Reconnecting Communities Highways to Boulevards:

The San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA) has been awarded a Reconnecting Communities: Highways to Boulevards (RC:H2B) grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans.)

Only three agencies in the state were recipients of the highly competitive $149 million grant, which was based on needs for specific urban, suburban and rural communities. The TA was selected for the state’s RC:H2B urban community grant award and will split the $149 million in funding between the other two entities representing a suburban corridor in San Diego and a rural community in Arcata.

First proposed in the Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure, Caltrans launched the RC:H2B Pilot Program to plan for and fund the conversion of key underutilized highways in the State into multi-modal corridors to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure. The historical harm will be addressed through community-based transportation planning, design, demolition, and/or reconstruction of city streets, parks, or other infrastructure.

The program focuses on six main priorities:

  • Restore community connectivity
  • Community driven transportation planning
  • Improve mobility and access to human needs
  • Promote economic development
  • Advance health and equity
  • Affordable housing and transportation costs

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The TA, in collaboration with its partners the City of South San Francisco and OneShoreline, will use grant funding to support Connect 4 South San Francisco (Connect4SSF), an initiative aimed at strengthening connections between transit and housing, jobs and open space.

Funding from the RC:H2B grant will provide bicycle, pedestrian and transit improvements along State Route 82 (El Camino Real), Colma Creek, and other local priority corridors in South San Francisco to benefit underserved communities. While many other planning efforts have occurred for individual pieces, no cohesive community-supported design has been established to address these important connections.

In particular the program will focus on access improvements to four historic barriers in South San Francisco:

  • El Camino Real
  • Colma Creek
  • Caltrain Corridor
  • U.S. Highway 101

Because of its history as “The Industrial City,” South San Francisco has long been defined by its non-residential areas and highway systems. As such, neighborhoods like Lindenville and Downtown are disconnected from other parts of the city by barriers such as the U.S. Highway 101, El Camino Real and the Caltrain train tracks.

Colma Creek poses another barrier as a flood control channel that bisects South San Francisco, consisting of mostly concrete floodwalls with very few access points along the two-mile stretch in the project area.

In addition to finding community-focused transportation improvements for these barriers, Connect4SSF will help address sea level rise and flooding issues brought on by climate change.

The work carried out as part of Connect4SSF will be done with equity as a significant driver. Despite the large concentrations of local well-paying jobs, especially east of US 101, about 85% of residents in South San Francisco are employed outside the city. Low-income passengers are a key part of South San Francisco’s public transportation network, as 2/3 of transit riders who travel to and from the city on a regular basis earn less than $75,000 annually. Local access improvements will be designed to work toward implementing more comfortable and safe options to walk, bike, and take transit in South San Francisco giving people the opportunity to connect with where they need to go.

With an equity lens in mind, the TA and its partners will engage in an extensive multilingual community outreach campaign to gather feedback and input from individuals most affected by any potential changes. Those outreach efforts will focus on residents, business owners, workers, and students in the communities of Avalon, Brentwood, Downtown, East of 101, El Camino Real, Lindenville, Orange Park and the Paradise Valley/Terrabay communities — areas that have historically been isolated by past transportation and public planning policies.

This prolonged engagement campaign will build off prior efforts from the TA, South San Francisco, and OneShoreline to meet with local communities impacted by the four infrastructure barriers in South San Francisco. By continuing to work with our neighbors, the TA and its partners will develop a plan and set of projects that provides the most benefit to all South San Franciscans.

Please visit this webpage for any upcoming planning updates, community meetings, and other critical announcements.