News


Menlo Park: New traffic signal snarls Willows neighborhood in gridlock

 
Traffic on these streets in the Willows neighborhood is keeping residents from leaving their driveways, says resident Ana Uribe-Ruiz, who took this photo between 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 9. (Photo by Ana Uribe-Ruiz.)

For Ana Uribe-Ruiz, a resident of Menlo Park's Willows neighborhood, the last few days have been colored with a hellish sense of entrapment. Her neighborhood, already prone to swarms of cut-through commuters during peak hours, she says, has become completely gridlocked between the hours of 3:30 and 7 p.m.

She attributes the worsened gridlock to the Nov. 6 installation of temporary traffic signals that were installed at the Willow Road and U.S. 101 interchange, which is currently being rebuilt by Caltrans. Permanent traffic signals at the interchange are planned for installation as part of the final project.

Over the week, she's had to miss classes because she couldn't leave her neighborhood. Her driveway has been blocked completely by cars trying to get onto Willow Road, and when she did leave her driveway, it took her 25 minutes to travel one block, she said.

In desperation, she contacted the City Council with a request for some action to improve the situation.

Councilman Ray Mueller on Nov. 9 also asked that the matter be put on the council's agenda for its Nov. 14 meeting. A little after 2 p.m. on Nov. 10, the matter was added to the agenda as an urgency item, meaning there is as yet no staff report on the topic.

The council may consider short-term measures such as: installing "No through traffic" signs; asking the police department to increase enforcement, block off streets or divert traffic; or even increasing capacity on Willow Road, where possible, during specific commute periods, such as 4 to 7 p.m., Mr. Mueller said.

Ms. Uribe-Ruiz said that the matter can't wait until the end of the month. "I can't get out of my house," she said. "In the meantime, what do I do?"

Plus, she noted, Thanksgiving is coming and more people will be traveling in the area.

Brian Gilmer, also a resident of the neighborhood, called the worsened traffic conditions "untenable." In the middle of drafting his email to the City Council describing the worsened traffic conditions, he says his car, which was parked on the street, was hit – for the second time in two days – by a driver trying to squeeze past other cars in an effort to get onto Willow Road.

"This has never before happened to me and just indicates how drivers are in a rush and are driving dangerously," he wrote.

Mr. Gilmer grew up in the house his family now lives in, so he has spent decades in the neighborhood. He told the Almanac that the daily level of congestion he's seen in the past week is akin to what he has traditionally observed only once every six or seven months, when a really bad traffic accident happens.

He issued a challenge to the City Council: try to drive the roughly 3 miles between City Hall and the terminus of Willow Road at Bayfront Expressway, at 5 p.m., in under an hour.

"When you find that a near impossible challenge, I invite you to walk through the Willows neighborhood and observe the congestion on the residential streets and the impact it’s having on our families. If a fire truck or other emergency vehicle was needed it would take a very long time to get through," he wrote.

Public safety

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman agreed that the new signals have worsened traffic considerably. "It's taking something that was already a bad situation and making it exponentially worse," he said.

Just Thursday evening (Nov. 9), he said, a fire truck on an emergency run was trying to turn from Middlefield Road onto Willow Road and the truck got stuck for so long the sirens were turned off temporarily because there was no point to them without any traffic movement.

"It's not like we're going to say we told you so," he said. "We all knew it was going to be bad."

The project to rebuild the interchange, he said, comes with some impacts that are "predictable, but not necessarily preventable."

First responders, he said, have to take increasingly drastic measures to get to accidents, fires and medical emergencies quickly, including driving the wrong way on some roads. "That's a slippery slope," he said. "It's not conducive for our personnel, in terms of safety."

He added: "If we don't do it, there's no other way to get around."

A spokesman from Caltrans has not yet responded to requests for comment.

__

Sign up for Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

40 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 10, 2017 at 10:35 pm

What Ms Ruiz has described goes on just about every afternoon on Willow Rd. and it's neighborhoods on both the north and south sides of the road. It starts at the Middlefield / Willow intersection and continues all the way to Facebook. It's about time this problem is being brought up at a council meeting. Its sad and unforgivable that council has not addressed this before since it has been going on for several years before it was put in the newspaper. What Ms Ruiz and Mr Gilmer are experiencing is what everyone living on or near Willow Rd puts up with every week. The police are usually no where to be found as cars make illegal u turns or speed down the side streets in an effort to beat the line of cars creeping along Willow.
Bicycle lanes are used daily by motorcycles going east from Middlefield and pedestrians can't cross anywhere on Willow in the crosswalks safely because cars block all the intersections In an effort to get through red lights. The stupidity of adding a street light to a road that is already gridlocked shows just how out of touch cal trans and our council are with Willow Rd congestion.
Thank you almanac for running this story. I'm sure a sign saying " no through traffic" will really clear things up in the surrounding neighborhoods. What would help more would be seeing a police car occasionally so they could hand out some tickets....


