Almanac

News - January 1, 2014

Atherton OKs Sacred Heart Schools' traffic-management plan

by Barbara Wood

A plan by Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton to improve traffic conditions by cutting back on the number of vehicles accessing the school rather than enlarging intersections near the school was approved by the Atherton City Council at its Dec. 18 meeting.

As part of the approval of a master plan for the school in 2010, Sacred Heart was required to make changes to intersections on Emilie and Elena avenues to accommodate more traffic.

But the school found that the changes would destroy 12 heritage trees, and asked instead to continue a program of trying to reduce campus traffic by encouraging carpooling, shuttles to and from public transportation, and off-site parking. Such a program is called Transportation Demand Management, or TDM.

An annual survey will measure traffic close to the school, and if it gets worse, the school will be forced to reduce its enrollment.

Sandy Dubinsky, the school's chief operations officer, said the school has already "done quite a bit of educating our faculty, staff and parents."

A neighbor of the school, Keith Wallenberg, who said he has often complained about the school in the past, praised the traffic control program. "The school has gotten it," he said. "The school is trying very hard to be a good neighbor. In my judgment this is exactly the right course."

Councilman Cary Wiest said he was "very pleased to see a very detailed plan and a very deep concern on the school's part to mitigate traffic concerns."

Neighboring Menlo School may also join Sacred Heart Schools in the efforts to cut down on school-related traffic, said David McAdoo, director of operation and construction for Menlo School, who endorsed the idea of taking cars off the street instead of managing traffic.

The two schools have discussed sharing carpools or shuttles for their employees and students. "We know it works. We know it has tangible, real results," he said. "The whole will be better than the sum of the parts."

Only three council members were available to vote on the issue; Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis recused herself because she lives near the school, and Councilman Bill Widmer recused himself because his wife is an Atherton planning commissioner who had already voted on this issue. The vote to accept the traffic management plan was unanimous.

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