Menlo Park readies streets for new Laurel school


People who live near the new Laurel School, Upper Campus, set to open Oct. 17 at 275 Elliott Drive, may notice some changes to their streets in coming weeks as the city prepares for the new young commuters.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0 Aug. 23 in favor of actions to mitigate traffic impacts in the residential area near the school, which will have students in grades 3 through 5.

The actions include installing no stopping zones on Oak Court, French Court, Elliott Drive, O'Connor Street, Byers Drive and Falk Court. The city also plans to put up school zone signs, paint yellow crosswalks at some intersections, and install signs telling drivers the speed limit will be 15 miles per hour during school dropoff and pickup times.

Other changes, previously approved and funded by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, are new sidewalks on Menalto Avenue and O'Connor Street, disabled-access curb ramps at two intersections, and painted sharrows (street markings indicating a shared bike and car lane) on nine streets.

Council members also requested that city transportation staff begin work as soon as possible on a study to analyze safe routes to schools in the area. Such a study is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

Oak Court

In another issue related to the new school, about 15 residents of Oak Court in Menlo Park were at the council meeting to ask the city to formalize an agreement with the Menlo Park City School District preventing it from opening a gate onto their street and allowing vehicle access to and from the school's parking lot.

The gate, according the environmental analysis evaluating traffic effects that the school district adopted, would be used only by school buses for Tinsley students and field trips, and by emergency and service vehicles.

According to Kevin Chen, the city's assistant transportation engineer, the Oak Court residents are worried that the school could arbitrarily open that gate for vehicles being used to pick up or drop off kids.

The street is narrow and lacks sidewalks, and is largely used by bikes and pedestrians, they said. Adding traffic there could be dangerous.

Chuck Bernstein, a resident of Oak Court, asked the council: "What assurances do we have? We have only the word of the district. I hope we're not trusting the goodwill of school district in terms of their intentions."

City Attorney Bill McClure said he submitted a memorandum of understanding for the school district to sign, but it had not yet been signed as of Aug. 23.

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