14 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 11, 2017 at 8:11 am

The whole mess on Willow Road is just plain absurd and has been really bad ever since Facebook came to town. It is literally impossible to get to 101 from Menlo Park at any time after about 330p. If my son has a basketball pracctice at 5p in East Palo Alto, we need to leave an hour ahead. That is just wrong. Unforunately, the only long term solution is to widen Willow Road to 4 lanes but that is going to be very expensive from a takings perspective if not downright untenable from a practical engineering angle. I don't see a good solution but I will say the addition of the traffic lights (and change to the exit ramps) has made a morning/evening commute that much worse.


64 people like this
Posted by Keith Must Go!
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 11, 2017 at 9:41 am

Kristen Keith must go. She has failed us in the Willows time and time again. She is fond of telling us all she lives here, but she lives on a dead end street with no cut through traffic. She pushed for this new intersection and traffic light installation that makes it easier for cars to get to Facebook from the freeway. Anyone else remember earlier this year when Facebook's massive new development was proposed, her nauseas self promotion of her self and promotion of the project, before to it was even studied by the city was so bad, editorials were written in Palo Alto criticizing her. What's happening now was completely predictable. It was so predictable that neighbors and one of the councilmembers tried to get the city to start working on a Willow cut through study In January. But Keith delayed it by sticking it into larger a safe routes to school/ bike improvement project. Heaven knows when that will be completed. Then she had the audacity to hold a meeting in the Willows to "listen" to residents complaints on cut through, where she talked about bike lanes rather than cut through traffic. We are tired of the duplicity and spin to further her career. Keith must go.


13 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 11, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Just to clarify a couple things. Yes this has been an ongoing problem for years and yes several of us have tried to get the city to do something about it. We have dealt with it for years, it is not new to us and we do live near Willow. In the last push to address these problems we ended up with the City planning another traffic study of the area before making any decisions. That was before the interchange project and the addition of the two lights on Willow.

With those lights operating the problem went from bad to extremely bad overnight. Backups on residential streets for blocks where there was none or minimal back up in the past. Emergency vehicles not able to get through even the "shortcuts"). Also the backup on Willow is even worse with the time it takes to get from Middlefield to O'Keefe (the route I take) getting much worse. One person posted sitting at the light at Middlefield and Willow for 25 minutes before they could even get onto Willow.

This is not caused by Facebook. This traffic is not coming from of going to Facebook. This is traffic coming from Menlo Park and Palo Alto getting blocked on University or Willow and cutting into the Willows so they can get ahead of everyone else and back onto Willow at O'Keefe, Durham and Chester. It is traffic heading East Bound to the Dumbarton and not to Facebook. That said the Facebook buses add to the congestion when they also come down O'Keefe and the other streets also trying to cut onto Willow before the freeway. As for widening Willow Road I double that is possible, the city would need to purchase a lot of property to make that a possibility and with the prices around here that probably puts it out of financial reach.


21 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 11, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The City already owns sufficient width to widen Willow.

50% of the City's right of way is unwisely devoted to parking and bulb-outs.


26 people like this
Posted by facebook adds to traffic
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 11, 2017 at 3:59 pm

@Brian. I agree the problems have been long term but some definitely is related to facebook traffic. For example, one morning I was headed to the east bay on the Dumbarton and was stuck in traffic on Willow. A lot of the cars went straight into the facebook campus when I was finally able to turn right to the bridge.
I know that going east in the AM isn't the worst direction, but facebook is partially responsible for congestion. But really, it is the council that is responsible. They approved the massive growth of facebook. Just wait for the huge projects on El Camino they just approved. Each adds significantly more traffic than exists now.


9 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 11, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Peter,

YOU might want to check a map of Willow Road or drive it, not all length has room for an additional lane. Also the easement that the city used to own on some of Willow was given back to the property owners years ago. So it would cost the city a lot of money to acquire the land not to mention that residents along Willow would certainly be opposed to widening the street, a feel I can fully understand. Ever drive Holly or Ralston from 101 to El Camino? Would you want to live on a street like that?


2 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 11, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Re: Facebook

I am only discussing the evening traffic in the Willows which was the subject of this article. Facebook is not contributing to that problem directly. They may add some traffic to the bridge which results in added congestion on Willow but the only direct impact I can see them having is from their buses going through the neighborhood streets.


12 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 11, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Peter re MP right of way.
On Santa Cruz Ave the city didn't have to take away parking on the street when they finally put in the sidewalks. They had plenty of right of way put the useless planning/building dept never enforced it allowing the homes to build fences, plant trees and shrubs and install lawns. Then they decided it would cause too much grief to enforce for the sidewalks. MP is full of gutless staff, commission and council members.


24 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 11, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Traffic seems to be the number 1 problem throughout the Bay Area, yet local governments keep adding more housing - more people equals more traffic.

Even in MP traffic is has gotten worse - while Facebook may have brought jobs to the area, and the company has contributed to local communities, it has also added to the traffic load.

Traffic along Willow Rd. has progressively gotten worse over the years and has spilled into side streets "trapping" innocent victims.

Downtown traffic and parking continues with its issues -- local restaurants have taken parking spaces, Oak Grove Ave. had spots eliminated -- trying to navigate lane re-striping and confusion just adds another frustration for drivers.

While the Willow overpass redo may have some benefits -- yet to be seen, I don't foresee any relief from the traffic any time soon anywhere.

