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County hears from residents on Alpine Road troubles

There were 62 collisions in this corridor from 2010 to 2014.

It's well known that traffic congestion and safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians are major issues on Alpine Road between approximately Junipero Serra Boulevard and the border of Ladera and Portola Valley.

At the invitation of the San Mateo County Public Works Department, about 60 area residents, most from Stanford Weekend Acres and Ladera, gathered at Ladera's Woodland School on Jan. 21 to talk about these issues and what might be done to alleviate them.

Accompanying the public works representatives were a facilitator and employees of the North Carolina-based engineering consulting firm Kimley Horn.

This was the first of three meetings, said Kimley Horn traffic engineer and spokesman Adam Dankberg as he introduced a 20-minute slide-show presentation describing the situation in this 2-mile stretch of Alpine Road. The county's contract with Kimley Horn is not to exceed $186,271.

By way of feedback, residents were asked to briefly describe their concerns on Post-it Notes pasted over the appropriate locations on large maps of the corridor. The consultants said they'll be using that information to come up with "improvement options" and be back for another meeting in May to present them. A third meeting is scheduled for the summer/fall when Kimley Horn will present final concepts and a report.

"There's only so much widening ... we can fit in this corridor," Mr. Dankberg said, "and so what we'll hear from the community regarding the issue of congestion, the issue of access, the issue of bicycle circulation will help dictate how we divvy up that very precious right of way that we have."

There were 62 collisions in this corridor from 2010 to 2014, with more than half occurring at the I-280 interchange. The collisions included three serious injuries and one fatality, Mr. Dankberg said. Ten collisions involved bicycles. "Ten of the 62 is a pretty substantial number," he said.

Almost 25 percent were rear-enders, an indication of traffic back-ups, he said. More than half the collisions (52 percent) were broadsides, generally indicating that they occurred at intersections there are 12 along this stretch of road.

On any working day, about 25,000 vehicles travel (in both directions) on Alpine east of Interstate 280, while about 18,600 travel Alpine west of the freeway, Mr. Dankberg said. During the afternoon commute, about 36 cyclists per hour use this corridor, he said.

Regional factors

When their turn came during the Q-and-A, residents asked whether the analysis would include I-280 commuters using Alpine when they would normally exit at Page Mill or Sand Hill roads. Mr. Dankberg mentioned a study already underway of the Page Mill Road interchange.

A resident asked Mr. Dankberg if he planned to contact Stanford University. "A lot of the problems that are occurring on Alpine Road are actually a function of issues with Stanford and its over-development and the Page Mill Road and Sand Hill Road disasters," the resident said.

"The focus is improvements here," Mr. Dankberg said. "We've looked at projections of future traffic generated by Stanford and other uses and so that'll be part of our analysis."

Residents react

"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Gunter Steffen of Stanford Weekend Acres. "I'm very interested to see what changes they'll be proposing."

"It was interesting to see it quantified," said Ron Miller, also of Weekend Acres. "Where it goes, who knows? They're not (talking) to Stanford, and Stanford is the problem."

Ladera resident and former Portola Valley town planner George Mader said he hopes for improvements at the intersections in Ladera. "You come out there and you look right and look left and you take your chances," he said. "It's a scary thing."

"We really have a systemic problem," said Ginger Holt of Weekend Acres. "I believe they have great intentions, but 'Donde esta Stanford?'"

Asked if she was optimistic, Ms. Holt was succinct. "When you're not even looking at the right problem, how can you be optimistic?" she said. A focus on this corridor without broadening it to include Stanford, she said, is like treating someone with high blood pressure by focusing on the area between the person's elbow and wrist.

No one from Stanford responded from the audience when facilitator Eileen Goodwin of Apex Strategies asked if the university was represented. Ms. Goodwin said she'd heard that the university had been notified of the meeting at least twice.

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