency shoulders. It will include short tunnels to reduce noise and improve views in the Presidio, and will have bicycle lanes and pedestrian access, as well as direct vehicle access to the Presidio.
Major traffic impacts during construction include the closure of two ramps connecting Doyle Drive with Park Presidio, also known as Highway 1, which runs north to south through the city. Between 2010 and 2012, there will also be two full weekend closures of the entirety of Doyle Drive.
The ramp from northbound Park Presidio to southbound Doyle Drive will be closed before the end of this year, and remain closed for up to 18 months, Gonzalo said.
The ramp from northbound Doyle Drive to southbound Park Presidio will also be closed around the same time, and remain closed for the duration of the project, according to Gonzalo.
Drivers often use those ramps to get from the southern parts of the city to the Marina and the Presidio, or in the opposite direction south to access Interstate Highway 280 and San Francisco International Airport.
Gonzalo said Caltrans estimates 40 percent of the traffic using those two ramps will be diverted through the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot, underneath the toll plaza, around and back onto Doyle Drive southbound to reach either southbound Park Presidio or continue south on Doyle Drive.
The remaining 60 percent will likely find their way around the detours through back roads in the Presidio, Marina, Richmond and Laurel Heights neighborhoods, Gonzalo said.
Bridge District board members did not greet the news well, wondering what kinds of time delays drivers could expect.
“I can’t speak to that right now,” said Gonzalo. “I’ll get back to you.”
“This area is pretty constrained,” Gonzalo said. “I don’t think there’s much choice, for where to go.” He said detour signs would be made clearly visible, as would temporary signs alerting drivers of expected road closures.
Board member Barbara Pahre said she was “appalled,” and that the board was “hearing this for the first time.”
Board members wondered whether excessive delays in the area might convince Golden Gate Bridge commuters to avoid the bridge altogether.
“It’s going to cost us money,” Pahre stated flatly. “People aren’t going to tolerate an extra 45 minutes for three years.”
“Our staff needs some time to really look at the impact,” she said. “Maybe that acceleration (of the project) wasn’t the way to go.”
The Bridge District agreed today to draft a letter detailing their concerns to Caltrans officials.
“This just can’t be done in a vacuum by Caltrans,” said District President Al Boro.
District General Manager Celia Kupersmith said the district might have to consider increasing its ferry service between Marin County and San Francisco for those who don’t want to brave traffic delays.
“As with the Bay Bridge (scheduled to close for construction over Labor Day Weekend), people will plan other ways to get around,” Gonzalo said.
“There will be some inconvenience,” Gonzalo acknowledged to reporters after today’s meeting. “We will be looking into the time delays that will occur.”
He said San Francisco residents “will know where to go, to get past that congested area.”
“We’ve looked at all options, and this is the best option, that we came up with,” said Gonzalo, who expected board members would be unhappy today.
“Traffic is their revenue, so I’m not surprised,” he said.
Caltrans estimates the Doyle Drive project will be completed by early 2013, “if everything goes according to plan,” Gonzalo said.
The agency is seeking an additional $50 million in federal stimulus money, which if not forthcoming, could slow the project down, he said.