Almanac

News - May 26, 2010

Stanford hospital expansion could bring 10,000 new vehicle trips to the area per day

by Sean Howell

Local residents and government officials are getting a detailed look at the potential impacts of a massive rebuilding of Stanford University's medical facilities in Palo Alto, near the Menlo Park border, following the release of an environmental report on May 19.

The $3.5 billion project, which Palo Alto city officials routinely call the "largest project in the city's history," would bring about 1.3 million square feet of new development and more than 2,200 new employees to Palo Alto by 2025.

The project includes reconstruction of Stanford Hospital and Clinics, an expansion of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, renovation of Hoover Pavilion, and replacement of School of Medicine facilities.

Perhaps of most interest to local residents, the report details how the project would affect local roadways and intersections, bringing 10,000 new vehicle trips to the area per day.

Glen Rojas, Menlo Park's city manager, said in an interview that the city has met with both Palo Alto and Stanford officials over plans to blunt traffic and other impacts on Menlo Park. The city is not prepared to comment on the specifics of the report, he said, adding that in the next two months it would draft a letter outlining the city's concerns.

While many of the cars going to and from the site would likely come through Menlo Park, the city does not have a vote on the project. Palo Alto's City Council reviewed the environmental report in a meeting Monday, May 24, and will eventually decide whether or not to approve the project.

Without mitigations, the report estimates that daily traffic would increase by 1 percent on Marsh Road west of U.S. 101, by 6 percent on Sand Hill Road east of Santa Cruz Avenue, by 5 percent on Willow Road east of Middlefield Avenue, by 2 percent on Alpine Road west of Junipero Serra, and by 1 percent on Ravenswood Avenue, east of El Camino Real.

By encouraging workers to take public transportation and building bike and pedestrian tunnels, Stanford could reduce the increased traffic to 2 percent or less on each of those roadways, according to the report. The university will be required to pay a "fair share" toward a long-planned bike and pedestrian underpass at Middle Road in Menlo Park.

The report describes in depth the impact of the project on local intersections, recommending various mitigation strategies, such as adjusting signal timing, widening intersections, and adding turn lanes.

Stanford has already agreed to a series of programs and projects aimed at lessening traffic impacts, including a $2.25 million payment to the city of Palo Alto to improve pedestrian and bicycle connections from the transit center in downtown Palo Alto to the intersection of El Camino Real and Quarry Road.

Stanford has also agreed to purchase Caltrain "Go passes" for all hospital workers, and to expand its Marguerite bus service.

Stanford officials say the project will bring the medical complex into line with California's seismic requirements, relieve a shortage of hospital beds, add much-needed patient rooms, and enhance the medical and health care facilities and care.

Go to cityofpaloalto.org to view the report.

Gennady Sheyner contributed to this report.

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