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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

'Traffic calming' plans for Junipero Serra Boulevard 'Traffic calming' plans for Junipero Serra Boulevard (April 21, 2004)

By Marion Softky
Almanac Staff Writer

Drivers along Junipero Serra Boulevard south of the intersections with Alpine and Sand Hill roads may be in for a surprise, if and when Santa Clara County follows through on current plans to slow down traffic in the stretch between Campus Drive East and Stanford Avenue.

Plans are nearing completion to install "traffic-calming" devices to slow traffic to the posted 35 miles per hour speed limit through the residential area of Stanford faculty homes.

The plans call for installing a median strip between Frenchman's Road almost to the trail crossing just south of Campus Drive East. There would be a traffic circle at Santa Maria, and pedestrian crossings at Frenchman's and Gerona roads for the hikers who like to walk or run in the open foothills topped by the Big Dish. Chicanes and other traffic devices would be designed to slow traffic and make it easier and safer for bicycles, pedestrians, and homeowners.

Speeding is the problem, said Jeannie Sigmon, owner of one of the homes that open directly onto the major thoroughfare where the visibility is poor. There are two tiers of speeding: moderate and over 60, she said. "It's a two-humped camel."

Ms. Sigmon and the homeowners group for the Stanford faculty that live on both sides of Junipero Serra have been fighting for relief from speeding traffic for 15 years. "It's taken a long time to get people to the table," she said.

The current study grew out of a requirement in Stanford's general use permit, approved by Santa Clara County in 2000, for a task force to examine traffic issues in the area. The group includes representatives of Stanford, Palo Alto, the neighborhood association, and Santa Clara County. Several months of outreach have led to a plan available on the Web and at Stanford.

Nobody should expect anything to happen soon, said Santa Clara County Traffic Engineer Masoud Akbarzadeh. The study phase is almost complete; the county is now looking for money for the design phase, and then for construction. "It's not going to happen next year or the year after," he said.

The complex system of medians, chicanes, circles, and pedestrian crossing is intended to force people to drive at 35, not 65 miles per hour, said Steve Fitzsimons of the consulting firm, TY Lin International, which is studying the project.

Referring to fears that the traffic devices will slow people down and force them onto other streets, Mr. Fitzsimons gave a pair of numbers. Driving through the devices at the speed limit will take 4 1/2 seconds longer; at 65 miles per hour, it will take 40 seconds longer. "At the maximum pace, it will take 40 seconds longer, and nobody's going to divert for that," he said.

Andy Coe, Stanford's director of community relations, added, "It will give a better sense of security and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists."

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