Welcome to LA north -- just get use to longer commutes, sitting in more traffic, and increased frustration. LA hasn't solved their problem; unfortunately, I don't see the Bay Area solving its problem either.


7 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 12, 2017 at 9:53 am

Peter, The fire trucks cut through the neighborhood near their station on Middlefield to beat traffic. They do this when traffic is not an issue on Willow Rd. The trucks cut through the neighborhood when going west back toward the station on Willow too. They also go around the block for no reason. They are noisy and smell and in their own way don't help the problem. Can you give me an explanation as to why they do this when they are not on a call. Seems like they should stay on Willow Rd and stay off the side streets when they are not taking care of business.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 12, 2017 at 10:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire Equipment regularly uses the back entrance along Santa Monica at Fire Station 1 and units are allowed to use any street as necessary to move about the Fire District, no different than any other motorist, resident or delivery service.


2 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 12, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Thanks Peter, don't agree but appreciate the information


12 people like this
Posted by Peter F Carpenter has
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 12, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Would you rather have a fire engine return quickly to its station to be ready for its next call or to have it trapped in traffic on Willow Road?


14 people like this
Posted by facebook adds to traffic
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 12, 2017 at 4:09 pm

@Bob "Traffic seems to be the number 1 problem throughout the Bay Area, yet local governments keep adding more housing - more people equals more traffic."

The bigger issue is that there is not enough housing for all the offices that local governments are approving. This means more commuters coming through our cities and neighborhoods to get to work. Better to slow office growth until housing supply can catch up.
A companion big issue is inadequate transit and no plans to fix that or the housing problem.

Businesses need to step up and help solve these problems. They won't be able to operate if people can't get to work.


10 people like this
Posted by Scooter
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 12, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I've long had empathy for the poor souls that must use Willow Road in the commute direction. I've often used Willow Rd., reverse commute, as part of my slog across town.

Last Tuesday, coming west at 2:30 in the afternoon, traffic ground to a halt at Newbridge. Peering ahead, there was literally no movement on the Willow overpass. After several minutes of no progress, I got on 101 north and used Marsh instead.

I've never had to do that before. I've never even thought of having to do that. And this happened before the commute really got underway! That experience was orders of magnitude worse than anything I've experienced in years of using Willow Rd.

I sure hope the traffic engineers haven't screwed us over, but fear that they have.


23 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 12, 2017 at 5:07 pm

This traffic is the end result of listening to the housing NIMBYs.

Nowhere near enough remotely reasonably housing for existing jobs -> Lots of people commuting from elsewhere -> Gridlock trying to get back home in the evening over the bridges.

The solution is more housing, not less - enough housing that people making low-mid six figures or even high five figures can afford to live near work, instead of commuting from afar. Somebody with a 20 minute commute makes far less of a contribution to traffic issues than somebody stuck with a 90 minute commute because that's where they can afford to live.


17 people like this
Posted by Scooter
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 12, 2017 at 9:40 pm

MP Resident:

All that you say may be true, but that's not what this article nor the comments are about.

The reworked interchange with traffic lights at Willow and 101 has made a bad situation exponentially worse. That's unacceptable. Both motorists and local residents are paying a VERY heavy price as a result.

I fear that this change is permanent. If so, Willow Road is no longer a viable route in or out of Menlo Park. That sounds a bit hyperbolic, but it is very, very bad right now.


16 people like this
Posted by Xian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 9:28 am

I work at Facebook and live in the willows. Although my commute is mostly reverses traffic, I travel almost the full length of congested willow road and have a good vantage point of the whole situation.

First, the root problem is Dumbarton bridge bottleneck. There are just too much traffic for it. All ways leading into the bridge to east bay gets congested, not just willows. And I doubt Facebook is a big contributor to this particular traffic problem, as Facebook traffic probably won't start past 5pm and the congestion happens earlier.

What made it dramatically worse for willow road in recent days is the proportion of traffic allowed from north bound willow and from north bound 101 towards the bridge. Before the rework of the interchange, there's no traffic light allowing north bound 101 traffic to safely and easily merge onto willow north and towards the bridge. There was a single lane allowing north bound 101 traffic to merge and if drivers on willow do not play nice (they don't), it's quite hard to merge in. So if you were to travel from Palo Alto on 101 north and try to get to Facebook, it would take you close to an hour probably. I've done that.

The new interchange changed this by adding traffic light and thus much better regulating which traffic to allow through. My guess is much more north bound 101 traffic is allow through in the new configuration. The Dumbarton bottleneck is still there and of course willow south of 101 would back up. The new interchange itself is not the inherent problem, it's the traffic split. In the old days, people try all sorts of interesting stuff on the interchange trying to get ahead. For example, I noticed people traveling north bound 101 would exit to south bound willow, drive over the bridge, enter 101 south again, then immediately exit 101 towards willow north, doing all those merging and cutting just to avoid that dreadful merge (north 101 to north willow). Those maneuvers are dangerous and add to traffic problem.

One fix of willow congestion of course would be revert to the old traffic split: allow less traffic from north bound 101 onto willow north. With traffic light, it's quite easy to control it. Although I doubt this is the particular problem caltrans tries to address unfortunately, this might just be what they have wanted to achieve (alleviating congestion on 101).

