Woodside: Adopting a highway is not so easy with Caltrans in charge

Locals find many obstacles to road cleanup projects in Woodside

By Kate Daly Special to the Almanac

Who knew wanting to keep a stretch of Woodside's main road looking good could take so long and be so complicated?

It took nine years for one group of locals to get permission from the state to pick up litter on Highway 84/Woodside Road between Southgate Drive and Martin Lane. Another group is still waiting to get clearance to do some weeding and planting near the Interstate 280 interchange.

Susan Doherty of Woodside is a member of Over The Hill Club, a group of bike riders formed in the area more than 25 years ago. On behalf of the club she submitted an application to Caltrans' Adopt-A-Highway program back in 2007.

After making a few check-in calls over the years, "I kind of just forgot about it and gave up," she says. And then she received a call from the new district representative this spring.

The group now has a signed contract, promising to clean both sides of the roadway from milepost 20 to 22 every month for five years.

Caltrans has installed two custom-made Over The Hill Bike Club signs on Woodside Road east of Tripp Road.

"What we decided to do, since we're new to the program, was to raise money to adopt and use a Caltrans-approved agency to clean up for the first year," she says.

The cost comes out to about $6,000, which the club has already collected from members, the Woodside community and other cyclists.

The group plans for volunteers to pick up litter along the stretch as well, but has set up GoFundMe site so others can help pay for regular professional cleanup services in the future. The goal is $24,000.

Ms. Doherty says she got involved because as a bike rider she noticed that the road, especially by the overpass, is full of debris. "Just about every weekend someone gets a flat tire over there," she says.

The club wants to help clean the roadside, she says, "to show our appreciation of the rural beauty of Woodside."

Club member Forrest Carmichael of Atherton has gone through Caltrans' safety program and is coordinating volunteers who want to help pick up trash. They must be at least 16 years old and wear the Caltrans-provided helmets and vests.

"It was fantastic news" to hear that the 2-mile stretch has been adopted again, says Peggie MacLeod, chairman of the Woodside Landscape Committee.

She recalls that the late Nancy Gonzalez of Woodside procured the contract for the same route shortly after the Adopt-A-Highway program was founded in 1989.

Both women were active on the landscape committee and in the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club. Eventually the garden club took over responsibility for roadside cleanup until 2013.

"It was so damn dangerous we knew we shouldn't be out there," Ms. MacLeod says, so they switched their attention to tackling the "terrible landscaping" on the median across from the park-and-ride lot west of I-280.

In 2014 the landscape committee drew up plans to install new drought-tolerant plants there. "It was reviewed by the town engineer, but due to the drought, tabled," she says, because water would still be needed to start new planting.

Meanwhile, Nancy Ditz met twice with the landscape committee as part of her personal campaign to improve the corridor from Alameda de las Pulgas to the I-280 interchange and beyond.

She lives on Moore Road, just east of I-280, and feels her part of Woodside is often overlooked by the community. She picks up trash regularly and is disgusted with what she has found dumped along Woodside Road, including a mattress, a toilet and dirty diapers.

She asked Caltrans about putting in a red curb and no parking signs on the shoulder at Moore Road, an area where motorists and cyclists pull over that "I consider a real blight and unsafe." She says she "didn't get any traction."

When she called the town inquiring about setting aside money to improve and maintain the medians and the park-and-ride area, "nobody was interested," she says.

Supported by the town's landscape committee, Woodside resident Leslie Ballinger is now leading the charge to beautify the median just west of I-280. Six months later she is still seeking a licensed landscaper to finish the plans so she can work with the town and apply to Caltrans for a permit to improve and maintain the median.

Expenses would be covered by donations made through the Woodside Community Foundation.

It appears that Ms. MacLeod speaks for many when she commends Ms. Doherty's "heroic efforts" in a recent letter to her: "For the Woodside community, you and 'the Over the Hill Gang' have finally accomplished what many of us were not able to do. The litter along our roadside has been a disgrace for years. ... we are all so grateful!"


Note: After the Almanac went to press, Caltrans responded to Almanac questions about why it took so long for the Over The Hill bike group to get permission to adopt a highway.

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8 people like this
Posted by Lost Bridges
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 4, 2017 at 5:13 pm

What bothers me isn't that it took 9 years to get this road adopted - it's that, instead of being out there taking care of the road they adopted, rolling up their sleeves and showing they really DO care about this issue - they're collecting money from strangers, using that to PAY SOMEONE ELSE - in other words - We look good, but we wouldn't dare think about doing it ourselves, when there's some peon who will do it for us.

Sorry - it's not like hiring a cheapo maid service - it's SUPPOSED to be about civic pride and community involvement, getting out there and MAKING A PERSONAL DIFFERENCE - Not about being a money redistributor and glory grabber for people with too much money and who likely really DON'T care.

Personally - I'd be EMBARASSED EVERY TIME I rode that piece of road, or saw one of those signs - if some group I belonged to did this. Why not get out there and SHOW the club REALLY IS a part of the community???

7 people like this
Posted by blame the lawyers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 4, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Who wants to bet the reason for all the Caltrans red tape is lawyers? Highway cleanup people have been hit and killed by distracted drivers in the past. Caltrans has to check and double check that each volunteer work project is as safe as possible and that all the liability waivers and insurance policies are in order. They would rather deal with professionals who have extensive safety training and experience than have to baby sit these volunteers.

3 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 4, 2017 at 8:18 pm

The story of American decline, in a nutshell.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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