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Friends of Alto Tunnel comment on “Marin County Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

The following letter has been sent to Dan Dawson with regard to the Draft “Marin County Unincorporated Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan."


Dan Dawson, Senior Transportation Planner

Marin County Department of Public Works

P.O. Box 4186

San Rafael, CA 94913-4186

Dear Mr. Dawson:

Re: Friends of Alto Tunnel Response to Palmer Comments

The Friends of Alto Tunnel want to address some of the statements made in John Palmer’s January 6, 2018 Letter regarding the Draft “Marin County Unincorporated Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan”

The Palmer letter refers to the existence of a Class II bike lane on the Mill Valley side of Camino Alto and a Class III Corridor on the Corte Madera side of the Grade. The bike lane on the Mill Valley side is not continuous and is only in the uphill direction. There is neither a bike lane nor shoulder on either side of the Corte Madera section of Camino Alto.

The word “gap” is entirely appropriate, as the other routes cannot be upgraded to provide ADA accessible paths suitable for users or all ages and abilities. As stated on page 11 of Appendix H of the Mill Valley to Corte Madera Bicycle and Pedestrian Corridor Study, “Though, some improvements are recommended for this route (Horse Hill), many of the constraints (circuitous, next to highway) cannot be overcome with new improvements.”

The Palmer letter says that the document gives short shrift, particularly in funding projects which would benefit those who walk. Page 11 of the Appendix H of the Corridor Study states “—relatively low numbers of pedestrians will use the Camino Alto and Horse Hill routes because of their length, elevation change, and the inability/ impracticality of providing a continuous separated pedestrian facility along the entire route.” Table 12 of the study indicates that 370,000 Pedestrians a year would use the Alto Tunnel.

The Palmer letter states that most of the projects recently completed or proposed have had little or no impact on bicycle commuting or reducing VMT. However, The May 2014 federal report on Marin’s Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program revealed that in Marin, since 2007:

The use counts and projections presented in Appendix H of the 2010 Mill Valley to Corte Madera Bicycle and Pedestrian Corridor Study conducted in accordance with the standards of the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project (NBPD) and consistent with the guidelines set forth in the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Guidebook #FHWA-RD-98-165 study projects 1,850,000 annual users of the Alto Tunnel if it was opened in 2014, and that 1,946 cars trips and 15,672 VMT would be saved each day. The study also projects an 8% annual increase in use, so the current projections would be much higher.

The Palmer letter states, “the County’s own 2010 unadjusted estimate of over $11,000,000 in required improvements to the two access routes to the tunnel, in order for people to actually be able to use it.” The actual amount in the Corridor Study is $5,544,893.

The Palmer letter refers to “sealing the tunnel” rather than addressing ongoing collapse, which threatens both public and private improvements. The collapsing is not restricted to the sections owned by the Railroad, and exposes the county to both liability and to possible responsibility for stabilizing the portions of the tunnel owned by the County.

The Palmer letter asks whether pedestrians would really want to share a “dark”, nearly half-mile tunnel with hordes of cyclists when they could walk the route outdoors, with trees, houses, sunshine, etc. The Tunnel study reports that 370,000 pedestrians a year would choose to use the (well lit) tunnel as opposed to only 100,000 who would use Camino Alto and 36,800 who would choose to use Horse Hill.

Thanks for considering these comments.

Yours truly,

Donald Herzog

Lead, Friends of Alto Tunnel