Over 3 million dollars. Nearly a year of construction. An idea conceived in 2004 has finally come to fruition.
But it hasn’t been without setbacks. The Freitas/Las Gallinas intersection became a headache for the thousands of San Rafael citizens who go through it every day for the 10 months it was under construction. The project had its deadline pushed from November to December to February before finishing. The complaints of commuters to Terra Linda High were heard all around the school.
Hunter Young, the point of contact for this project, is familiar with these complaints – as well as some praise. “In terms of feedback from the public, it has been as wide a variety as there are opinions…The City has received emails from residents saying that the improvements are much appreciated, safer, and aesthetically pleasing. We’ve also seen comments that indicate it was a waste of money and time,” he claimed in an interview.
The largest question hanging in the minds of TL students is “Why did it take so long?” Young claims that it wasn’t the fault of the government, but rather, with the temporary traffic signals, AT&T, and PG&E. Originally, Ghilotti Bros., the contractor hired to do the construction, planned to make the construction site nearly impassable for the duration of the work by tearing down the traffic signals. The city government did not like this plan and came to a compromise where temporary signals would be put in. The installment of the temporary signals slowed construction, and contributed to the deadline being pushed.
In addition, AT&T and PG&E were unhelpful during the renovation process. AT&T refused to move their phone lines to accommodate construction, and compromise was difficult to reach for months—until they finally moved the lines lower. The north bay fires meant that PG&E could not depower their lines to aid work on the intersection, as all their workers were occupied with rebuilding after the wildfires devastated other communities.
In terms of how the intersection will handle traffic, Young says that the intersection was less about improving delay, and more about handling a growing city: “Do I expect traffic to be significantly less? No. As the community grows and new developments come on line, major upgrades to intersections such as Freitas/Las Gallinas, may simply allow the City to keep the status quo where it is rather than going down the drain.”
Some might also appreciate the quality of life improvements offered by the improved intersection, even if delays are not improved. Pedestrian, bicycle, and wheelchair access are all improved, as well as an extended left turn pocket being added for drivers.
The work on roads in the Terra Linda area isn’t finished yet. While Freitas/Las Gallinas work is over, improvements are still being made at Freitas/Las Gamos. Ghilotti Bros. is doing the construction there just as they did at Freitas/Las Gallinas, using the $3M fund from the Freitas/Las Gallinas construction to finance it. Hunter Young did not provide information about this work, and nothing about it is available on the San Rafael Government’s website.
All in all, Hunter Young views the project as a success, and he hopes others will feel the same way: “While I understand the construction took longer than anyone thought it should, and I personally agree that it took a long time (let’s call it what it is), I believe the finished product will represent well the community of Terra Linda and the greater City of San Rafael…I’m hopeful the public can appreciate that angle of this project.”
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