Atherton's City Council has decided to put off a study of reducing the number of lanes on El Camino Real while waiting to see what Menlo Park decides to do on its neighboring stretch of the state highway.
Instead of studying future lane reductions, the council plans to concentrate on improving existing conditions on the road.
In October, the council had given the go-ahead for a study of the effects of reducing its 1.6 miles of El Camino from six travel lanes to four, but had not yet approved a contract for the actual work. Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi estimated the study would cost about $150,000. The study would have looked at alternatives, such as reducing the width, but not the number, of travel lanes.
Mr. Kashiwagi said that since 2013, when the town started serious negotiations with Caltrans about ways to make El Camino safer, much of the conversation has centered around reduction of travel lanes. "It has also been acknowledged that this change could be costly to study and implement," he said.
With Menlo Park about to finish its own study of what to do with its stretch of El Camino, including the option of increasing the number of travel lanes, the Atherton council members said that now is not the time to go ahead with the study.
"I think we should suspend the study on El Camino at this point in time," said council member Bill Widmer. "If Menlo Park comes back with a surprise we could always reopen it."
Council member Elizabeth Lewis agreed. "We don't live in a 1.6 mile island," she said. Whatever Atherton does should "be complementary" with what neighbors are doing, she said.
Council members said the town should also see what comes out of a March 16 meeting in Atherton to discuss the Grand Boulevard Initiative, which is working on making improvements to the entire length of El Camino, from San Jose to Daly City.
Atherton plans to look at current conditions on its stretch of El Camino, including how many pedestrians and bicyclists use and cross the street. The council approved investigating adding either a conventional stoplight or a pedestrian-controlled stoplight (called a hybrid pedestrian beacon) on El Camino at Almendral Avenue.
The council asked the town staff to communicate with residents of Selby Lane to see what could be done to make that intersection safer that would be palatable to those residents.
"The most important focus for us is on the crosswalks because that's where the accidents are happening," said Mayor Rick DeGolia. When the town builds a new civic center, the need for residents to safely cross from one side of Atherton to the other will be very important, he said. "I think we need to look seriously at every single one of these unprotected crossings."