The traffic in the willows neighborhood is a separate topic. When willow's congested, people of course try all sort of things trying to get ahead everyone else. One hope is with time, people will learn that with the new interchange, willow becomes the worst way of getting over the bridge and thus stop trying. We can also throw up more roadblocks in the neighborhood so that people don't cut through.

The traffic on willow itself though is much harder to address, because of Dumbarton bottleneck. I feel the best we can hope for is somehow letting the traffic over the Dumbarton snarl while somehow allow local resident to get in and out the neighborhood. I don't know a good solution.


19 people like this
Posted by this won't make me popular
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 13, 2017 at 11:21 am

Meanwhile, on the Belle Haven side of things, the new lights and temporary ramp made traffic a little better, certainly a lot less nerve-racking ... I no longer have to cut across multiple lanes of traffic just to get into the neighborhood.

Sorry about the tie up on the Willows side.


1 person likes this
Posted by this won't make me popular
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 13, 2017 at 11:27 am

Xian's observations are pretty accurate. The one thing I'm not sure if is if there's a lot more traffic from US-101 going to the Dumbarton bridge, but that might be the case, and that would explain a lot.


17 people like this
Posted by Traffic Weary
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm

This problem will not end when the lights are fixed. Look at the 101 and university Ave exchange in Palo Alto. It is backed up for hours every weekday afternoon.

These Partial Clover interchanges are not designed to handle the volumes of traffic that use them. We are spending millions to build infrastructure that is outdated from the start.


2 people like this
Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 13, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Yes by all means let's build more housing!

Then we'll be able to build more office space.


17 people like this
Posted by I thank God every day
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm

for my bicycle


Like this comment
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Wondering is a registered user.

@Traffic Weary What do you suggest as an alternative interchange construction?


Like this comment
Posted by Willows Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Most has been said but a couple of points:

- While the Willow Rd part of this problem is certainly the most critical RIGHT NOW, let's be careful how we address it. We already have had a building issue with traffic throughout the Willows that all filters down to the Woodland/University intersection. For the last year, it has been common for it to take 15-20 minutes to to a couple of blocks out of the neighborhood toward University. This is a system problem. Due to the emergent new problem on Willow, let's try some things fast. BUT, let's revisit regularly. That means perhaps every month during the project. Not every year or two.

- I am looking forward to regional representation in our city council. The Willows has been ignored for far too long. (Oh, and I know that Belle Haven has it worse on many issues)

- "I Thanks God every day for my bicycle" Probably a good option UNLESS you have to cross 101. No bike lane no sidewalks and pissed off car drivers. Not my idea of a safe route :-(


6 people like this
Posted by Laurie
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm

We live on Oak Ct. (on the Upper Laurel side) and our street is a dead end for cars (walking/biking path), so our only way home is via Woodland Ave. or to go down Menalto if Waze shows me a bad backup (which has been very often lately), then turn onto O'Connor and turn right on Euclid, go down to Woodland and turn right, then turn right again onto our street - Oak Ct.. It's always backed up that way too, so I either wait in that traffic, or go park in the Upper Laurel parking lot and walk to our house..... then go back after 8pm, when the traffic is gone and get my car! IT'S RIDICULOUS! We feel trapped often. I ride my bike with m son to his school in the neighborhood sometimes, but need to drive places too. I am wondering if anyone knows how all of the changes were made on Middlefield in the last year, with all of the signs saying 'No Right Turn between 7-10am' or whatever they say... and how they got all of the signs and yellow road blocks to physically make it impossible for cars to 'cheat' and cross over Middlefield the few blocks down from Lytton?? Was it the City? Was it the residents? I know of another neighborhood in Los Altos Hills that had a cut through problem, and they put signs up saying 'local residents only' and had some extra police enforcement at first, and now it's better. How do we get that for our Willows neighborhood?


11 people like this
Posted by anna
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 13, 2017 at 6:32 pm

I have lived here for one year, and am moving because of the traffic. I feel trapped in my neighborhood and have rescheduled my entire life around Willow Road. I love this area but I cannot handle it anymore. I will be moving out this summer.


2 people like this
Posted by EPAMom
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm

More housing on the west side of the bay might help however many thousand east bay commuters, but all those folks will drive to work, errands, school. So.... more housing - more traffic.


9 people like this
Posted by Belle Haven Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

It was this bad for much of the 1990s, before Facebook, before the current city council, and long before Cal Trans did anything about the interchange. The problem is regional. The burden can be shifted a little but eliminating it is too big a job for any one city or agency. People need to be able live where they work.


20 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Widening Willow road would only convert it from a 2-lane parking lot into a 4-lane parking lot. The bottleneck is the light into the Dumbarton bridge.

When will the interchange work be completed?


5 people like this
Posted by Steve again
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 13, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Also University and Marsh could be made 4 lane. And here's a constructive idea. How about one of those lane zippers like the Golden Gate bridge has, for the Dumbarton, so it can have more lanes in the commute direction and switch back and forth.


4 people like this
Posted by Jimbo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 13, 2017 at 9:36 pm

I think we could go in either of two directions. First, why not make every single street in Menlo Park into 4 lanes. Alternatively, we could just make the entirety of Menlo Park a gated community.


