Upgrade the Drake Project Completed

Posted on November 22, 2021

For Immediate Release –

San Rafael, CA –

Roadway improvement project wraps up paving, safety and utility work; new projects set to address lighting and landscaping


One of the eight intersections along the project corridor, all of which received safety lighting improvements, new intersection layouts and upgraded traffic signals.
All eight of the intersections along the project corridor received safety lighting improvements, new intersection layouts and upgraded traffic signals.

The Upgrade the Drake[External] project, which began construction about 18 months ago along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Marin County, has been completed. The $18 million project marks the most significant improvement effort in 25 years for Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between Highway 101 and the Town of Ross, one of Marin’s most heavily used roads.

In addition to repairing and paving the 2.2 mile stretch of roadway and implementing improvements such as revised lane configurations and drainage, the completed work also included numerous safety upgrades and long-term utility updates. The final elements along the corridor, the landscaping and revised lighting, will be addressed as separate projects.

All eight of the intersections along the project corridor received safety lighting improvements, new intersection layouts and upgraded traffic signals. Traffic signal timing to maximize traffic flow along the corridor will continue to be adjusted based on data. The traffic signal synchronization process will take time but will ultimately lead to a smoother, more consistent flow through the corridor.

Sidewalks and crosswalks were addressed along the corridor, updated to meet modern accessibility standards, such as curb ramps and crosswalk delineation. This work included the addition of a High Intensity Activated Crosswalk (commonly known as a HAWK beacon) at Ash Avenue, which is designed to provide push-button activated traffic control for pedestrian safety while still maintaining traffic flow the rest of the time.

The project installed about 8,700 feet of new Marin Water[External] pipeline, replacing the 100-year-old pipeline and ensuring reliable water service to the larger community for decades to come. Additional utility work was conducted along the corridor, laying conduit for fiber optic communications services.

When construction started in June 2020, there was a significant reduction in traffic due to the pandemic shelter-in-place order. Although the project was planned to be constructed as nightwork to minimize traffic disruption, most of the project shifted to daytime construction work due to the temporarily low traffic volumes. Nightwork was kept to a minimum throughout the project and only used for paving and utility work where there would be significant traffic impacts. Limiting nightwork activities helped to reduce noise disturbance for the surrounding community.

“This work would not have been possible without the patience, understanding, and feedback of our community and residents during the entire process, from those early planning meetings through the extensive construction effort,” said Katie Rice, Marin County District 2 Supervisor. “Whether you walk, bike, drive or take public transit, these much-needed safety improvements and travel enhancements will benefit our community for years to come.”

Of the $18 million project costs, the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) allocated $14.5 million for the project from its Major Roads Project Fund. Those funds come from Measure A, the voter approved ½-cent 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, 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.

Due to the drought declaration for Marin, DPW postponed the landscaping work that originally was expected to be part of the Upgrade the Drake project. The planned work had included roadway medians, neighborhood entries and some tree planting. To support the conservation goal set by Marin Water during the water shortage emergency, the landscaping will be addressed as a separate project once the drought has been declared over. To learn what community members can do to help with the drought, residents are encouraged to visit Marin Water’s conservation resources and tips webpage.[External]

Further street lighting revisions are in the works based on community response to the initial lighting improvements constructed during the Upgrade the Drake project. Based on feedback from the community meetings held in February and June 2021, and several meetings with the Community Advisory Committee over subsequent months, DPW identified the key issues to address. Due to timing and scope, the redesign is being handled as a new project with the goal of reducing street light dispersal onto adjacent properties and improving aesthetics while maintaining the lighting uniformity levels necessary for safety.

Lighting poles and fixtures will be replaced along approximately one third of the corridor with shorter, decorative poles and fixtures. The shorter poles will require closer spacing to achieve sufficient light levels and uniformity on the roadway, resulting in a net increase in total lights. The remaining light fixtures on the other two thirds of the project corridor, excluding intersection lighting, will be replaced with different fixtures that are dimmer and cast less light outside of the roadway and sidewalks. In addition, backlight shields will be installed on sidewalk light poles to further minimize light spill into neighboring yards.

To reduce additional cost, the placement of the decorative poles will reuse light pole foundations already installed wherever possible. The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. Due to the required lead time on ordering poles, the project is expected to begin construction sometime in late spring or early summer 2022.

Community members can learn about Upgrade the Drake through the project website[External]. For those who are interested in learning about the upcoming lighting and landscaping projects, information can be found on DPW’s projects webpage.


Eric Miller
Assistant Director
Public Works

3501 Civic Center Drive.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6354

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