Atherton to rebuild Marsh Road drainage channel, but faces traffic challenges

At least one lane of Marsh will be closed during construction, town says

Atherton finally has what it needs to repair the crumbling Atherton Channel drainage culvert next to Marsh Road -- funding and permits.

Now what the town needs to worry about, City Council members said when they met Jan. 20, are the problems that may be caused by closing down at least one lane of Marsh Road during construction. At times both lanes will have to be closed, Community Services Director Mike Kashiwagi told them.

Marsh Road is used by many commuters because it intersects with Highway 101 and Bayfront Expressway. It is also a major response route for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and other emergency vehicles.

Parts of the Atherton Channel, which carries storm water from much of Atherton to the Bay, were built as early as the late 1800s when the first big estates went up in Atherton, a recent consultant's report says. Council members saw that evidence of that age first-hand when they walked through parts of the then-dry channel in November.

The section that is to be rebuilt is along Marsh Road between Middlefield Road and the border with Redwood City, near Bay Road. It now has a concrete bottom with mortared stone side walls, some of them 9 feet high. It is separated from Marsh only by a chain link fence, which has been broken through by errant motorists at least four times since March 2015.

The new channel will be a U-shaped reinforced concrete culvert, designed so it could possibly later be closed in, with a steel guard rail to deter cars from plunging in.

Mr. Kashiwagi told the council that the project had received the last of the environmental clearances and permits it needs just hours before the council meeting, and could soon go out to bid. He said the town hopes to choose a contractor by mid-March so work could be completed before rains start again in mid-October.

The town will have to wait to see what its chosen contractor proposes to know more about the timing of lane closures, but council members worried it could affect everything from the town's garbage rates to the fire district's emergency response times.

Closed lanes on Marsh Road are "going to have an effect not only on us, but everybody around us," council member Bill Widmer said.

He said that, for example, Recology, the garbage company serving Atherton, is scheduled to be auditing the hours needed to service Atherton during the period Marsh could be closed. If trucks are delayed on Marsh while the count is made, it could add time to the total and raise Atherton's garbage rates for the following year, he said.

Mr. Kashiwagi said that if the work isn't done, the channel could fail. "It is going to be an impact, but it is going to be a scheduled one, versus an unscheduled one that could occur" if the channel fails. Marsh Road has also had a lane closed each time a vehicle has gone through the fence next to the channel.

Resident Valerie Gardner, who lives near Marsh Road, recommended that during the work the town consider scheduling one-way traffic, heading toward 101 in the mornings and heading toward Atherton in the evenings. "Do a little community outreach about what they think will be best," she suggested.

The council also promised to consult with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, and to try to schedule the garbage company's audit so it is not affected by the construction.

One nightmare scenario that was brought up at the meeting now appears unlikely, however. Several speakers mentioned that work on the Willow Road and Highway 101 interchange could occur at the same time as the project on Marsh Road. City Manager George Rodericks said after the meeting that Menlo Park has since assured him that it is not going to be starting that project this summer.

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5 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2016 at 1:58 pm

for starters, do the work during the summer so the outages inconvenience the fewest possible people. Marsh is a critical pathway, and loss of its use will force traffic to already-overloaded Willow and to Woodside Rd.

15 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

How about covering the channel to create a bike lane or walking path?

2 people like this
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I would study which way the heaviest traffic flow is and default to that direction of traffic in the event of one way traffic events. Also, I'm a little surprised that in such a bike friendly area as this, there hasn't been more talk of putting a bike lane over the top of a closed in drainage canal. The existing situation is terrible. And yes yes yes to doing it in the summer when 4 private schools worth of students aren't trying to get to school.

9 people like this
Posted by Steve Wong
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm

They should build a bike path over the culvert when they are done.

3 people like this
Posted by Glenn
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 22, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I agree with the others that suggest covering the canal with a bike path. Not only would this make biking on Marsh much safer but it would also solve the flooding problem.

This canal has flooded in the past and could very easily do it again. Costing millions of dollars in avoidable property damage.

I hope that someone in public works suggests this...

4 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm

During construction, I like the suggestion of having the road open towards 101 in the mornings and towards Atherton in the evenings.

Would also appreciate it if they could do something to make the left hand turn off of Marsh and onto Fair Oaks Avenue safer. I try to avoid it when possible, but occasionally go that way. Cars coming up behind me tend to speed up since they know it's becoming a 4 lane road.

Also painting a DO NOT BLOCK section at that intersection of Marsh and Fair Oaks would be helpful.

Concern about creating a bike lane over the channel, is what happens to the bike riders and walkers at the end of the channel (at Fair Oaks). There would need to be a bike lane added to the eastbound lane up to at least the light at Bay Road.

5 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Marsh Road is in desperate need of a bike lane. If we can make it easier for people to commute to work, schools, Facebook, etc. on bicycles, there will be less car traffic on the road. Right now it is too unsafe to consider.

5 people like this
Posted by Mari
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 22, 2016 at 10:43 pm

How about covering the channel to create a bike lane or walking path? YES YES YES If we go to the trouble of changing traffic patterns for weeks on end lets do the whole job and not just a partial fix. We need to cover the stream, making a culvert and a wider road area to allow bicycle communters and more road space for safer travel. YAY!

9 people like this
Posted by Tom Turner
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 23, 2016 at 9:40 am

A simple fix would be to place a reinforced galvanized pipe into creek. Size to be determined by water flow. Pipe could be covered with drain rock and then a surface for walking or bicycles. Safety rail could then be moved over to permit a bit wider road for safety and emergency vehicles.

2 people like this
Posted by MLK
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 24, 2016 at 9:18 am

It would be smart to do a traffic study before reducing Marsh Road to one lane for an extended period of time. Could the contractor do most of the work at night and move their heavy equipment during the day? Cut through traffic in the Fair Oaks neighborhood has been an ongoing problem with Atherton assuring residents they will do everything possible to keep it to a minimum. With our local population exploding and Marsh and Willow Roads being the only conduits to 101 and the M2 area from Menlo Park, Atherton, etc, it seems a long range plan makes sense. Facebook and the Gateway project might be asked to contribute. A bike Lane or a mass transit lane over the canal could be explored.

Like this comment
Posted by Samuel
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm

It's interesting that no one has proposed adding an eastbound car lane. I can see why a bike/pedestrian lane is popular, but as Mary pointed out, Marsh Rd widens to two lanes eastbound at Fair Oaks Ave, and there is no room for a bike lane and the existing 2 car lanes. Bikers who are headed to Facebook or Belle Haven would be better off going through the residential streets and taking the 101 bike/ped overpass between Ringwood Ave and Iris Ln and then Hamilton Ave. Marsh Rd is so congested because of having only one lane each way at this section, and traffic backs up on Middlefield Rd both directions. If anything can be built over this culvert, I vote for a 2nd eastbound car lane.

Like this comment
Posted by FZ
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm

my house is in the Marsh Rd, in the construction zone. I have problem with rats and mice in my place since the construction has started!!! it is so bad that I can not get rid of them. I believe the construction in channel ran them away and they attack homes for food. I am wondering if other neighbors have the same problem?!! Is there any city program to control the rodents. We suffered a lot during this construction in many ways and this problem is awfully life disturbing for us!

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