News

Good news (kind of) for Willow Road drivers

If you're like many local drivers, the words "Willow Road" may conjure flashbacks of time spent in powerless gridlock trying to get on and off U.S. 101. If you're anything like this reporter, you might even have forehead bruises from periodically banging your head against the steering wheel in frustration.

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

A before/after image would have alleviated my headache while reading this article.


Like this comment
Posted by Good news
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2016 at 10:39 am

This would be amazing. That traffic backup on Willow seems to be entirely due to slowness going into 101, so there's a decent chance this would fix the issue.


18 people like this
Posted by It's the bridge
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 11, 2016 at 10:54 am

Most of the congestion on Willow is caused by commuters heading for the Dumbarton. If the problem were the on-ramp to 101, the stretch of Willow between 101 and the bridge would not get backed up. Instead, it's usually worse than the Middlefield-101 section of Willow.


4 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 11, 2016 at 11:51 am

To get from US-101 N to Belle Haven (Newbridge Avenue), I have to be one of those cars that "weave" across traffic every evening. I hate this; it's heart-stopping. Thanks for the informative update; I've been following this for awhile. I hope it gets funded soon. It might not fix the backup to the Dumbarton Bridge, but it'll help with the lane changes.

By the way, here's the East Palo Alto webpage about the new interchange design: Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Yes, this will make traffic getting on and off 101 from Willow better and safer.
Can you imaging what 2 new stop lights on Willow are going to do for Willow traffic?
During rush hour there will be solid cars from Middlefield to Facebook.


6 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 11, 2016 at 1:24 pm

I find it rather hard to believe that a clover leaf design with no lights is worse at moving traffic than a design with two additional traffic lights.


5 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2016 at 1:34 pm

It only needs $8 million to go ahead.--make it $10 mil. Are you listening Mr. Zuckerberg? I'm sure Facebook's employees would benefit.


17 people like this
Posted by Belle Haven Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 11, 2016 at 2:39 pm

How did this proposed plan receive approval for funding? This redesign will do nothing to alleviate traffic on Willow, which is primarily due to the Dumbarton Bridge traffic. The Dumbarton Bridge traffic is a much bigger problem than the Willow/101 interchange. The fundamental problem is that Willow Road is a small, residential street that was never meant to serve as a cross-bay thoroughfare. Adding two more traffic signals will only make traffic worse. We should strongly reconsider the implementation of this proposed solution because it will simply be a waste of public funds and worsen congestion for Belle Haven residents over the next 2+ years. The funds would be much better spent towards expanding the Dumbarton Rail Corridor or exploring other alternative transportation methods, disincentivizing commuters from taking Willow Road with a road diet or bike-friendly plan, or towards a broader solution to the Dumbarton Bridge/101 connection that will be beneficial for Marsh Rd, Willow Rd, and University Ave.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 11, 2016 at 4:27 pm

A road diet! That's really what Willow needs. Maybe take the whole street down to single file, alternating traffic directions every 5 minutes. Add some speed bumps and the traffic will really start to hum.


4 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 11, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Clover leaf designs are very hard for pedestrians and cyclists to cross. This redesign makes it easier for people to cross 101 on foot or on bike instead of needing to get in their car just to get across 101. We can't fit more cars into the same size roads, but if we improve safety for people to walk and bike, then that becomes a more attractive alternative for those for whom it is an option. That's a good start, but it won't be a huge difference. Willow will be overburdened with cars traveling from the East Bay as long as it is cheaper to drive across the Dumbarton Bridge than it is to ride a bus over it. Congestion pricing will actually change behavior.


13 people like this
Posted by not convinced
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 11, 2016 at 5:35 pm

So, since funding was approved in 1988, has this money earned interest ? That would help close the gap on the
8 million ! We can not keep going to Facebook for every little penny Menlo Park needs ! We have to learn to put
our hand in our own pocket, pay as we go. Where has this money been since 1988 ? 28 years, really people.


3 people like this
Posted by Belle Haven Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm

The consensus seems to be that 1) Willow Rd is not designed to withstand the strains of acting as a cross-bay thoroughfare, 2) the proposed change to the Willow/101 interchange will not significantly reduce Dumbarton-induced traffic on Willow Rd in the long term but will introduce short term inconvenience to residents and commuters alike. The point about the clover design being not pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly is well taken. The on-/off-ramp crossings are awkward at best and dangerous at worst for pedestrians to navigate. As a cyclist, crossing over the 101 is far from enjoyable but definitely doable. Making improvements to the current design to promote cyclists' safety would be a more cost-effective effort than installing two new signal lights/intersections. Given the constraints on Willow Rd's capacity and the large number of trans-bay commuters, perhaps a flow-dependent middle zipper lane stretching from FaceBook to the Menlo Park VA might be a cost-effective and worthwhile solution.


4 people like this
Posted by Bob E
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 11, 2016 at 5:58 pm

A new overpass should help with safety problems, but it's hard to see how it will help with traffic.

