Almanac

News - July 30, 2014

Menlo Park studies lane changes on El Camino Real

by Sandy Brundage

The quest for a wider El Camino Real — three lanes in each direction — is moving forward in Menlo Park, but as always, the wheels of progress, like those of commute traffic, turn slowly. The project would also add a right-turn lane at the intersection of northbound El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue.

Right now, the consultants from Whitlock & Weinberger Transportation Inc. are conducting a $460,000 study of current road conditions along El Camino Real from Sand Hill Road to Encinal Avenue, and possible alternative road designs.

They're also looking for the community's input. Approximately 30 people attended a workshop in April to discuss what El Camino Real is like right now, according to the city. Interim Transportation Manager Nikki Nagaya said the primary concerns came as no surprise — traffic congestion and safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Traffic counts identified some interesting patterns, Ms. Nagaya told the City Council on July 15. The segment of El Camino Real near Sand Hill Road experiences the highest daily volume — an estimated 46,700 vehicles per day. The daily volume decreases to 44,100 near Middle Avenue and then to about 34,000 cars between Ravenswood and Glenwood avenues.

The timing of changes in traffic volume, as measured along El Camino Real at Santa Cruz Avenue, did have some surprises. Northbound traffic starts to rise during the morning commute, and continues to increase throughout the workday to peak at approximately 1,500 cars per hour by early evening.

Southbound El Camino Real sees a different temporal distribution, with a bump to about 1,500 cars per hour during the morning commute, then tapering off to a relatively consistent level of approximately 1,300 into the early evening, according to the city's data.

During the presentation, Councilman Peter Ohtaki noted the El Camino Real intersection at Ravenswood Avenue has a reputation as a bottleneck. "Three lanes going northbound coming into Menlo Park, and then it squeezes down to two lanes," he said. "...That's what causes the brake lights and congestion."

Ms. Nagaya said that the addition of a right-turn lane on northbound El Camino at Ravenswood Avenue and another northbound through-lane is expected to decrease congestion, but until the analysis is completed, the extent of the decrease remains unknown. She added that the right-turn lane is identified as a traffic mitigation measure in the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan.

Go to menlopark-elcamino.com for more information and to participate in an online survey regarding this project through Sept. 12. A second workshop to identify possible street reconfigurations will be held on Oct. 2, and a draft analysis of the options will be presented in December, along with a third workshop.

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