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."