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Freeway Widenings

San Francisco & Caltrans Plan to Widen 280/King Street Off-Ramp

A little girl was run over and killed at a location where Caltrans and SFCTA now want to pump in more high-speed traffic through a freeway ramp widening. Then they wonder why Vision Zero is failing

A shrine for a four-year-old girl who was killed at 4th and King in August. Photo from Walk SF’s Instagram.

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

On Wednesday, November 15, SFCTA held a virtual town hall regarding the "101/280 Express Lanes and Bus Project." (video). A more accurate name is the "280 and King Street off-ramp widening project." 

During the meeting, SFCTA Senior Engineer Jielin Pan’s presentation stated the project goals are to "move people more efficiently, increase trip reliability, enhance travel choices, reduce emissions, support community well-being, and contribute to a regional network." Despite this statement, SFCTA seems intent on widening the highway in order to encourage more San Mateo and Santa Clara County residents to drive to S.F. instead of taking Caltrain, which sits immediately adjacent to the proposed widening.

Also immediately adjacent to the location: the spot where a child was run over and killed by a turning driver last August.

SFCTA offered two options for 280 (between 18th and 5th Streets) and the King Street off-ramp. Unfortunately, Pan said that SFCTA would more likely choose the widening option (instead of the option that would convert an existing lane) due to concerns over "congestion" levels. That is nonsensical. Industry experts have admitted that widening highways does not improve congestion. There is no question that widening 280 and the King Street off-ramp would induce more car travel between SF and the South Bay. This means that SFCTA will certainly fail in its stated objective of "reducing emissions." At 18:50, Andrew Heidel, Principal Transportation Planner at SFCTA, says that the project seeks to move "more people in fewer vehicles," despite well-established proof that highway widenings increase cars on the road and vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

SFCTA's proposal for widening the King Street off-ramp is especially shocking given their alleged support of the City's Vision Zero program. Earlier this year, a driver killed a four-year-old girl and seriously injured her father while they were in the crosswalk at 4th and King. The unnecessary tragedy prompted public outcry and renegade street improvements from residents. SFCTA doesn't seem to understand that taxpayers do not support widening highways as it is costly and ineffective. 

Advocates have been gaining strength in their opposition to the widening. Recently, the Sierra Club Bay Chapter, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and San Mateo County Supervisor & MTC Commissioner Dave Canepa, and the South San Francisco City Council have opposed the widening proposals.

Here's the petition in opposition to the widening. There's also a "Stop the 280 Widening" Facebook group. You can subscribe here to learn of future SFCTA public comment opportunities on the proposed widening.


Mike Swire is an Appointee to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority Citizen Advisory Committee and the C/CAG Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. In this post he is speaking for himself, not on behalf of these groups.

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