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Wednesday: Atherton may study El Camino lane reduction

Even before a pedestrian was killed crossing El Camino Real in Atherton in July, the town had been working on ways to make the busy state highway that bisects the town safer, especially for pedestrians and bicycles.

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, the City Council is scheduled to take the first step toward possibly changing Atherton's 1.6-mile segment of El Camino Real from six to four lanes. The council will vote on authorizing a study of the lane reduction.

The study would look at how traffic delays and safety would be affected if the road is narrowed. The area studied will stretch from Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park to Redwood Avenue in Redwood City.

In a report on the proposed study, Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi said 31,000 vehicles pass through Atherton on El Camino Real each day, but the town has only one traffic signal. Pedestrians and bicyclists who wish to cross from one side of town to the other must use Atherton Avenue, where the traffic signal is, or one of five other marked crosswalks.

The town wants to make other improvements on El Camino Real, Mr. Kashiwagi reported. They include:

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● Widening the existing center median at intersections with marked crosswalks, but no signals, giving pedestrians "a safe refuge" midway across the highway.

● Restricting left turns at some intersections.

● Adding signals at some intersections; either "hybrid pedestrian beacons" controlled by pedestrians or traditional traffic signals.

● Removing vegetation and trees in the medians to improve visibility.

● Adding bike paths if lanes are reduced.

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The council will also hold public hearings on:

*Atherton's housing element, a state-mandated plan for providing housing to people of all income levels.

● Making changes to the town's regulations for accessory buildings and structures to allow some structures to be closer together than is now allowed.

● An appeal by the owners of property at 81 Atherton Ave. who ask the council to overturn a ruling by the town planner on how the wall height of a flat-roofed building is measured.

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Wednesday: Atherton may study El Camino lane reduction

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 9:41 pm

Even before a pedestrian was killed crossing El Camino Real in Atherton in July, the town had been working on ways to make the busy state highway that bisects the town safer, especially for pedestrians and bicycles.

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, the City Council is scheduled to take the first step toward possibly changing Atherton's 1.6-mile segment of El Camino Real from six to four lanes. The council will vote on authorizing a study of the lane reduction.

The study would look at how traffic delays and safety would be affected if the road is narrowed. The area studied will stretch from Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park to Redwood Avenue in Redwood City.

In a report on the proposed study, Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi said 31,000 vehicles pass through Atherton on El Camino Real each day, but the town has only one traffic signal. Pedestrians and bicyclists who wish to cross from one side of town to the other must use Atherton Avenue, where the traffic signal is, or one of five other marked crosswalks.

The town wants to make other improvements on El Camino Real, Mr. Kashiwagi reported. They include:

● Widening the existing center median at intersections with marked crosswalks, but no signals, giving pedestrians "a safe refuge" midway across the highway.

● Restricting left turns at some intersections.

● Adding signals at some intersections; either "hybrid pedestrian beacons" controlled by pedestrians or traditional traffic signals.

● Removing vegetation and trees in the medians to improve visibility.

● Adding bike paths if lanes are reduced.

The council will also hold public hearings on:

*Atherton's housing element, a state-mandated plan for providing housing to people of all income levels.

● Making changes to the town's regulations for accessory buildings and structures to allow some structures to be closer together than is now allowed.

● An appeal by the owners of property at 81 Atherton Ave. who ask the council to overturn a ruling by the town planner on how the wall height of a flat-roofed building is measured.

Comments

Embarrassed
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm
Embarrassed, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

This is probably the stupidest, most selfish idea I've heard in awhile -- and that's saying something in this part of the world. The answer to unsafe pedestrian crossings on El Camino is NOT narrowing the road. Like it or not, El Camino Real is a major thoroughfare and narrowing it will cause a dangerous bottleneck making it less safe for pedestrians, not more safe. What are they supposed to do? Shimmy in between the bumper-to-bumper traffic jam? Deal with the real problem which is a lack of well-lit, traffic-controlled crossovers. Install blinking lights that alert through traffic.


EasyDoesIt
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm
EasyDoesIt, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm

The Council should not even vote to study the closing down of two lanes on El Camino--sheer folly.
Just put in a traffic signal.

Also, Driver Ed classes should teach newbie drivers that they must always stop when another car up ahead has stopped, even if they can't see why the car stopped.
Most often the car stopped for a pedestrian.

Drivers must take their cues from those up ahead of them.
The DMV should include questions on this issue in its written tests, and include instruction on this in its classes.


Member One
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm
Member One, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Kashiwagi doesn't need a study. Just common sense and solutions that actually work in other communities.

Please - no lane reductions on ECR causing bottlenecks in MP,
and NO PARKING on ECR which has been used as a "used car row" for years.

