Mountain View will be spending $4.3 million to acquire a series of parcels along Shoreline Boulevard that are needed to build a future reversible bus lane for the North Bayshore area.
At its May 23 meeting, the Mountain View City Council voted to use the city's eminent domain powers to seize portions of several Shoreline properties mostly between Terra Bella Avenue and Middlefield Road. That land will eventually be used to widen the street for protected bike lanes on both sides of the road as well as a new traffic lane running down the center exclusively for buses and shuttles.
City staffers identified nine separate properties that they needed to seize, including the sidewalk frontage of three gas stations and a Taco Bell. The city's transit project needs just a narrow sliver of the properties, 2 to 7 feet in width, said city real estate manager Dennis Dremman. He gave assurances the structures and businesses would be unaffected.
"The practical effect of this project is the existing sidewalks are going to be moved inland a couple of feet," he said. "This doesn't affect any of the uses of the properties."
Six of the nine property owners have shown a willingness to sell the land to the city. Owners of the other three parcels reportedly disputed the offered price, and the city could push to seize their property through eminent domain. If that happens, the case would be taken to court to determine a fair market price, Dremman said.
Widely considered to be among the most congested streets in the Mountain View, Shoreline Boulevard is often jammed with traffic from commuters heading into North Bayshore or during large events at Shoreline Amphitheatre.
For nearly five years, city engineers have recommended a reversible bus lane as a remedy for traffic jam. The transit lane would run from Middlefield Road to Plymouth Street in North Bayshore. When built, the reversible bus lane would allow buses and various shuttles to zip past traffic with a dedicated system of signals.
Similar to the daily lane transfers on the Golden Gate Bridge, the time of day will dictate the direction of the reversible bus lane. In the mornings, the bus lane would bring buses and shuttles into North Bayshore. Afternoons, the signals would be flipped, and the lane would to go in the other direction, bringing commuters out of North Bayshore. When built, the bus lane would be a traffic improvement unique to Mountain View, said Assistant Public Works Director Dawn Cameron
"I can't think of another city doing this kind of project," she said. "We're providing a special lane for getting through this congested corridor by making transit operate much more efficiently."
The reversible bus lane will be the best attempt to date by city officials to make mass transit a viable option for commuters heading into North Bayshore. For years, traffic patterns have shown that generally about half of commuters are driving solo. Barely one-third of commuters take corporate shuttles or other forms of mass transit, and about one in 50 ride a bike to work, according to the city's latest traffic analysis.
The city is also making other large infrastructure investments to encourage more people to bike to work. In the coming months, construction is set to begin on a $20 million bike and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101.
Building the reversible bus lanes is expected to cost about $18 million, including $3 million for the design. During the construction, city Public Works officials say they will also replace the water and sewer mains along Shoreline Boulevard, leading to a higher cost for the project.
The full project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.