Frequently Asked Questions

The streetlight improvements included in the Upgrade The Drake project are designed to enhance nighttime traffic and pedestrian safety along the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor, including safety lighting at crosswalks and intersections where there is a history of accidents. Once installed and turned on, the lighting will be assessed to ensure that the safety goals of the project are met while also minimizing impact to the surrounding residential areas.

The new streetlighting on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, installed along the median from El Portal to Eliseo Drive, was turned on the night of February 3, 2021. This was the first time the new median lights were illuminated and the resulting lighting effect was not as intended. The County of Marin recognizes the undesirable effect of this lighting and would like to apologize for the current situation. County staff are working to find a long-term solution that maintains the safety goals of the corridor while reducing negative impact to residential properties. For an immediate short-term fix, this new streetlighting along the median near the Bon Air Center will be turned off until a long term lighting solution can be found. Previously installed new lighting at the intersections will remain active for safety reasons. Future potential solutions will be shared with the community as they are developed. Thank you for your patiencewhile County staff work to solve the lighting concerns and still improve safety for all along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

For additional questions and background, please review the following FAQ:

Why was lighting a safety concern for Sir Francis Drake Boulevard?
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through the project zone has been a historically low-light corridor, and improving nighttime visibility for all users was called out by the community during workshops in 2017. Improving nighttime lighting will significantly lower the risk of vehicular collisions, and provide for a safer experience for pedestrians using the walkway on the north side of the road. Collision data collected over years, including collisions at night and those involving vulnerable road users, were used to help define the safety needs for this project.

How was the design of lighting system determined?
The County of Marin consulted with street lighting experts from BKF Engineers to help define the required height, location and spacing to meet safety standards for lighting. The consultant analyzed the existing lighting conditions in the project area and compared potential improvements within the project to industry lighting standards along a roadway of this type which were summarized in a Lighting Assessment Memorandum. Following the assessment, the consultant and the County worked to define what improvements would be necessary to meet the safety needs of the Sir Francis Drake corridor project. Multiple iterations of photometric analysis were conducted, which involved modelling the light dispersal from each luminaire and comparing the existing condition versus the proposed design. By using collision data as a backdrop, the analysis sought to find the best possible lighting implementation to satisfy the safety goals of the project.

Among the roadway characteristics factored in the design were the permitted speed limit of 35 miles per hour, the average daily traffic, and the multiple user groups within the community, including students, residents, shopping center patrons, multi-use path users and public transportation. The average daily traffic of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard ranges significantly, going from 46,000 vehicles per day near the Bon Air Center to 22,000 vehicles per day at the Ross Town limit. The lighting guidance for safety needs provided location and brightness recommendations throughout the several distinct regions of the 2.2 mile corridor, applying needs-based lighting solutions for each section.

Why is the new lighting a different color?
The lighting selected for this project is a warmer color than the standard blue-tinted light that is typical on a roadway like Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The new warm light color was specifically selected to provide the best nighttime visual improvement for drivers and pedestrians, while at the same time minimizing impact to surrounding residents. By comparison, the chosen warm light color registers at 3000K on the Kelvin brightness scale, while standard street lighting is in the range of 3500K-6500K. Additionally the new luminaries are energy efficient bulbs and are configured with diffusers in a way to minimize light pollution and keep the lighting primarily on the targeted areas.

Was an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) conducted for the Upgrade the Drake project?
Yes, the SFDB Rehabilitation Project Final EIR was ​certified by the Marin County Board of Supervisors on May 8, 2018. Prior to Final EIR certification, the standard public comment period was held for the draft EIR, which was addressed in the final certified document. The project scope at the time of Final EIR certification and project approval did not include modifications to the street light system.

After the EIR certification, the project team moved into final detailed design, during which it became clear that an enhanced street lighting system would further improve safety for all modes of transportation and should have been included in the project during the initial planning phase.

Upon review of the State California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, it was determined that streetlight improvements and similar changes are expected during the design phase with roadway projects of this type. However, under CEQA, standard streetlight improvements qualify for a categorical exemption from CEQA, as they have historically resulted in no significant impact on the environment. Further, streetlight improvements to an existing roadway fall into a class of projects that have been determined by the State to not have a significant effect on the environment, and thus have been declared categorically exempt from the provisions of CEQA. While there was no requirement to prepare an addendum or supplement to the Final EIR for the project to include the streetlight improvements, the County filed a Notice of Exemption on May 7, 2020, to make sure that the addition of streetlight improvements was officially added to the project scope and recorded for purposes of CEQA.

