Atherton officials answered questions May 4 from anxious neighbors and users of Marsh Road about the planned May 31 to Aug. 11 closure of a section of the road.
At a public meeting in Holbrook-Palmer Park, Atherton's new city engineer, Mary Grace Houlihan, said Marsh Road will be narrowed to two lanes from the current four from Bay Road to Fair Oaks Avenue, allowing access for residents and local businesses only, while the drainage culvert along the road is replaced and a new steel barrier erected to keep cars on the road.
During construction, one-way traffic will be allowed from Fair Oaks Avenue to Middlefield Road, but only for residents who have driveways on the street. "No one else should be going through there," she said.
A number of local nearby streets in Atherton and North Fair Oaks will be limited to local use only. To assure that motorists trying to avoid the detour don't cut through the nearby neighborhoods, residents will have to display placards on their cars to show they live there, she said.
Four-way stops will be added at several intersections just off the detour route with flaggers posted to check for placards. If motorists ignore the flaggers and try to pass through, local police have offered to help, Ms. Houlihan said. She said a driver can be ticketed for ignoring a flagger.
Placards will be delivered to neighbors in coming weeks by the contractors, Ms. Houlihan said, and the residents will be supplied enough to give to friends, family and workers who regularly visit. Delivery vehicles will also be allowed through, she said.
The flaggers will "be able to redirect that cut-through traffic," Ms. Houlihan said. "Hopefully (drivers) will realize it's faster for them to go the way we want them to go."
"The issue here is cut-through traffic," she said. "We're trying to encourage folks to use collectors, arterials to get to your destination. Don't use the local streets. They just aren't designed for that."
"It's not going to be business as usual," she said, adding that everyone needs to schedule extra time to get where they're going in the area.
A number of neighbors asked to have the flaggers start before construction hours, at 6:45 a.m.
Flaggers will also be stationed on Middlefield Road near Fair Oaks Lane to help bicycles cross at high-use hours, she said.
Neighbors who expressed concern that they would have trouble getting out of their neighborhoods in an emergency were reassured that there will not be barriers erected, only signs.
Some neighbors praised the town for paying attention to concerns they had voiced at earlier meetings. Mike Brownstein, who lives on 15th Avenue in North Fair Oaks, said he is "very pleased to see that the concerns that I and other North Fair Oaks residents raised ... that our concerns were very, very well taken care of."
"I want to thank the town of Atherton for their responsiveness," Mr. Brownstein said.
After hearing from residents at an earlier meeting, Atherton added more North Fair Oaks streets to those that will be closed to through traffic.
To make sure the plan is working, traffic counts will be taken before and after the detours start, and the town is also asking local residents to inform it of any problems.
Construction hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with no work on Sundays or holidays.
In addition to the noise of construction and traffic delays, the project will also generate dust, Ms. Houlihan said. While the contractors will take steps to reduce dust kicked up by the demolition of the old culvert, "you can never get it down all the way to zero," she said.
The new channel, which serves as a retaining wall for Marsh Road as well as a conduit for water, will be poured in place, with several crews working at the same time, she said.
In order to protect trees growing on the side of the channel away from Marsh Road, some of the existing channel wall will stay in place outside the new wall. It will be buried so it won't show, but the tree roots should be protected, she said.
Signs will direct motorists to avoid Marsh Road by using Bay Road or Middlefield Road to get to Willow Road in Menlo Park, Woodside Road in Redwood City or 5th Avenue in Redwood City. After June 21, with school out, signs will direct motorists to use Ringwood Avenue in Atherton and Menlo Park. Freeway signs will direct motorists to use Woodside Road and Willow Road.
A number of streets will be closed to through traffic to stop motorists from cutting through, including Holbrook Lane, Palmer Lane, Oak Drive and San Benito, Placitas and Encina avenues in Atherton, plus sections of 6th through 18th avenues in North Fair Oaks.
The town has allocated $4.2 million to pay for the project.
Two more community meetings will be held to discuss the detours:
● Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Fair Oaks Community Center, 2600 Middlefield Road in Redwood City.
● Wednesday, May 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Sports House, SAL Community Room, 3151 Edison Way in North Fair Oaks.
The town has a webpage about the project with updated information, maps of the detours, the presentation slides from Wednesday's meeting and answers to questions asked at the public meetings. The web page also had contact info for project managers and Ms. Houlihan.