Still smarting after facing an emotional crowd last week, officials from the Transportation Authority of Marin took another heavy blow Tuesday night during a joint meeting with the Larkspur and Corte Madera councils at a packed Corte Madera Recreation Center.
Opponents were already questioning the need for the proposed Greenbrae Interchange Project. They cheered on Corte Madera Mayor Diane Furst as she ripped holes in TAM's data regarding the number of collisions along the Greenbrae Corridor on Highway 101 and the only response from TAM executive director Dianne Steinhauser was "We'll review the data and get back to you."
TAM's safety data reported 1,159 collisions, including two fatalities in the area of the Greenbrae Corridor between 2000-09. Furst pointed out that both fatalities were caused by medical problems, not car accidents.
Fürst didn't let up as she picked apart the report that seemed to include several accidents that happened in San Francisco — on Lombard, Lyon Street and at Crissy Field, among others.
"I went through this report — all 1,195 records," Furst said. "I counted over 150 collisions from San Francisco in this data."
Nearly 40 of the more than 150 people in attendance stood up during the public comment period, with an overwhelming majority of them speaking out against the project, which has already racked up a $7 million tab.
Driving on the section of Highway 101 between Corte Madera and Larkspur can be a nightmare for commuters, with a series of freeway entrances and exits and cars trying to make quick lane changes.
"This corridor is dangerous," District 2 Supervisor Katie Rice said. "It is a problem that is impacting the entire Ross Valley. This is not just just about Corte Madera and Larkspur, it's a regional issue. It's a problem and we'd be irresponsible if we did not address it."
There has been some past support for any plan that could alleviate the traffic problems, but project designers are finding the devil, as always, is in the details.
"Our freeway is not perfect. How do we best fix it?" asked Larkspur City Councilman Brad Marsh. "Government officials and people utilizing taxpayers' money need to be careful with their data. A lot of trust was lost just looking at traffic data tonight. We don't need to create data to create excuses for a project."
Now residents are asking if the project will really make our commute safer — or more dangerous. The addition of an offramp at Wornum Drive, according to critics, would make an already dangerous intersection even worse for cyclists and pedestrians who'd be thrown together with cars trying to slow down from freeway speeds.
Larkspur-Corte Madera School District Superintendent Valerie Pitts was among those pleading for a safe and separate pedestrian crossing. "Safety is my No. 1 job. That begins when students leave home and travel to school," she said.
Critics were just as furious as TAM officials insisted a full environmental impact report wasn't needed for the project. There were concerns raised over the effect of construction and traffic noise on neighbors and local wildlife, as well as how such a large project fits into the small-town atmosphere of the Twin Cities.
"What about the quality of life of local residents?" asked Corte Madera's Jane Levinsohn, who lives near Wornum Drive.
TAM chairwoman and Tiburon Town Council member Alice Fredericks suggested forming a seven-person subcommittee to examine the Greenbrae Interchange Project, with two representatives each from Larkspur and Corte Madera.
CalTrans is accepting comments from the public on the Greenbrae Interchange project through Feb. 14.
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