Tonight: Complete Streets Commission to discuss Belle Haven traffic plan


Each day, tens of thousands of cars pass through a few key intersections in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood, and after years of requests for help from some frustrated residents, a plan is in the works to reduce cut-through traffic and improve safety.

In an effort to accelerate the implementation of that plan, the city's Complete Streets Commission will host a discussion tonight to get public feedback on a series of steps intended to improve safety in and deter commuters from the neighborhood.

During a recent count, the Willow Road/Newbridge Street intersection had 33,100 vehicles pass through in one day, while 26,800 vehicles passed through the Willow Road and Hamilton Avenue intersection, according to Menlo Park city staff.

Staff developed a series of recommendations and options for the commission to consider, such as adding bulb-outs at intersections, installing bike lanes, painting shoulder stripes, extending curbs, and installing speed humps, among other steps. The project will be brought to the City Council for final approval.

Each option that staff presented comes with pluses and minuses to be weighed. For instance: Installing bike lanes narrows vehicle lanes. That helps reduce speeds and separate bikes from cars, but also removes on-street parking. And in some places, it may not be feasible because the roads are not wide enough.

Similarly, bulb-outs are good for improving pedestrian safety because they shorten the distance that pedestrians have to walk unprotected in the middle of the road, but they carry the downside of claiming parking spots and making it harder for emergency vehicles to make turns.

Staff also recommend adding crosswalks and fixing curb ramps to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as soon as possible.

Access the report and plan online to see the full range of options up for consideration.

A number of steps have already been taken to improve neighborhood traffic, according to staff.

In June, the City Council approved the installation of "No through traffic" signs to be placed at four entrances to the neighborhood.

The city has also installed left-turn restrictions from southbound Chilco Street to eastbound Hamilton Avenue during evening commute times; bulb-outs at the Chilco Street and Hamilton Avenue intersection; a traffic circle at the Ivy Drive-Market Place-Ringwood Avenue intersection; and speed humps on Terminal, Henderson, Windermere, Hollyburne, Sevier, Madera and Carlton avenues and Pierce Road.

The city also established a 15-mile-per-hour school zone near Hamilton Avenue, Chilco Street, Ivy Drive and Almanor Avenue. In addition, it closed traffic on Henderson Avenue at Ivy Drive, on Howard Street at Windermere Avenue, on Windermere Avenue at Chilco Street and on Ivy Drive in front of the Belle Haven Branch Library.

To implement some of the alternatives proposed, the city will need the cooperation of other agencies, staff noted. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission controls swaths of Ivy Drive because the roadway sits atop the Hetch Hetchy right-of-way and Caltrans controls Willow Road.

Also, different groups want sometimes conflicting accommodations. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District has as a priority a wide roadway and minimal new barriers, which could make it harder for emergency vehicles to turn. And residents might not want to eliminate street parking to enable bike lanes to be installed.

The traffic study and any permanent changes made to the neighborhood as part of the traffic calming initiative will be paid for by Facebook as part of an agreement the company made with the city when it secured permission to build the new office buildings it is constructing between the neighborhood and Bayfront Expressway.

The Menlo Park Complete Streets Commission will meet Wednesday, July 11, at 7 p.m. at the Belle Haven Senior Center at 100 Terminal Ave. near the Onetta Harris Community Center.


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