Today at about 3:00, I went to 101. Traffic was backed up to Middlefield. It took several cycles to get past Gilbert, and another 2 cycles to get past Coleman. Past Durham there was no traffic. As I got onto 101N, I noticed that traffic was backing up at Newbridge, on the other side of the overpass, and was already backed up onto 101N.

I'm sure there's an explanation for how the new overpass can fix this, but to my untutored eyes, all these problems seem to be caused by the design of Willow on either side of the overpass, not the overpass itself.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 11, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Mr. Davis:

A "road diet" is a great idea if you don't care about getting emergency vehicles down that road during rush hours. They're already having trouble getting through there due to the idiotic "bulb outs" that have been put in place. Dumb idea.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 11, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Willow Road is already on a road diet - it use to have 4 traffic lanes.

So what you see now is the brilliant result of a road diet.


Like this comment
Posted by Good nees
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Peter Carpenter - of course, we don't know what it would have looked like without the road diet. Could have been just as bad.


Like this comment
Posted by Belle Haven Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 11, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Regarding the road diet, yes Willow is congested but the stretch between the VA and Middlefield is very bike-friendly, and if the residents who live on Willow have a hard time getting out of their driveways now, I can only imagine how it used to be when Willow had more lanes and faster speeds. I agree it's not a perfect solution but we can't have it both ways. I still think some sort of zipper lane could be the ticket and hopefully cost less than $65 mil.


Like this comment
Posted by It's Amazing
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2016 at 12:11 am

Excellent idea!

The Bay Area should also:

> have middle lanes between the highway for public transportation (busses) like Texas and other states, so the busses can drive without interference back and forth

> raised roads that go over the Cal-Train Tracks so that no one has to wait for the blinking signals to go up and down (and don't get me started about the accident and suicide mortality rate in train incidents in the Bay Area alone).

> Bike lanes that are color coded and have reflector bumps on them (especially in turning areas.

>8-story parking lots all over the Bay Area

>Enable a Cal-Tran that goes to Santa Cruz and back (with the added bus lane). I think there should be an added Freeway to the side of Highway 1, "Speedway One" that doesn't drive along the coast but more along the edge of the Foothills all the way North and South in the U.S. (make that 8 lanes, too).

> have more ports for ferries crossing the Bay; this would also help generate Bayside restaurants- and who hasn't dreamt of Coastal Bayside restaurants an resorts all along the SF Bay?

>Any thoughts?


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 12, 2016 at 9:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter Carpenter - of course, we don't know what it would have looked like without the road diet. Could have been just as bad."

Of course we do -it WAS a four lane road that worked well. On that four lane road emergenecy vehicles were able to transit the section between Middlefield and 101 quite easily because there was always room for other vehicles to yield to those emergency vehicles.

The basic premise of a road diet is that if you decrease a road's capacity then drivers will go somewhere else. The major flaw here is that there is no such "somewhere else".


7 people like this
Posted by Tom Turner
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jan 12, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Do you think that the government of Manlo Park and Palo Alto should think of this when they continue to build more buildings for business offices and living. Their problems created cause problems with traffic all toe way to 280 near me. Dumb Clowns.


2 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 12, 2016 at 9:37 pm

I am sorry, but converting the merge lanes to T-intersections is just throwing the towel in to the eroding driver conduct and road etiquette, where drivers deny others the right to merge or change lanes. This will do nothing to alleviate the Dumbarton bridge back-up on Willow.
In addition, some of the traffic lights would be facing right into the rising and setting sun. T-bone accidents lead to more sever injuries than rear-enders or swipes.


3 people like this
Posted by Road diet
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 12, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Road diet-- what a great name. It works horribly but if you live near willow road you have to smile at all those poor souls who do the 1/2 hour crawl to get to the freeway. If they choose to clog our roads coming from Palo Alto then they deserve the frustration and waist of time. Use University and stay out of Menlo park


1 person likes this
Posted by Correction
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 12, 2016 at 10:47 pm

@ Peter

I have lived in Menlo Park for many years and Willow rd was never 4 lanes. In the 80s it was widened and repaved but the changes were to include turn lanes and put in those awful bulbs. You will have to supply proof that the road was 4 lanes because I believe you have the wrong information. Perhaps some long time residents could confirm my belief


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I have lived in Menlo Park for many years and Willow rd was never 4 lanes"

Long time firefighters assure me that it was indeed four lanes - probably before your time.


Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 13, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Four lanes won't fix the bridge bottleneck; it'll just make everything east of 101 even worse.

It's a fairly basic queueing theory type problem - you are limited by the most constrained points in the system (101 and the Dunbarton); more lanes will just let you park more non-moving cars on Willow.

While the upcoming work is definitely an improvement (let's not turn down improvements - better is better!), pushing forward on the Dunbarton rail corridor is a real long-term solution. Without more cross-bay capacity, anything else is a band-aid.


2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 13, 2016 at 3:42 pm

It appears they are adding a lanes to the bridge. Without a new bridge, it's hard to see how traffic capacity would increase (at least, the capacity coming from West Menlo Park to the Dumbarton); a necessary, but not sufficient, condition.