15 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 13, 2017 at 9:46 pm

If Dumbarton traffic is the issue, then double the tolls, and if that's not enough, double them again as many times as needed. Congestion pricing is a well proven means to control traffic (see Singapore).

The sad situation on Willow is a classic example of excess usage of an underpriced resource, in this case road space. It's akin to overfishing in a way.


Like this comment
Posted by The voice
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Actually I believe the right of way at least exists to the VA. But no one wants to make that political decision. Check the maps because there is much more than just the 200 block


10 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:35 pm

When San Hill road was widened Palo Alto did not allow a direct access from 280/ Sand Hill to Palo Alto. Menlo Park should restrict right turn on Middle field onto Willow coming from Palo Alto. Palo Altans should use University Avenue to get to 101.


22 people like this
Posted by Blame the YIMBYs
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:38 pm

The traffic isn't due to the housing NIMBYs. It's due to the office space YIMBYs. We need a moratorium on new office and commercial space Bay Area wide. Let the jobs distribute elsewhere in reasonable proportions rather than moronically trying to cram them all into the SF Bay Area and the peninsula in particular.

An observation: a lot of this concentration is being facilitated by the mortgage interest deduction and state income tax deductions. Those factors are big enablers in concentrating jobs and pushing housing costs around those concentrations to ridiculous levels by enabling companies to pay lower salaries. I'm going to complain about the Republican tax plan like everybody else around here, but the main factor in that is changing the rules in the middle of the game - a more gradual transition on those two points would be a reasonable compromise to reverse the current course.


13 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:57 pm

How about all companies in MP and PA have mandatory work from home days for all staff ... one day per week on a rotating basis.

Take 20% of the cars off the road each day.


5 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2017 at 6:44 am

Here is some low hanging fruit the city could do to attempt to relieve congestion:

1 - synchronize traffic lights that are close to one another to create flow; there's nothing worse that playing stop and go between lights

2 - install a blinking yellow arrow (or similar) allowing left turners to yield rather than wait for the green arrow especially if there aren't any cars coming from the opposite direction.

Not rocket science people - just seeing how other communities have improved things.


23 people like this
Posted by Willows-Woodland Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 14, 2017 at 7:56 am

It's time to ask ask some hard questions of the Menlo Park Council, and require that they <immediately> eliminate massive cut-through traffic <throughout> The Willows. No more 'studies', and sanctioning of city policies (NTMP) designed to block traffic mitigation and shift the burden onto residents. No more platitudes and effete measures like 'added enforcement'.

The enormous new Stanford development at Middle Road and El Camino
is projected to add an additional 6400 daily trips (these are likely developer-generated numbers, and if so probably low-balled).
Stanford will in return pay ~$985K 'to cover development's impacts on city roadways'. $985K will cover the cost of only a few stoplights and roadway modifications, if that.

The Station 1300 Greenheart project has garage space for 1000 cars; the traffic impact of which was termed 'unavoidable' by Greenheart.

How will the City deal with other large downtown projects in the works (Beltramos' site)?

The present Council and City Manager are clearly not serving the residents of Menlo Park as they preside over the unfolding traffic nightmare.
The immediate cry for action in the Willows has arisen from the 101-interchange project, but an equally problematic and insidious issue is the major traffic increases which will occur when facebook expansion and the new El Camino buildings are occupied.


2 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 14, 2017 at 11:09 am

Here is the schedule for the interchange. "This project was awarded to a contractor in February 2017 and construction began in May 2017 and is expected to continue for approximately 2 years." Wow. Just, wow.

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Roland Loomis
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 14, 2017 at 11:55 am

I have lived ON Willow Road since 1963. Been through numerous city meetings, propose traffic solutions over and over, sat for hours in city council chambers. I've had it! Yes locked in my house, unable to get to a local store or 101 North for hours.

This NOT a local traffic problem. It is a BRIDGE problem. Mid Peninsula is a JOB magnet and the East Bay is a housing magnet. As jobs increase on the mid Peninsula, more cars each day try to commute over just two bridges: San Mateo and Dumbarton. Our problem is too many jobs (added weekly) and too few bridges! Community vision and CalTrans planning is nil in our prosperous area. I feel what is needed is MORE BRIDGES with access that does not use local residential street for access. Or just limit business growth on the Peninsula (kidding).


40 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2017 at 12:13 pm

"It's time to...require that they <immediately> eliminate massive cut-through traffic <throughout> The Willows.

As someone who also lives in an area that is prone to cut-through traffic (from El Camino), I can sympathize with wanting minimal traffic on the road you live on.

But if your solution is to restrict public access to the Willows (which you don't explicitly say, but you imply that is the action you want taken by the Council), I do NOT agree.

Public roads are exactly that: PUBLIC. You do not live on an island, and you most certainly do not pay for those roads exclusively. The roads are not your property, they are public property. You benefit from the taxation of others paying for the road you live on and use, and the public has a right to use the roads it pays for.