Removing vegetation which hides cars and pedestrians from view would also help.

How about stealing an idea from RWC - Middlefield Road...flashing pedestrian beacons controlled by pedestrians...


gunste
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm
gunste, Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm

The Atherton City Council should just take a look what a mess Menlo Park has made by narrowing ECR, a major thoroughfare. Menlo Park is a bottleneck where it changes to 2 lanes. Don't even think about copying that mistake. Wherever cities take away one lane it slows traffic and stacks it up unnecessarily. More emissions as cars idle more. Wste of citizen's time and often aggravating.


Keith Wollenberg
Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm
Keith Wollenberg, Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

I hope our town council is not this stupid. In my judgment this is a waste of money to study. If you want to increase pedestrian safety there are several alternatives:

1) Narrow the existing lanes by one foot and add the three feet to the bike lane on the shoulder, making it safer and slowing traffic;
2) Add one or more additional lights, timed to induce platooned traffic moving at the speed limit, as the lights on many streets in San Francisco and other cities do;
3)Prohibit some left turn lanes;
4)Install demand activated pedestrian lights; etc.

But reducing the number of lanes on this arterial will simply push even more traffic onto our residential roads and to parallel routes. Do we want more cars on Middlefield? More cars on Alameda de las Puelgas? More cars cutting through on Selby Lane and other residential streets? That will be the absolutely clear consequence of taking a road that handles more than 30,000 cars per day and choking it down to dysfunction.

I travel this section four times each weekday, and am certain that I will choose to snake through the residential streets if this absurd decision is taken. Many drivers already do this in Menlo Park. Why? Because teh highway chokes down to a point where it congests, and they are nto willing to wait through multiple lights to transit the town. Surely this cannot be our desired outcome for Atherton, now can it?

Please do not waste our funds, our time and our patience with such a foolish idea.


Peter Carpenter
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Why study something that the Fire District has the legal authority to veto - and will?


Roy Thiele-Sardiña
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm
Roy Thiele-Sardiña, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm

@Peter

CalTrans will also veto.

Roy


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm

"Why study something that the Fire District has the legal authority to veto - and will?"

so the council can say they "did something." Typical political reaction to a problem outside of their control.


David Roise
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm
David Roise, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm

How many of those posting comments above have tried to cross El Camino Real on a bike or on foot in the last 40 years? It may surprise you that things have changed around here a bit since 1975. There is actually a generation (or two) of younger folks who appreciate that city planners are looking at alternatives to the ever-expanding American roadway.

I just returned from a trip to Minneapolis, where an acquaintance expressed surprise at how little traffic was impacted following a lane reduction on a major thoroughfare in her neighborhood. At the same time, car traffic there is generally calmer, and there is added space on the road for bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks. There is no reason why a similar treatment of El Camino Real wouldn't have similar results. The backup in Menlo Park that everyone complains about results from closely-spaced intersections, not from a narrower roadway.

I, for one, appreciate that Atherton is giving consideration to everyone who uses El Camino Real, not just those in cars. If fire trucks aren't able to navigate the remaining four lanes, we have bigger problems.


Road Diet
Atherton: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm
Road Diet, Atherton: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

El Camino Real is 2 lanes in each direction in Redwood City and Menlo Park, to the north and to the south respectively.

Atherton, in between, is 3 lanes in each direction. Anyone who has driven on a freeway will recognize that when there are more lanes, cars travel faster. With increased speed comes increased stopping distance.

Reducing the "size of the pipe" from 3 lanes to 2 lanes is a sensible solution to speeds that exceed 35MPH. It's not uncommon to see frustrated drivers who have been bottled up in 2 lane traffic in Redwood City or Menlo Park to use Atherton to jockey for positions before they hit the next red light.

If the road diet is appealing for speed control reasons, then it is also appealing for what it could do for pedestrian and bicycle safety. Reallocating that third lane to a separated bikeway would do wonders for non-vehicular traffic.

Crossing 6 lanes of 45MPH traffic has proven itself challenging. There are fatalities to prove this fact. Perhaps crossing 4 lanes of 35MPH traffic might prove safer too.

I think the Town Council has a duty to evaluate this. I know the Fire Department doesn't like it, but they deal with it on both sides of Atherton and seem to do so successfully. I'm sure they're crews are tired of dealing with the carnage on El Camino Real and would welcome the trade off.


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:49 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:49 pm

road diet:

The fact is that not all of Redwood city is two lanes. The other fact is that if Atherton were to somehow restrict the lanes to two through Atherton the impacts would be felt by Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Redwood City at the very least as traffic would back up into those towns. Reducing lanes does not address the problem. Lights are needed at several crossings in Atherton. Reducing lanes just impacts your neighbors. "Brilliant" idea.


