Bigger Intersections and More Traffic Planned for Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station

El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue
Millbrae Avenue at El Camino Real in Millbrae, slated for expansion with even more traffic lanes despite its location at San Mateo County’s busiest transit hub. Photo: Google Maps

As the City of Millbrae inches closer to final approval of plans for new construction at the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station, officials have quietly proposed adding new traffic lanes and traffic signals to intersections near the station. The traffic expansions aim to cram even more auto traffic through the area, worsening already hazardous conditions for people walking or bicycling to and from the station.

The draft Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan to construct two major mixed-use developments on the Millbrae Station’s surface parking lots and along El Camino Real west of the station was released last June. The draft proposed only two new traffic signals and no lane additions be considered to support additional auto traffic, and envisioned a redeveloped station area that would boost both transit use and retail sales by making major safety improvements for pedestrians.

“Streets and intersections in the Plan Area will be reconfigured to provide a safer and more pleasant walking and biking environment that can be enjoyed by children, the elderly, and people with disabilities,” states the station area plan.

But last Tuesday Millbrae’s City Council approved a set of General Plan amendments allowing city engineers to add new traffic lanes to El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue – already eight lanes across, including turn lanes – as well as lane additions or new traffic signals to three other intersections. This despite the fact that the project’s Environmental Impact Report, adopted by the city on January 12, recommended against these traffic lane additions, calling them “legally infeasible.”

“The plan as laid out in text and drawings prioritizes the convenience of auto traffic and parking at the expense of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit,” wrote Sierra Club representatives in a January 22 letter to the City Council. They also wrote that it contradicts “the concept of a Transit Oriented Development.”

Intersection Expansions
Traffic lane additions planned for two El Camino Real intersections adjacent to the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station. Image: City of Millbrae


Even though the future office, residential and retail developments are all located within walking distance of the Millbrae BART and Caltrain Station, city planners are still assuming that over 70 percent of rush-hour trips to and from those developments will be made by motor vehicle. This is in part because the developments will include hundreds of new parking spaces that will attract auto traffic to the area.

Millbrae’s auto-dominated streets are notorious for their hazards to pedestrians. Caltrans was ordered to pay $8 million in damages in 2010 to the family of Emily Liou, who was struck while crossing El Camino Real, and remains in a coma. The jury found that Caltrans had consistently failed to implement safety improvements, allowing dangerous conditions at several crosswalks and intersections along El Camino to remain unaddressed for years.

Since then, El Camino remains unchanged, with narrow sidewalks, long crossing distances, and sharrows placed in the door zone of parked cars as the only bicycle infrastructure. Millbrae Avenue has seen no safety improvements for people walking and bicycling whatsoever.

The Millbrae’s City Council approved amendments to the city’s General Plan on Tuesday, but postponed final approval over concerns about the impact on local schools.

  • njudah

    the city of Millbrae is run by people who are just there to help their pals or something, expecting any kind of “vision” etc is just asking for trouble. it’s sad and they wonder why it is people would rather go to Burlingame, San Mateo etc.

  • murphstahoe
  • That Millbrae station is constantly freezing — the lack of walls is the main reason I refuse to travel south of SF more than a couple times a year. What were the architects smoking?

  • Elias Zamaria

    Can something be done to change the City Council’s mind about the new lanes, or is this a done deal?

  • KJ

    This is already a scary intersection to cross on foot, and currently you are forced to run across El Camino and down two blocks to catch the ECR (southbound) bus. At the very least, they need to bring the ECR bus back to the terminal with the other buses. The situation now is truly dangerous.

  • City Resident

    I agree that this is very much a car-first kind-of-place and pedestrian, bicycle and transit use is just an afterthought, at best. However, having the ECR again make the lengthy detour over the bridge and into the station’s transit plaza is very inefficient for the majority of the ECR’s passengers. Having the ECR remain on El Camino Real for more of its trip was a smart redesign. (It’s bad enough that it has to leave El Camino Real to access both the San Bruno and Colma stations.)

  • murphstahoe

    Just you try to be a cyclist SB on El Camino north of the station and figure out how to get to the station. Next to impossible

  • City Resident

    Thank you for covering these very negative planned lane additions. Millbrae has it backwards. Downtown Millbrae is a charming area, with many businesses all within just a few blocks of this BART/Caltrain station. Yet it’s a haven of free parking as there are no parking meters there. El Camino Real is already terrible for pedestrians to cross, especially at intersections without traffic lights. And bicycling along it is only for the brave. Downtown Millbrae and all of the retail and office areas along El Camino Real, north and south of Millbrae Avenue, would be ideal for bicycling and walking, were it not for the car-dominated streets. With roadway expansions now in the works, it will only become even more hostile to anyone not sheathed in a car’s glass and steel.

  • SFnative74

    Looks like Millbrae is moving backwards at a time when most Bay Area cities are moving forward.

  • Bernard Finucane

    You could easily increase the number of lanes without widening the street.

  • SFnative74

    If you’re going to insist on adding lanes, at least make them 10′ wide instead of 11′ or 12′. It looks like you have 10 lanes to cross at at least one intersection…narrowing lanes from 12′ to 10′ shortens the crossing distance by 20′ with minimal effect on capacity.

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