Instead of trying to create your own private gated community (using public funds, no less), it would be better to focus your energy towards the source of the problem than a symptom of the problem. One of the major sources of the problem is the Dumbarton corridor: ingress and egress to/from the bridge stinks, and the bridge is over utilized at peak, resulting in traffic congestion that contributes to the congestion on Willow Road. Some of the issues with that corridor were suppose to be addressed by Regional Measure 2, but the MTC starved the Dumbarton Rail project of funding, and de-facto stole money that was meant for Dumbarton Rail and gave it to BART.

The recent Dumbarton corridor study discussions the issues with the corridor in good detail, and provides options that will address the issues that are some of the causes to Willow Road congestion.

We need to INSIST that the MTC no longer be a puppet of BART, we need to INSIST on the peninsula getting equal treatment for public transportation projects, and we need to INSIST that our major transportation arteries be enhanced to handle more traffic, so people don't need to drive through non-artery roads due to major arteries being overloaded and badly designed.


14 people like this
Posted by Willows-Woodland Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm

peninsula resident: NO: we as Menlo Park residents have purchased property with the expectation that our quality of life will be preserved. When residents are unable to exit their driveways, or are awakened by gunned motor engines, or are forced to breathe polluted air from idling vehicles outside our houses, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

The problem lies with developers, speculators, and real-estate merchandisers (who are already advertising for tenants in as yet-unbuilt structures); and who are profitting while we languish. Meanwhile, they live in manicured estates in Atherton or Woodside ... certainly not in the Willows.

They are abetted by a money-fueled political system to which any aspiring politician -- at any level -- is indebted.


11 people like this
Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:30 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

I'm interested in understanding more about the sources and destinations of traffic. Who are all these drivers? Where are they headed? Before we talk about widening roads (which will almost certainly just fill), we should consider the ways in which technology could facilitate better solutions, sooner. Public transit projects would help as well but they are YEARS away.

Yes, ideally people should be able to live where they work--but given our geographical and pricing constraints, we should also be making it easier for them to work where they live. Regular telecommuting, distributed throughout the week, could make a significant dent in our problem. This isn't going to be possible for service workers, teachers, public safety, etc. But many tech and office jobs lend themselves to flexible work weeks and telecommuting. Bonus: it's better for the environment and our health (air quality, traffic accidents, lots of sitting in a car when one could be eating dinner with family, walking the dog, etc.)


13 people like this
Posted by facebook adds to traffic
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Menlo Park's council and city staff have created this mess by not listening to mid-peninsula residents who sounded the alert about the flawed 101 intersection design. They also have catered to developers who want to build offices. The problem is not people who don't want more housing (probably because of school crowding concerns), but more so the zoning that allows more jobs and doesn't require sufficient housing to be built or funded by those who reap profits from the new office buildings.

Facebook is an example. Even where a minimum amount of housing is required, the offices in the same Facebook project create more demand for housing than that project's housing provides. Changing the zoning is essential. Building housing can be very profitable; it isn't as profitable as offices when our officials don't require sufficient housing or funding for housing.


4 people like this
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm

I agree with Brian that this is not a Facebook issue. The traffic backing up into the Willows is not there because of Facebook, it is local Menlo Park traffic from wither residents or people who work here. The largest problem is not a bottleneck at Willow and Bayfront or on the Dumbarton Bridge. If that were true, then the traffic gridlock would not have increased 10 fold overnight. This issue is the result of unbelievably stupid urban planning and terrible traffic design.

The most telling comment of the Almanac article came from Fire Chief Schapelhouman who said the interchange project came with impacts that were "predictable, but not necessarily preventable". Well Chief, the impacts were preventable - just don't do the project!

Common sense would tell you that adding 2 new traffic lights to a street in the space of 150 yards would slow throughput. The gridlock is likely a permanent problem. Yes the situation should improve once the permanent exit/entrance ramps to 101 are in place and stoplights are adjusted accordingly, but it will always be significantly worse than it was before. Just look at Marsh, and that road was expanded as part of its interchange project. The fact that the city did not attempt to specifically quantify the impact of this change seems irresponsible. I had assumed until recently that the project was proposed by Caltrans and jammed down the City's throat. Once I realized that the City asked for this, I wanted to be sick.


12 people like this
Posted by Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 15, 2017 at 2:29 am

To Frustrated - From you’re equally Frustrated Fire Chief

“The most telling comment of the Almanac article came from Fire Chief Schapelhouman who said the interchange project came with impacts that were "predictable, but not necessarily preventable". Well Chief, the impacts were preventable - just don't do the project!”

To be clear, we (Fire District) didn’t see the need for this project either, but regardless it’s underway....To that end, my comments stand, it isn’t preventable. We are now dealing with consequence management, taking an already bad situation and making it worse.

I just got done watching the City Councils deliberation on the matter, no new answers there other than some new signage for now. To be clear, we are a separate governmental agency so our focus will be on maintaining response times and roadway access on our primary emergency response routes that affect the entire community.

We’ve been documenting our response time challenges using YouTube videos that go back years now. I struggle to find solutions to these problems that have only been compounded by an Overpass construction schedule that created a major change just as we head into winter and as the day light hours get shorter.

So add in a little rain, darkness, a confusing new set of circumstances and a whole lot of motorist frustration and I would say we’re in for a rough six months (Caltrans timeline for this phase), if not a new normal.

I’m not sure if the best title isn’t “Frustrated”, “Disappointed” or just “Mad as hell and we’re just not going to take it anymore!”


