|By John Nickerson|
Marin Independent Journal
An experiment that restricted Miller Creek Road to one lane has so dramatically reduced the amount of highway overflow traffic through Marinwood that county officials may decide to make it permanent.
"Some people are calling it 'Ghost Town USA.' There is nothing going on there," Farhad Mansourian, chief assistant director of county public works, said of Las Gallinas Avenue, which just a month ago was choked with freeway commuters using the street to skip stop-and-go traffic on southbound Highway 101.
Mansourian said the monthlong experiment has reduced the number of automobiles driven by freeway jumpers through the neighborhood by 33 to 50 percent.
"The test will be finished in a couple days, but it has already been very successful," Mansourian said.
Traffic was so thick before the experiment that residents reported they had trouble pulling out of their driveways.
Alice Thompson, who moved into her Las Gallinas home in 1960, used to let her children play in the street - something a parent wouldn't dream of doing today.
"I used to close my eyes pulling out, or else I'd be too scared to get out of the driveway," Thompson said.
Marin County Supervisor John Kress said that until a community meeting is called in July or August to decide if the change would be made permanent, county road crews will leave the white cones on Miller Creek Road that have driven off commuters by the hundreds each hour during the morning commute.
"The evidence certainly suggests it is a smashing success," Kress said, adding that from what he has seen so far, making the change permanent seems "promising."
"I'm very inclined to agree," Las Gallinas resident Carl Duda said of Kress's assessment of the traffic experiment. "I'm very surprised that public officials could get something like this done. That place was a highway."
Jason Nutt, a county traffic engineer, said about 730 cars were driving through the Las Gallinas/Miller Creek intersection per hour between 7 and 9 a.m. before the change was made. Mansourian said those numbers have dropped to between 270 and 370 vehicles per hour.
"Many residents are saying that they can now walk and cross the streets safely during the morning commute hours, and parents are talking about their children's ability to now walk and bike to school safely," said Carol Brandt, who spearheaded the effort to reduce highway overflow traffic on Marinwood streets.
Mansourian said he was aware that parents of students and teachers who attend local schools have been inconvenienced by the traffic reconfiguration and that he and his staff will be searching for a solution to this problem over the summer.
"We put those guys through a very difficult trial for a month and we are not willing for them to go through another nine months of that," Mansourian said.