News

Caltrans: Two more weeks to fix El Camino Real traffic lights in Menlo Park

Signals unsynchronized for almost five months

Feel like a long time since traffic streamed smoothly along El Camino Real in Menlo Park? It's not your imagination.

Caltrans has yet to finish repairing the traffic light snafu created when a crew working on a repaving project at the intersection of El Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue accidentally cut electrical lines feeding into the signal synchronization system on Oct. 1.

"A portion of the issue was corrected, but the loops that detect traffic have not been fully connected. Also, several traffic controllers need to be replaced and the final striping needs to be completed," said Chip Taylor, Menlo Park public works director. "Since this is a Caltrans project, the city does not have control."

He said he plans to keep pushing Caltrans to complete the project in a "very timely manner" -- and agreed that the transportation agency's definition of "timely" leaves something to be desired.

Caltrans initially projected that the lights would be back to normal by mid-November. Cold weather delayed the project's completion, according to agency representatives.

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"At night it has been freezing temperatures, leaving the contractor unable to complete the striping. I was told by the resident engineer that the contractor scheduled striping every night, but had to cancel every time the weather was too cold," said Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro.

Striping started the night of Jan. 30, and should be finished by Feb. 1, according to Ms. Navarro. But that's only the first step in what sounds like a two-week long process in getting the traffic lights synchronized again.

The 16 control loops on each side of El Camino Real allow signal lights to adjust "on demand" to the amount of traffic. Without them, you get the standstill traffic now gracing commutes through downtown Menlo Park. Once striping is finished, Caltrans said the remaining traffic-sensing loops must be reconnected, then signals checked and programmed, before the snarls will ease up.

"The ones that are okay are being programmed as we speak. They have to be cut, spliced and wired to each main box at each intersection," Ms. Navarro said on Jan. 31. "All the signals are anticipated to be back to normal in the next two weeks when all the loops have been checked."

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Caltrans: Two more weeks to fix El Camino Real traffic lights in Menlo Park

Signals unsynchronized for almost five months

by Sandy Brundage / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 10:13 am

Feel like a long time since traffic streamed smoothly along El Camino Real in Menlo Park? It's not your imagination.

Caltrans has yet to finish repairing the traffic light snafu created when a crew working on a repaving project at the intersection of El Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue accidentally cut electrical lines feeding into the signal synchronization system on Oct. 1.

"A portion of the issue was corrected, but the loops that detect traffic have not been fully connected. Also, several traffic controllers need to be replaced and the final striping needs to be completed," said Chip Taylor, Menlo Park public works director. "Since this is a Caltrans project, the city does not have control."

He said he plans to keep pushing Caltrans to complete the project in a "very timely manner" -- and agreed that the transportation agency's definition of "timely" leaves something to be desired.

Caltrans initially projected that the lights would be back to normal by mid-November. Cold weather delayed the project's completion, according to agency representatives.

"At night it has been freezing temperatures, leaving the contractor unable to complete the striping. I was told by the resident engineer that the contractor scheduled striping every night, but had to cancel every time the weather was too cold," said Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro.

Striping started the night of Jan. 30, and should be finished by Feb. 1, according to Ms. Navarro. But that's only the first step in what sounds like a two-week long process in getting the traffic lights synchronized again.

The 16 control loops on each side of El Camino Real allow signal lights to adjust "on demand" to the amount of traffic. Without them, you get the standstill traffic now gracing commutes through downtown Menlo Park. Once striping is finished, Caltrans said the remaining traffic-sensing loops must be reconnected, then signals checked and programmed, before the snarls will ease up.

"The ones that are okay are being programmed as we speak. They have to be cut, spliced and wired to each main box at each intersection," Ms. Navarro said on Jan. 31. "All the signals are anticipated to be back to normal in the next two weeks when all the loops have been checked."

Comments

Martin Engel
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Martin Engel, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Life appears to be full of trade-offs. When traffic flow is improved, traffic is increased.
When traffic flow is obstructed, traffic volume decreases.

Attention Menlo Park: Would you rather have increased traffic on ECR or less?

ECR is approaching freeway sized traffic loads. Our town is fly-over country for many drivers who prefer to stay off 101 and ECR is their preferred alternate route.

To get a "walkable" city, there needs to be more sidewalk width and fewer traffic lanes. El Camino is nearly a pedestrian barrier, and crossing is a survival sprint.

The downtown El Camino blocks need pedestrian safety islands at all their intersections.

We will never be a real bicycle town without a superior bike-lane network. El Camino is a bike nightmare.

You get the drift here? Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.


Valparaiso Neghbor
Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm
Valparaiso Neghbor, Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

OK, Martin, suppose we narrow El Camino, and make it almost impassible to through traffic for much of the day, as you seem to think is desirable. What effect do you think this is likely to have on the amount of cut-through traffic driving through Menlo Park on residential streets to avoid the gridlock?

Now, add the Stanford development of the car dealership properties, in line with the new, and ever so clever master plan, and the accompanying trips those medical offices will generate. Combined with yuor narrowed steet, the result will be a permanent gridlock situation on El Camino, and even more cut-through traffic using residential streets.

This paln might make it easier for those in walking distance to get around, but watch your local busnesses fail and fold up, on-by-one, as shoppers from outside of Menlo choose not to endure the resulting disastrous traffic, and choose to shop elsewhere.

Your vision is charming, walkable and calm, but will also result in lots of boarded up storefronts.


Mrs. B.
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm
Mrs. B., Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Martin, are you CRAZY? Do you live in the 21st century in the Bay Area? People use automobiles here to get between towns, and they will NOT just hop on their bicycles if we narrow El Camino. They will avoid Menlo Park entirely, and we will become a town no one wants to visit, and where no one wants to patronize businesses. Menlo Park is perfectly fine for bicycling and walking WITHIN the town - I do so every week myself. But when I need to get to San Carlos or Mountain View or South Palo Alto, sorry, I won't bicycle, I take my car. I want to be able to get into and out of Menlo Park with reasonable speed on El Camino Real. This road is a STATE HIGHWAY for a reason. What do those words mean to you? We need to WIDEN El Camino to three full lanes all the way through Menlo Park, not narrow it!


santa cruz
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 5, 2013 at 5:18 am
santa cruz, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 5, 2013 at 5:18 am

Agree with widening El Camino. The daily crush of cars is never going away, I hope, as it's a sign of a robust economy and employed workforce. 101 is nearly impassable these days during rush hour, and people avoid it when then can.

I made the mistake of taking 101 to San Jose at 6pm the other day and it was a crawl, so I diverted to Central and other streets, and still it took me nearly 2 hours to get to downtown. Never again, will take the train next time. Wish more people would too!


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