While there is debate about how much Facebook's expansion plans will impact housing in Menlo Park, since only about 4 percent of Facebook employees live in the city, that very fact suggests that the impact on traffic could be considerable.
If Facebook builds its two large office buildings and a hotel as proposed, an estimated 14,000 people could be commuting to and from its Menlo Park campus each day, 6,550 of whom would be new employees, according to the draft of an environmental impact report on Facebook's proposed expansion. Fourteen thousand workers equates to roughly 40 percent of Menlo Park's total current population.
As might be expected, despite Facebook's efforts to keep people from driving single-occupancy cars to work, those new people would add to the clogged roadways in and around Menlo Park, the draft EIR says.
To limit the effect the additional employees would have on local roads, Facebook would set a maximum number of trips for all vehicles coming and going from the proposed buildings and many of its existing ones, which could create further pressure for current employees to find a way other than driving alone to get to work.
The cap would limit the number of trips allowed during peak traffic hours, and add further restrictions to driving allowances at many of Facebook's existing office buildings. It would cut by 28 percent the number of vehicles that would otherwise be allowed to enter or leave the campus during peak traffic hours, and permit only 438 new rush-hour morning trips and 123 rush-hour evening trips.
Today, only about half of Facebook's employees drive to work, while the rest use forms of transportation such as a bike, Caltrain or a shuttle bus.
Intersections in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto that are still expected to be impacted by traffic resulting from the new buildings in a "significant, unavoidable" way are:
● Willow Road and Hamilton Avenue
● Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road
● Bayfront Expressway and University Avenue
● University Avenue and Adams Drive
● Chilco Street and Hamilton Avenue
● Bayfront Expressway and the Facebook entrances for Buildings 20 and 21.
The draft EIR says that traffic is expected to worsen at those locations, and any measures designed to try to keep traffic wait times from increasing past a certain level are not feasible or not effective enough to prevent added delays.
The report contains ideas by consultants to deal with the traffic at a number of intersections, some addressed below, but the consultants note that some of the ideas may have limited feasibility.
To help with car traffic, adding through-lanes or turning lanes was recommended at several locations on Chilco Street, along with a traffic signal at the Chilco Street and Constitution Drive intersection.
Changes that could be made to Bayfront Expressway and its connecting intersections would have limited impacts, the report says. About 70 percent of all cars that cross the Dumbarton Bridge cross the Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road intersection. During the morning commute hour, Facebook's expansion could increase wait times at that intersection by 80 seconds, and in the evening, by more than 20 seconds. Consultants said Facebook could be required to build a longer eastbound right-turn lane and a receiving lane to turn onto Bayfront Expressway going northbound.
At the Bayfront Expressway and University Avenue intersection, building a grade separation could help with traffic, consultants say, but the power to do that belongs to Caltrans, not Menlo Park.
Adding signals at several intersections was discussed, but where those are in Belle Haven residential areas, such as at Chilco Street and Hamilton Avenue, and University and Woodland avenues, doing so is not being recommended because consultants say that it could encourage cut-through traffic there.
Bikes and pedestrians
With a large number of employees who don't drive to work, demand for safe biking and pedestrian facilities could increase. Consultants said that Facebook could build sidewalks along one side of Constitution Drive between Chilco Street and Chrysler Drive, and add pedestrian crosswalks and curb ramps at the intersections of Chilco Street and Constitution Drive and at Jefferson Drive and Constitution Drive.
A bike boulevard could be built on Hamilton Avenue between Chilco Street and the U.S. 101 bike/pedestrian overcrossing. A crossing of Willow Road for northbound bikes could also be built and a left-turn box for bikers added.
The deadline to submit comments on the draft environmental impact report is Monday, July 11, at 5:30 p.m. Comments may be submitted to Kyle Perata, city senior planner, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by regular mail to: City of Menlo Park, Community Development Department, Planning Division, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park, CA 94025.