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

road diet:

should the reduction in lanes on ECR cause a slower response by MP Fire I suspect you would be one of the first screaming bloody murder because they didn't get there fast enough. [Portion removed. Please keep comments respectful.]


Clinton Swanson
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm
Clinton Swanson, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm

These "cars uber alles" comments couldn't have been more 1960s if Don Draper was speaking them. Ironically, USPIRG came out with a report today, analyzing young people's preferences. In short: "The Millennial generation is not only less car-focused than older Americans by virtue of being young, but they also drive less than previous generations of young people". Check it out:

Web Link

If Atherton wanted to, uhhhh, LEAD instead of REACT, you'd be putting in protected bike lanes everywhere you can. Or you'd be thinking of the time (it's coming) when you yourself will be too elderly to drive safely. Let's hope the Town Council takes a longer view...


Mike Keenly
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2014 at 11:59 pm
Mike Keenly, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Menlo Park and Redwood City already have sections of El Camino with 2 lanes in either direction. This does appear to slow the traffic down better than any speed limit sign alone was ever able to do. I think Atherton should at least study the idea before the naysayers prematurely kill it.


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2014 at 7:03 am
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2014 at 7:03 am

Mike:

If the desire is to make it safer to cross ECR then reducing the lanes isn't the way to go about it. It heavily impacts traffic, backing it up into neighboring communities while not really addressing the issue.

Making it safer to cross requires traffic signals, not fewer lanes. People can cross safely and Atherton doesn't impact it's neighbors.


Resident
Atherton: other
on Oct 15, 2014 at 8:17 am
Resident, Atherton: other
on Oct 15, 2014 at 8:17 am

Wow!! Atherton FINALLY shows it is taking initial steps to making ECR a little safer and everyone is up in arms in total "rag" mode criticizing before anything is done. Incredible! This is a process. There is NO plan, just a study. In your eyes it may be asinine, but there is a process to go through here. Take the opportunity to attend council meetings, express your opinion, tell them what you think and demand they keep 3 lanes if that is how you feel. We should appreciate there is FINALLY movement. Pass along your opinions, studies and research at the council meetings. Don't sit there and bemoan the process before it starts. The bitching and moaning would be more appropriate if there was nothing being done at all.


Safe crossing
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 15, 2014 at 9:07 am
Safe crossing, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 15, 2014 at 9:07 am

Why not just install an overpass - a pedestrian bridge over ECR? Atherton can afford it, if they stop throwing money away on consultants.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 15, 2014 at 10:03 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2014 at 10:03 am

To meet handicapped grade requirements an overpass would need approach ramps on either side of ECR of almost 200 ft.

"4.8.2* Slope and Rise
The least possible slope shall be used for any ramp. The maximum slope of a ramp in new construction shall be 1:12. "


Dana Hendrickson
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm
Dana Hendrickson, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Let's see if I understand this.

Atherton does not currently have a traffic congestion problem on El Camino.

Atherton will experience much more traffic on El Camino due to all the on-going nearby construction in Palo Alto, Stanford and Redwood City NEAR El Camino and, in the future, Mnelo Park.

Atherton does appear to have a pedestrian safety problem on El Camino.

THEREFORE:

Atherton is thinking about reducing traffic lanes by 33% to narrow the crossing distance and slow down traffic.

But:

Pedestrian activated lights would improve safety.

And traffic congestion will create more cut-thru traffic on Glenwood, Oak Grove, Encinal and Watkins.

Increase congestion in Atherton and Menlo Park

What Am I missing?

Menlo Park should make ECR 3 lanes its entire length!


Downtowner
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm
Downtowner, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

El Camino is 6 lanes wide in most of Redwood City, south from Woodside Road & north from Broadway. There are only a few blocks near Sequoia Station where it's narrower & that's where there are dedicated right turn lanes.

There aren't practical alternative thoroughfares: Alameda varies from 1 lane to 2 & lacks adequate signals & stop signs for cross traffic. Middlefield has only 1 or 2 lanes & lots of MPHS traffic.

If Atherton narrows ECR, I promise to drive Valparaiso to Emilie to Alejandra to Isabella to Elena to Atherton Ave to Selby (or Austin) to Selby to El Camino to avoid the perpetual traffic jam on State Highway 82 in Atherton.

Keith Wollenberg's idea is sensible & Dana Hendrickson also understands the issue.

Suck it up, Atherton & put in some traffic signals.



Name hidden
Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 25, 2017 at 4:56 pm
Name hidden, Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 25, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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