As a Belle Haven resident, I could live with them blocking Willow Road immediately after Newbridge or Ivy Drive - so people coming from West Menlo Park or US-101 can't use it to go to the Dumbarton Bridge. It might make matters worse for others, but I'm proud to be a NIMBY. :)


Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 13, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Actually, if Willow Road had been 4 lanes, it would've predated the building of the Bayfront Expressway. US-84 used to follow Willow; now it follows the Bayfront Expressway. That wasn't too long ago. Willow Road was pretty awful back then during rush hour. I don't remember when it wasn't.


2 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 13, 2016 at 4:21 pm

@Alan They're adding lanes to the Willow-over-101 bridge, but not the Dunbarton.

However, given the backups for the Dunbarton, your idea of blocking access from Willow to the bridge may have merit - it's clear that Marsh + Willow is more cars than the bridge can handle. Could be an interesting experiment - do a temporary block, gauge the impact on throughput.

(And just for Peter, do the temporary block in a way that can be moved for fire trucks)


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 13, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"And just for Peter, do the temporary block in a way that can be moved for fire trucks)"

Thank you. There a number of street blocking/diverter designs that permit the passage of fire engines. College Terrace in Palo Alto has a number of such diverters.


Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 13, 2016 at 4:43 pm

I'm not sure how they would do this, but if they could configure traffic to encourage most of the local traffic to use Willow Road (including the original Facebook campus traffic), and to discourage or completely disable the Willow Road connection to the Dumbarton Bridge - it could be an interesting experiment. If Bayfront Expy had more free flow traffic to the Dumbarton Bridge - i.e. no Willow Road traffic to merge - it may have higher capacity. I find myself driving north to Marsh and backtracking to Belle Haven some days - that's crazy, but it's often faster. Bayfront Expressway should be the preferred route for people going to Dumbarton Bridge from the North, Willow Road from the South. I don't know how to fix the University Avenue mess. If Facebook could configure flow to and from their campuses to minimize conflict with the people just trying to get through the neighborhood, that would be good.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 13, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

How about this, make it three lanes with one reversible lane depending on time of day? They do it in Santa Clara on a Portion of Lafayette.


2 people like this
Posted by Belle Haven Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 14, 2016 at 10:34 am

"The basic premise of a road diet is that if you decrease a road's capacity then drivers will go somewhere else. The major flaw here is that there is no such "somewhere else"." The latter part of this is the root of the problem, and the reason why the proposed changes to the Willow/101 intersection would yield no benefit. A much larger solution that jointly considers all three connections between the Dumbarton bridge and the 101 is needed. If the county has $55 million to burn, a reversible/zipper middle lane might prove to be a worthwhile solution.


6 people like this
Posted by It's the bridge
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 14, 2016 at 11:28 am

My anecdotal observation is that at least half the eastbound afternoon traffic on Willow originates in Palo Alto. Those drivers choose not to take University because it feels slower. (Having used both Willow and University to travel to Belle Haven and EPA, I'm not sure this is true.) Note that University also can be used to access the bridge via the Bayfront Expressway.

And therein another cause of the problem: Palo Alto and Menlo Park are in two different counties. Who is going to fund access improvements?

Meanwhile, it would be wonderful to have a way to avoid this bottleneck if you're just trying to travel between BH/EPA and the west side. It can take me an hour to get to the Facebook campus or Kelly field at 6 pm; that's normally a 7-minute trip.


2 people like this
Posted by Gary Lauder
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

The 101/Willow interchange replacement appears to be a profoundly bad idea premised primarily on solving an imaginary problem "delays associated with short weaving segments." There are many things wrong with this, but the most worst is the fact that all traffic exiting 101 in each direction will have to wait in the same queue. At present, 101 has 4 exits, but under the new design, it would have 2. So, for example, on 101 north, the traffic heading for the Dumbarton bridge forms a queue all the way back to the University entrance ramp. Under the new scenario, all traffic for westbound Willow would have to wait in the same queue. Since the queue is a result of problems upstream (esp. intersection of Willow with 84), even if the new interchange had higher throughput (which is doubtful) it would make life miserable for residents of MP trying to exit 101.


2 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 17, 2016 at 11:57 am

It would help greatly to see before and after drawings of the interchange.
What I do know is that problems would become much worse if the new design is like the exits from northbound 101 in Palo Alto where traffic exiting and entering 101 are mixed together for a long distance.
Currently in the afternoon, northbound 101 at Willow is backed up for a long distance for those exiting to go towards the bridge, NOT to go west into Menlo Park. Traffic is backed up on Willow itself in both directions but the exit is not from northbound 101.


2 people like this
Posted by Navin Johnson
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 24, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Isn't it interesting how adding thousands of additional Facebook employees to an area that already has soul-crushing traffic seems to make the problem even worse? I wonder what's going to happen when the new Facebook building on Chilco, already under construction, is finished and thousands more employees settle in? Or when the additional Facebook buildings slated for that same corridor are built. Um... city planners? "correlation"? "hindsight"? Any of these words mean anything to you?


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