3 people like this
Posted by Williws-Woodland Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 15, 2017 at 6:50 am

No new answers from Ciuncil?

Have they prevailed upon Wayze to stop routing traffic through the neighborhood?
Have they let a contract to a traffic engineering firm to alleviate cutthrough throughout the Willows?

If say a hundred of us contributed $1000 ( less than price of a good tv —- surely a fair price to restore calm), the group could hire a good lawyer to confront the council and city management. The lawsuit against at-large council representation gives some hope: certain neighborhoods bear the brunt of council’s pro-developnent stance.
Recall has also been suggested.
Are there links between city and developers?


23 people like this
Posted by Ticket for an airplane
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2017 at 7:36 am

Are you kidding me?

Kristen Keith, who lives in the Willows, chooses not to hear the item until close to midnight and then gets up and leaves during public comment because she has to catch a 1am flight for a boondoggle mayors trip to the other side of the country. Apparently the boondoggle socializing with other elected officials in a state on the other side of the country is more important than fixing the urgent problem her neighbors she was elected to represent are dealing with. Then the City Manager tells the Council they can't hear potential fixes for a month because Mayor Keith has other items she wants heard in early December.

Unbelievable.


4 people like this
Posted by No Right Turn Signs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 15, 2017 at 8:16 am

No Right Turn Signs is a registered user.

So why can't they just block off right turns onto certain Willows streets during rush hour?

Unlike "no through traffic" signs, these are actually enforceable.


11 people like this
Posted by Willows-Woodland Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 15, 2017 at 8:43 am

Ibviously as all along council and city manager will do nothing.
The only solution will be a political one: removal of the mayor from office.

Vast sums are at stake here, and developers will stop at nothing to profit: we need councilmembers who will stand against them to protect our quality of life.


24 people like this
Posted by Again! Not just the Willows!!
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

I wish the Almanac and other local and regional newspapers would report the story in its entirety.

This is not a Willows-only problem. The Willows is not the only Menlo Park neighborhood literally begging the City for traffic relief...and we are not the only Peninsula city experiencing this. If you check Waze as you're parked at the end of your street during any rush hour, you will see that all, ALL neighborhoods in spitting distance of the Willow interchange, west of 101 are completely, without exception, slammed with cut-thru traffic.

And, though Dunbarton Bridge thru-traffic has been steadily worsening for the last 2-3 years (partially because noone wants to use the University interchange), the rational for, and design of the interchange itself, added walking and biking infrastructure, over development at FaceBook and elsewhere in our City, absence of a transportation solution for our school children (bus fleet?), a 'green-light-mad' city government and other special interests we're probably not even aware of have collided to create the perfect 'heck' for residents.

So, yes, all of us are begging the City for relief.


26 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2017 at 12:29 pm

peninsula resident wrote:
" Instead of trying to create your own private gated community (using public funds, no less),
it would be better to focus your energy towards the source of the problem than a symptom
of the problem."

Willows-Woodland Resident replied:
"NO"

While I'm sympathetic, your demand to make the Willows a publicly funded private gated community is unreasonable.

You are not a special snowflake; as "Again! Not just the Willows!!" points out above, you are not the only neighborhood suffering from traffic congestion.

I agree with many of your points. Mine include: Menlo Park government has failed us, Palo Alto government has been passive-agressively antagonistic towards neighboring communities (Middlefield ahem "traffic calming", and the deliberate rerouting of Palo Alto Alma/Sand-hill traffic into Menlo Park), and the MTC blatantly ripping us off financially and giving the peninsula the middle finger. And yes, developers and the real estate community has been amoral in their efforts to build regardless of impact.

But I stand by my earlier post: it is better to focus on demanding traffic solutions that make cutting through neighborhoods unnecessary, than to focus on making every neighborhood a walled off taxpayer-funded privately-gated community. Demanding that makes you no different from the amoral "I got mine" developers you rail against.


8 people like this
Posted by Build-a-parking-lot
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Why not build a huge parking lot in Newark and provide connecting bus service to Palo Alto transit center? From there commuters can ride Marguerite shuttle to their final destination. Through employers, provide commuters with vouchers to pay for the parking and the bus trip. Provide free wifi on board the bus.


10 people like this
Posted by Gary Lauder
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:16 pm

This article and most of the comments to it are about the temporary(?) consequences during the construction period. The real travesty will be the waste of time and emotional energy from the worsened traffic jams that this interchange change will result in from 2019 until ????. In economic terms, the cost of the incremental wasted time will measure in $billions, which will make the $70M that is being wasted to do this pale in comparison.

I tried to warn the city council about this starting in February of 2016:
Web Link
A year ago, I made public comments at a CC meeting and provided this handout:
Web Link (abbreviated version of above)
The only council members who tried to fight it were Catherine Carlton and Ray Mueller (although they were more genteel than I would have been).
PO & RC did talk with me, but did not act. KK and Alex McIntyre never responded to multiple attempts to communicate about this. Ultimately the latter 4 are responsible.

The disaster is not finalized. If the MPCC were to acknowledge that CalTrans's plans are flawed, they can mitigate the problem by restoring it to a cloverleaf (and using the wider bridge for proper bike lane(s).

