Another study is the last thing we need. Since 1994 this project has been identified in our general plan as a badly needed addition to the city's transportation infrastructure. Over the years several sites have been studied, all of which revealed well-documented costs and benefits.
Authorizing another expensive and redundant study appears to be another example of substituting words for action. Studying a concept is not the same as implementing a project. The city has recently added transportation staff that could dig up the history on this project and determine where the suitable locations are and the nature of their constraints.
In opposing the study, council member John Boyle contends that we should wait until the El Camino visioning is complete; resident Sue Kayton wants to wait for Caltrain to remodel before funding a study.
What's to study? Everybody knows that the tracks are a barrier for residents traveling between homes, schools, jobs and shopping. The tracks create insurmountable safety problems for school children and are a major cause of traffic congestion at Hillview Middle School and Menlo-Atherton High School. Twice a day, parents are justifiably forced to chauffeur their kids from home to school and back. One or more under-crossings will enable us to actually have bona fide safe routes to school and offer everyone more viable alternatives to driving around Menlo Park.
Let's not speculate on Caltrain's future plans in order to delay Menlo Park's progress. Caltrain's improvements, which are not likely to look much different than what we have today, can be designed in harmony with what we build. A developer will want to design an El Camino project around an under-crossing to take advantage of the pedestrian and bicycle access from either side of the tracks that will enhance the "European Village" ambiance.
Since 2002 Menlo Park city councils have alternately used the under-crossing concept as an election season political football or a green-washed talking point. It's time to stop fooling around and get something done.
I urge the four council members who voted for the $41,000 study last week to reconsider their votes and put our well-paid staff to work and accomplish something. Fourteen years is a long time to fulfill a fundamental element of the general plan. It is disingenuous for the city to conduct the 18-month Green Ribbon Citizens Committee exercise and then use a study so that no one has to reveal a position before the November City Council election.
Steve Schmidt lives on Central Avenue and is a former council member and mayor of Menlo Park.