I appreciated Karen Holly’s “call to action” in her Marin Post article, and I agree with it. However, it stops short of the real solution. Yes, we have very significant public safety challenges in any emergency evacuation of Mill Valley, whether necessitated by fire or the ever-present possibility of “The Big One” earthquake. And, personally, I’m tired of the Mill Valley City Council’s self-congratulatory messages on the readiness of Mill Valley to evacuate. It is hallucinatory.
As everyone who lives here knows, the traffic congestion, every weekday during the “rush hours” on both E. Blithedale Avenue and Miller Avenue/Manzanita, is getting impossible to navigate. At peak times, when schools start or let out, traffic on Blithedale Avenue going to Highway 101 can back up on Camino Alto Avenue all the way to Tam High School. This backs up again, during the evening commute rush hour and often on weekends.
The truth is you can’t put a gallon of water into a quart container no matter how “prepared” you are. Better preparation for evacuation only works if the available means of egress exist to meet the emergency-evacuation demand. So, I’m asking for what I believe to be the only real solution to our traffic congestion problems, adding road capacity to both E. Blithedale Avenue and Miller Avenue/Manzanita in the direction of 101.
Our traffic congestion problems are caused because both roads have a bottleneck where the roadway goes from 2 lanes to 1 lane and then back to 2 lanes. These one-lane sections are only about 100 yards long each and there is land available in the outbound direction (in the dedicated right of way) or that can be taken via eminent domain to add an additional outbound lane. With the addition of some modest retaining walls in some areas, the bike lanes can be retained on both sides or redesigned so there is only one bike lane in these areas for both directions. (Yes, I know, it’s heresy to suggest any kind of changes to a bike lane. I can already hear the Marin Bike Coalition yelling about it).
The enormous added benefit of this solution is not just that it results in less traffic 365 days per year and less pollution caused by cars inching along these roads, but because it will facilitate faster evacuation, help emergency responders (ambulances and fire equipment) get into Mill Valley, and save countless lives.
Unless additional capacity on these two roads is part of the solution, the Mill Valley City Council will just continue its folly of assuring everyone that “it will be okay” and that we just need to better prepare.
I for one do not believe it and in any evacuation intend to just start walking toward the Bay (and not driving into a deathtrap of gridlocked automobiles).