Editorial: Stoplights not best option for LaderaCounty supervisors did the right thing July 10 when they put the brakes on a Department of Public Works recommendation to seek funding to install stoplights on Alpine Road at the two entrances to and exits from Ladera. Even one light is too much for this pair of rural intersections, which do occasionally get busy but for most of the day are quite quiet.
It is our understanding that the Ladera Homeowner's Association simply asked the public works department to improve safety for pedestrians crossing to the south side of Alpine Road, where there is a new trail into Portola Valley and the Ladera Tennis and Swim Club. The busy Ladera Shopper shopping center is also a big draw for pedestrians.
The public works department made its unfortunate choice without even informing the town government of Portola Valley, whose residents and employees may traverse the site several times a day. Town government, in emergency mode, persuaded the board to move the item to a section on the agenda that allowed further discussion. Public works suggested that the county seek $500,000 from Measure A funds to pay for the lights, and $175,000 to install a new bike lane at the Alpine Road underpass of Interstate 280.
During the discussion, five people testified against installing the stoplights. Portola Valley resident and former mayor Jon Silver, also a former county planning commissioner, told the board that installing the signals on a traffic-light-free arterial road leading into Portola Valley would be a mistake. And the town government had not been notified, he added, having discovered the proposal only by reading about it in the Almanac.
We hope another way, short of a stoplight, can be found to improve pedestrian safety. Cautionary signs and lights could raise motorists' awareness to look for pedestrians wanting to cross Alpine Road.
Supervisor Dave Pine, with the board's consent, gave public works staff 60 to 90 days to study other options. Until then, the project is rightfully off the table.
Supervisors wisely had no issue with seeking funding to install a bike lane, as called for in the other Alpine Road project before them on July 10. Since cyclist Lauren Ward's death in November 2010, the county has been considering this easy and relatively inexpensive step to help protect cyclists moving through a very dangerous intersection. Most likely, the bike lane's wide, white stripes will straddle local traffic into Ladera and Portola Valley and traffic headed south on I-280, as is done on Sand Hill Road as it crosses Interstate 280.