In politics, it is rare that people or government bodies admit an error and change plans. Usually the people have to be changed out for that to occur. Time will tell whether these individuals will be the rare exceptions.
-GML


Like this comment
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 15, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

Build-a-parking-has the right idea. It should have been done decades ago, but better late than never.
Dumbarton Bridge capacity is woefully inadequate, but let us not forget that the current bridge is a replacement for an earlier bridge that wasn't earthquake-proof. When this bridge was opened, it was 4 lanes, 2 each way. That lasted a few weeks; then CalTrans had to restripe it with 3 narrower lanes each way. It has been overloaded from the get-go.
Building another trans-bay bridge would just create a new set of traffic jams elsewhere, until give up on the unscalable paradigm of separating workplaces from residences and putting each worker in a separate vehicle. How many companies around the Bay have built office "campuses" with no housing? Even Stanford is open to some criticism on this point, since they don't house ALL their students, faculty and staff on their spacious campus, but they do a lot more than any comparably-sized organization hereabouts.


10 people like this
Posted by mper
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Quite right, @peninsulaResident. Palo Alto has been quietly, but actively creating new dead-end streets and 'no right turn' signage all over the place. Made Middlefield even worse...for Menlo Park. Speaking of gated communities.


6 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 15, 2017 at 5:47 pm

The "new" Dumbarton Bridge was completed in 1982 with four travel lanes, two in each direction plus an 8' shoulder/bike lane on each side. This configuration lasted seven years until the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake at which time Caltrans restripesd the bridge deck ostensibly to provide an alternative to the temporarily closed Bay Bridge. Once the Bay Bridge repairs were completed, the temporary restriping became permanent, violating an agreement that Caltrans had with Atherton to limit traffic entering that town. At the time there was little interest in converting the extra lane to a carpool/bus lane. The potential to do this remains.

Steve Schmidt


2 people like this
Posted by mper
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 15, 2017 at 8:50 pm

How about getting the East Bay traffic to use University to the Dumbarton - as intended?


7 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2017 at 10:23 am

In the spirit of Steve Schmidt’s post, here is another historical fun fact:

(not written into any laws, and whatever public conversations on the matter are buried in some town council/county supervisor file cabinet from the 70s-80s. I'm not going to be able to "prove it", so feel free to ignore if it doesn't fit your view of the world)

In the early planning for the construction of the current Dumbarton Bridge, there was consideration for putting a road that went around East Palo Alto, between EPA and the bay(where the PA golf course resides), similar to the current configuration of Marsh+84 (which primarily goes around Belle Haven instead of through it). This road would have lined up with Oregon Expressway, allowing OE drivers to get to the bridge without using 101 and would have reduced the need to cut through EPA to get to the bridge. Looking at google maps, it’s clear that connecting Oregon Expressway to Dumbarton makes sense: Web Link

This approach was shot down, despite it obviously being the right thing to do (though perhaps we have the benefit of hindsight). Palo Alto was against it because residents on/near Oregon Expressway were already up in arms about traffic on the road...even then. And the leaders of the community that would eventually become East Palo Alto thought having people drive through University Avenue would help generate business (people would stop in town to buy stuff on their way between work and home was the theory). Whups.

So there you go, yet another example of Palo Alto giving the middle finger to neighboring communities.


Like this comment
Posted by Willow Road Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 16, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Why don't we encourage the city to try to reduce the amount of traffic cutting through our city rather than just hoping it will stop cutting through specific neighborhoods? The latter approach risks pitting neighborhoods against each other vs. fostering a collective spirit of community in our city.

Why not:

- Make all city roads HOV during 3-7 p.m. (exempt residents)?

- Or, Instead of expanding expand Willow Road (it will just become a wider parking lot), make it an expensive toll road (exempt city residents) and use the revenue for city parks or adding public transit.

Traffic currently creates high cost but generates no benefits or revenue for the city. It detracts from the health and safety of MP residents and the overall quality of life here. Why not let those creating the gridlock bear more of the costs of the issue they create rather than continuing to let the residents of Menlo Park bear the full costs? Yes, there is a risk other cities might follow suit. If that happens, what's the worst that can happen? Less traffic everywhere! Drivers should bear more of the societal costs of their choice.


Like this comment
Posted by To Mr. Lauder
a resident of another community
16 hours ago

"PO & RC did talk with me, but did not act. KK and Alex McIntyre never responded to multiple attempts to communicate about this. Ultimately the latter 4 are responsible."

Have Keith, Ohtaki, Cline or the City Manager taken responsibility and apologized for this mess yet?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Mountain View: French bakery to replace Drunken Lobster
By Elena Kadvany | 2 comments | 2,337 views

A New Way to Think About High Speed Rail
By Steve Levy | 10 comments | 1,492 views

Sweet Potato Canapé and Food Party! Holiday Favorites
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 856 views

Twenty Years in the Sixties: How an Alcoholic Hippie Became a Self-Giving Servant
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 827 views

Couples: Slowing Down & Content and Process Conversation
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 764 views

 

The holidays are here!

From live music to a visit with Santa, here's a look at some local holiday activities to help you get into the spirit of the season.

VIEW