What is Upgrade the Drake?
Upgrade the Drake is a Marin County project which will rehabilitate 2.2 miles of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between Highway 101 and the Ross’ southern town limit, an 18-month project that will include many safety enhancements. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is a major east-west corridor located in Marin County, and connects community members to key destinations and activity centers.

What improvements will be included?
In addition to repaving, the project consists of pedestrian/cyclist safety improvements, striping, intersection and signal improvements, traffic operation improvements, utility infrastructure improvements, and new street lighting.

Why is the metal guard rail being replaced by post and cable fencing?
In the late 1960’s, the County installed metal guardrails along one mile of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, between Wolfe Grade and Elisio Drive. As part of the 2020 Upgrade the Drake project, the County and project team reviewed existing conditions along the 2.2-mile stretch of the corridor. Based upon current Caltrans standards, the County determined the guardrail was unnecessary except for a segment between Wolfe Grade and Manor Road where the guardrail will remain in place.

Post and Cable Fencing
The existing guardrail along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will be replaced with a 44-inch tall post and cable fence, with the exception of the segment mentioned above. By removing the guardrail along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the County can install new fencing 18-inches away from the curb to provide an additional buffer between motorists and pedestrians/bicyclists.

The new fencing is taller than the guardrail, which will prevent pedestrians and bicyclists – particularly children – from falling into the roadway. Additionally, this improvement allows for wider sidewalks throughout the corridor, making it easier for those walking and biking to travel. A comparable post and cable fencing is located on Camino Alto near Mill Valley Middle School, in the City of Mill Valley.
Along with the new fencing, the County will also stripe a six-inch wide fog line at the edge of vehicle lanes. Fog lines at the edge of the travel lanes clearly mark the separation between travel lanes and shoulder areas.

Guardrail Segment Between Wolfe Grade and Manor Road
Guardrails are installed on roadways when there is a large, fixed object that vehicles could potentially hit. The pedestrian overcrossing at this location of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is an example of a fixed object; the guardrail in front of it protects drivers from running into the overcrossing’s concrete column. This section of guardrail will also remain for the following other reasons: the pedestrian overcrossing regularly serves high levels of foot traffic; there is a history of vehicle crashes at this location; there is a curve in the road between Wolfe Grade and Manor Road; and there is a lack of shoulder at the right turn lane onto Wolfe Grade.

How long will it take for this project to be constructed?
Construction is anticipated to begin in June 2020 and last for approximately 18-months, dependent upon weather and other potential construction-related delays. Construction activities are anticipated to continue through December 2021.

Why did the County decide on nightwork for this project?
The project was bid as nighttime work to minimize disruptions to peak traffic flow along the corridor.
Construction is currently being accelerated to take advantage of lighter-than-normal traffic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The County will continue to monitor traffic conditions as changes unfold with shelter-in-place restrictions. If traffic conditions permit, there will be daytime work as well to reduce nighttime noise disturbance in nearby neighborhoods.

Will Sir Francis Drake Boulevard close at any point during construction?
There will be no full closures of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard during construction. However, the construction team anticipates partial lane closures and traffic delays throughout the process.

Can I expect traffic delays during construction?
Yes, the project team anticipates there will be traffic impacts during construction. The County thanks the community for their understanding, and suggests travelers plan their trips through the project area ahead of time.

Will businesses near the project area remain open during construction?
Yes, businesses along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will remain open during construction. The project team suggests checking your local businesses’ website or social media pages for information about their current hours of operation.

What are the project construction costs? How is this project being funded?
Upgrade the Drake is estimated to cost a total of approximately $18 million. The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) allocated $14.5 million for the project from its Major Roads Project Fund. Those funds come from the Measure A transportation sales tax, which passed in 2004. Marin County staff secured approximately $3,465,000 from other stakeholders including the County Service Area 17 (Kentfield-Greenbrae-Larkspur), the Marin County Street Light Fund, MCI/Verizon, and various grants. The Marin Municipal Water District agreed to reimburse the County for the base bid amount of $3 million for replacement of their pipeline as well all other associated costs. Finally, County Public Works staff continue to work with TAM, the City of Larkspur, and other stakeholders to seek additional funding to offset the $3.3 million impact to the County’s Road & Bridge Capital Improvement Fund.

How can I stay updated about the project and construction activities that may impact me?
The project team will be updating this website on a weekly basis with traffic and construction updates. You can also sign up to receive e-mail updates here or call a project hotline with any questions. Project team members will respond to all inquiries within 24-hours.