In the tale of the three communities along the Alpine Road corridor between Menlo Park and Portola Valley, there are certain spots along the road where it can be the worst of times every single day, according to residents who have to deal with the traffic.
At the invitation of the county, about 50 residents of Portola Valley, Ladera and Stanford Weekend Acres gathered at the Portola Valley Community Hall on the evening of Feb. 24 for a measured and cordial airing of grievances.
"Getting on to Alpine Road requires a co-pilot," said Stanford Weekend acres resident Oscar Firschein. "The main problem is there's no breaks (in traffic) and the cars go so fast that when one lane becomes somewhat open, the other (has traffic). It's almost like you had a god sitting up there arranging the traffic to be optimally wrong."
Portola Valley resident David Beaver said he "almost got completely T-boned" at the intersection of Alpine Road and Interstate 280. "I hate that intersection. I'm petrified of it," he said. "I've always looked three times before I go through it."
John Matthews, a resident of Ladera for more than 50 years, talked about the confusing signage and unpredictable behavior of drivers at the intersection of La Cuesta Drive and Alpine, next to the Shell gas station. "That intersection needs a traffic signal in the worst way," he said.
On hand to listen and take notes were San Mateo County Public Works officials Joe Lo Coco and Jim Porter. For them, it was about gathering information ahead of hiring traffic consultants to make a detailed analysis.
"We do want to make sure we've done due diligence on this corridor, to make sure that it's been studied and that you're presented with that evidence before we go to the Board of Supervisors," Mr. Porter said.
The peak hours of congestion at Alpine and I-280 are between 8 and 10 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m., Mr. Lo Coco said. Using computer programs, the county can ask "What if?" and make virtual models of traffic flow under different scenarios using different traffic control mechanisms.
The priorities include traffic safety, bicycle safety, pedestrian access and congestion relief, Mr. Porter said.
Among the available ameliorative possibilities are enhanced stop signs, crosswalk treatments, enhanced bike lanes, traffic signals and even roundabouts, he said. And there is always the option of doing nothing at all, if that is what residents prefer, he added.