Update: New auxiliary lanes being built on 101

Ringwood overcrossing to remain open

Caltrans crews broke ground Wednesday (July 20) on a project to build auxiliary lanes along a three-mile stretch of U.S. 101 in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

The new auxiliary lanes will be built along north and southbound 101 between Marsh Road in Menlo Park and University Avenue in East Palo Alto, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said.

The project, scheduled to be completed at the end of summer 2012, includes replacing a pedestrian overcrossing at Ringwood Avenue, Haus said.

Chip Taylor, Engineering Services Manager for Menlo Park, said the replacement overcrossing will be built alongside the current one, which will remain open until the new one is finished.

Caltrans hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the project this morning at 190 Independence Drive in Menlo Park.

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Posted by commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:54 am

The Ringwood bicycle/pedestrian bridge is the main bicycle route between the Menlo Park Caltrain station and the new Facebook campus. How long will the bridge be closed? What detours will be available during that time?

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Posted by more please
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Are these "auxilliary lanes" going to be exit lanes, merging lanes, through lanes.............? Can you be more specific?

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Posted by Max Crittenden
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm

"Auxiliary lanes" are lanes that begin at an onramp and disappear at the next offramp. Like you see on 101 (both directions) between Woodside Road and Marsh Road.
(Rant on) If people drove as we were taught in driver training, auxiliary lanes wouldn't be needed! It's your responsibility to accelerate briskly enough to blend into the lane you're entering without holding up the cars already in that lane. And when you're about to exit, you shouldn't decelerate until you're out of the through lane, in the offramp.
Instead, people around here seem to think it's OK to mosey onto the freeway at about 35 mph, and to start slowing down a mile before their exit. This behavior makes the slow lane essentially unusable, reduces the carrying capacity of the freeway, and hence we get auxiliary lanes. All because people don't know how to drive. (Rant off)

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Posted by Sybille
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm

To Max Crittenden: I used to own a very basic Ford Escort which had a rather wimpy 1.6 l engine. I never could "race" onto the freeway as the car just wouldn't come up to speed fast enough. I assume a lot of cars might have that problem. Just thought I'd defend some of those moseying types.

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Posted by Max Crittenden
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Sybille, point taken. But even 1.6 liters is a substantially more powerful engine than many cars had when I was learning to drive (1968). Remember Fiat 600s and 850s? Yet it was stressed to us that we had to do our best to get up to cruising speed quickly.
Anyway, these days I see many big cars with hundreds of horsepower balking right-of-way traffic with no effort to match their speed. It's all about me, me, me, what's easy for me? What ever happened to responsibility and consideration?

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Posted by Richard W.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm

This is about a misconception regarding the auxiliary lane design. The effect of the new lanes is to be able to increase the overall road capacity and reduce the choke-points. Between the adjacent on- and off-ramps 101 will be a 5-lane freeway. Right now it's a 4 lane freeway. Between Marsh Rd. and Seaport/Woodside Rd. we have the same design on 101 and traffic got much better. The only place the freeway necks down is the the overpasses.

Furthermore, it's about more than merging. When there is a backup on Willow Rd. toward the Dumbarton Br., as there often is during the evening rush on weekdays, the exit ramp traffic from north 101 backs up into the #4 lane. With the #1 lane for carpools it forces 101 north in that area down effectively to just 2 slow-moving lanes. Adding the aux. lane there will get that section of roadway back to normal capacity when backed-up Marsh Rd. eastbound traffic has a dedicated lane in which to store itself.

It's the last feasible widening there ever will be on 101, it's not very expensive and it uses up no additional land so let's cheer it on.

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Posted by henry riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 21, 2011 at 10:26 am

My 1981 Volkswagon Vanagon has 70 hp but I don't enter a freeway at 35 mph. I start accelerating while on the ramp and keep my foot down until I'm at freeway speed - it just takes a little planning. If you have a low power car, you plan ahead. Same goes for lane changes, you start with room behind the car you are following so you can accelerate before pulling out to pass. Its safer, and its common courtesy. Signaling would be nice too.

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Posted by Ferrara
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm

In general I agree with the concept of merging quickly at a near-freeway speed. However, this is unsafe if you are merging from eastbound Willow onto northbound 101 (eg Menlo Park resident going to San Francisco). It is a blind merge -- you spiral around the onramp unable to see traffic on 101. At the same time, the drivers that are exiting 101 north onto Willow west have only a short off-ramp. They can see the drivers who are entering the freeway but are often unwilling to accommodate them.

It's a very dangerous merge, and I hope this new auxiliary lane will help make it safer.

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Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 3:13 pm

City staff say the Ringwood bridge will not be closed except for a few short, insignificant periods. The new bridge is being built alongside the old one so that the old crossing can stay open until the replacement's ready.

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Posted by Max Crittenden
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 22, 2011 at 10:54 am

Let me clarify my position: I'm not opposed to adding these auxiliary lanes. I'm just frustrated that the general public's driving habits have apparently made them necessary.
Ferrara, I agree that the EB Willow to NB 101 merge is short and difficult. But that's exactly why brisk acceleration makes it easier and safer. You want to be going as nearly as possible the same speed as the through traffic to give yourself options for merging. Taking it slowly just makes everything worse!

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Posted by undented driver
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I disagree with you, Max. If the onramp to 101 were just a merge, it WOULD be simple. The problem is the traffic coming off the freeway just beyond the merge point. Any sane driver has to negotiate that merge carefully or be rear-ended by a car that's getting off the freeway.

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Posted by Max Crittenden
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 25, 2011 at 8:41 am

Undented driver, understood and agreed. But "negotiating that merge carefully" does NOT mean moving slowly! Speed is your friend here. It gives you the best chance of finding an opening in the traffic, and it reduces your chance of being rear-ended by someone exiting the freeway.
I don't know when or where you learned to drive, but in my driver training class (Woodside High, 1968) merging onto the freeway was presented and acknowledged as the most stressful part of the exercise. We had to make the commitment and accelerate, THEN look for an opening. Is this not taught any more?

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