By Tiffany Lam | Special to the Almanac
Middlefield Road in North Fair Oaks is in the process of a $12.5 million redesign.
Due to an initiative by residents and businesses in the area, San Mateo County has allocated the money for the reconfiguration and beautification of a six-block stretch of Middlefield, from Pacific Avenue to 5th Avenue, according to county Supervisor Warren Slocum.
The community of North Fair Oaks, bordered by Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Atherton, has a population of 15,000, with 75 percent of them Latino.
"The redesign will attract a lot of people from surrounding communities," said Bernie Martinez, branch manager of the San Mateo Credit Union on Middlefield Road. "People will feel pride and a sense of belonging to their community."
Pinata laced storefronts, multiple taquerias, and other locally owned businesses line this area of Middlefield Road. Above the buildings are power lines that stretch across the street.
"Our main goal is the undergrounding of these power poles," said Mr. Slocum on Monday, July 14, during a walking tour of the street. "There is 100 percent consensus that the street needs safer crossings, wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and beautification."
Surveys and feedback from public meetings have shown that consensus has not been reached on the lane configuration, with a choice between three or the current four traffic lanes. "Traffic here goes really fast," noted Mr. Martinez, who supports the idea of three lanes. "And (three lanes) will allow for wider sidewalks."
However, concerns have been raised about traffic delays and making sure traffic doesn't back up, according to deputy county manager Peggie Jensen.
Business owners also express concerns about parking. "Without parking, we're nothing," said Esperanza Vasquez, owner of Villa Latina, a Western wear store on Middlefield Road. "Consumers need a proper entry way to stores."
"One of the county's highest priorities is parking," said Ms. Jensen. "People want to see parallel parking, instead of diagonal, to increase safety. But this will lose 30 percent of the spaces. The ideal solution would be an off-street parking lot."
The county is bringing in engineers to conduct traffic and parking analyses for the redesign.
On Thursday, July 24, a public meeting is scheduled for the discussion of the lane reduction proposal, as well as other possible changes, including new traffic lights, more trash bins, adding gathering places for community events, and commissioning public art.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Fair Oaks Community Center at 2600 Middlefield Road.
The reconstruction would be done in phases over four to five years to minimize impact to local businesses, said Ms. Jensen. She foresees construction beginning in early 2015, after the Board of Supervisors has finalized designs.