"If you discourage people from getting into the neighborhood streets, it only works if you have good traffic flow on the major streets,"council member Mike Lempres said t the meeting.
The council wants to first tackle pass-through traffic — cars starting and ending their journey through Atherton on a single street — for example, regional roadways like El Camino Real, Alameda de las Pulgas, or Middlefield Road.
On Alameda de las Pulgas, with an average of 14,500 vehicles per day, 89% of southbound traffic is pass-through and 6% is cut-through. Northbound, 70% of traffic is pass-through and 20% is cut-through, according to the report.
In both directions on Middlefield Road, with an average of 19,500 vehicles a day, 75% of traffic is pass-through and 20% cut-through, according to the report.
Staff will develop ways to mitigate cut-through traffic — traffic that passes through Atherton along multiple roadways, including nonregional streets — to prevent significant backups on east/west secondary streets.
The town could limit traffic on these streets by adding stop signs, speed bumps or no-left-turn signs, Mayor Bill Widmer suggested during the meeting. Widmer noted that mapping apps such as Waze direct commuters to cut through town to avoid backups on El Camino Real and Alameda de las Pulgas, shaving a minute off their commutes. He said that Atherton could work with Waze to change its algorithm to avoid routing people through town.
Traffic signals were recommended for Alameda de las Pulgas at Atherton Avenue; Stockbridge Avenue and Camino al Lago; Middlefield Road at Fair Oaks Lane and Watkins Avenue; and Valparaiso Avenue at Elena and Emilie avenues. The consultants say traffic signals would significantly reduce the time it takes to pass through those intersections during commute hours.
Consultants found that traffic backs up significantly at eight of the 12 intersections they studied, which included multiple crossings along Middlefield, Valparaiso and the Alameda. Some council members were surprised, however, to see that traffic has not increased much from 2015 to 2018, according to traffic counts. Widmer said the data was collected in March, close to Easter, when many students may have been out of school, which might have skewed the results of the traffic counts.
Ruta Jariwala, a principal at TJKM, said her group collected data when school was in session, but Widmer noted that a lot of students miss school around that time regardless.
Lempres said he found it "mind-boggling" that traffic hasn't increased much in town even though there's been significant new construction.
There are currently many large commercial and residential projects that are either being designed or are under construction in adjacent communities that will further impact traffic flow in town, according to the staff report. City Manager George Rodericks noted that nearby cities haven't given Atherton the opportunity to fully participate in planning for these developments, including consideration of how traffic outside of their cities would be impacted by the projects.
"We do provide feedback, but it's to little effect," he said.
Council members said that residents should be involved in deciding on any traffic-calming measures. Congestion is a hot-button issue for residents, and there's been "massive community outreach" on this issue, Lempres said.
Residents will also have to navigate any new traffic-controlling devices (more stop signs, left-turn restrictions, speed bumps and other measures), and these features could be "unpopular," warned council member Elizabeth Lewis.
In a 500-page report, TJKM suggests turning restrictions at key intersections along Alameda de las Pulgas, Valparaiso Avenue and Middlefield Road.
The town's Transit Committee is advocating left-turn restrictions from southbound Alameda de las Pulgas onto Stockbridge Avenue and Polhemus Avenue during the morning commute; traffic signals at the intersections of Valparaiso and Elena avenues, and Valparaiso and Emilie avenues, with left and right turn lanes onto Emilie at Valparaiso and Elena at Valparaiso; and new bike lanes in one direction along Atherton Avenue, among other proposals.
Later in the meeting, the council authorized the purchase 30 new Axon body cameras for $500 each for police officers. The total cost would be about $133,210 (which includes online cloud storage of footage, licensing and other ancillary costs) over five years, according to a staff report. These would replace the town's VieVu body cameras, which are no longer available and can't be serviced or repaired since Axon Enterprise bought VieVu in 2018.
The council also authorized the purchase of three 2019 BMW police motorcycles for a total cost of about $112,750.
The full traffic report can be viewed at tinyurl.com/athertontraffic.
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