Almanac

News - January 9, 2008

Office project: Neighbors raise traffic fears

by Rory Brown

Neighbors' concerns about traffic hazards near a proposed medical office complex in Menlo Park will be discussed at the City Council's meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Council members will consider plans to demolish the old Acorn restaurant to make way for a two-story, 9,825-square-foot office complex at 1906 El Camino Real. The site is between Spruce Avenue and Watkins Avenue.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center, between Laurel and Alma streets.

Neighbors say building a medical complex would increase traffic to the already dangerous intersection of El Camino Real and Watkins Avenue.

On July 14 — just three days before the council last considered this project — a 28-year-old woman from Alameda was seriously injured as she was struck by a van as she apparently attempted to turn left onto southbound El Camino Real from Watkins Avenue.

There was also an accident at the intersection at 3:50 p.m. on Jan. 3, according to police reports. No injuries were reported.

To mitigate the increased traffic, city staff has recommended that cars be prohibited from turning left out of the parking lot onto Watkins Avenue toward El Camino Real. Prohibiting left turns would instead direct traffic through Atherton and Menlo Park neighborhoods.

Neighbors have called for increased safety measures, such as restricting street parking to increase visibility. Some people have requested a traffic light on El Camino Real.

More drastic safety measures may have complications. Although the Acorn site is in Menlo Park, that segment of El Camino Real is under the jurisdiction of Atherton and Caltrans, and would require their approval.

Comments

Posted by Chris, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 9, 2008 at 5:17 pm

So why is the idea of a traffic light at this intersection not being seriously considered? Is it because of the cost? It seems to me the cost of not having good traffic control there is much too high. Didn't that woman whose car was hit in July die of her injuries?


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:25 am

Rory Brown has it right. No matter what we want on that intersection, even a dancing cop who directs traffic, it won't matter. From Encinal north, it's Atherton's jurisdiction, not ours.

The problem is actually bigger. As even the village idiot can tell you, traffic is increasing on El Camino. It's a state road and Caltrans regulates it. Their philosophy is to resist any restrictions, such as signaling. They want to maximize "through-put," to use a Valley term. That means no signs or lights unless the intersection becomes a documented war zone. Several conversations with their traffic engineer bore that out.

Furthermore, Atherton also has a philosophy, and their police department has indicated that they want no traffic mitigation signage on ECR.

Whatever is built on the Acorn lot, it will doubtlessly involve cars. Although related, vehicle flow into and out of the 1906 and 1706 properties and their projected inadequate parking are minor issues vis--vis the larger problems of ECR traffic.

We can only hope that the ECR Visioning effort, if and when it ever gets completed, will incorporate a very hard look at traffic – and parking -- the entire 8500 ft. of Menlo Park. My fear is that as ECR frontage projects get approved, one after the other, the "Vision" and any traffic management plan will have been already decided "on the ground."


I've said this often before. We really need to get together with Atherton for what my wife calls a "shared mental model" and collective decision-making. There should be a (Brown Act) joint standing transportation, traffic and rail committee with council member and city staff representation. Are you listening, Mr. Mayor?


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields