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Letter: Excited by prospect of six-lane El Camino Real

Original post made on Nov 23, 2011

I read with pleasure that the city of Menlo Park is still considering the six-lane El Camino corridor. The bottleneck caused by the narrowing of El Camino Real to two lanes between Palo Alto and Redwood City causes unnecessary traffic congestion that keeps people, myself included, away from the downtown area.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 12:00 AM

Comments (6)

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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Lots of commuters like myself would also get "excited" by a 6-lane El Camino through Menlo Park to escape Hwy 101 congestion. Lots of San Mateo Co. residents commute to jobs in parts of Palo Alto and Mountain View via Hwy 101 which could -- if it were not for the narrower and therefore more congested 4-lane section of ECR through Menlo Park -- just as well be reached via a combination of El Camino and/or Alma/Central Expressway.

Menlo Park would be making a big mistake -- and an even bigger and faster moving traffic sewer through its heart -- by eliminating the pedestrian- and business-protecting parking along El Camino just to pump more traffic through at (marginally) higher speed.

Some people just don't believe or understand that there's a lot of cut-through traffic just waiting to fill the extra two lanes which are now serving to keep traffic speed and volume down and providing some parking and an important buffer between traffic and pedestrian (shoppers) on the sidewalks and the front doors of businesses fronting El Camino.

But if Menlo Park decides to give this space over to cut-through commuter and other traffic, that's its business ... and enough drivers on either side of Menlo Park will be very happy to trade their trips on Hwy 101 and help ensure these 2 extra lanes will be full of traffic.

Your move, Menlo Park, what will it be? Resident/pedestrian/business/shopper-friendly, or a bigger, wider jammed traffic sewer through your heart?

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Posted by Reality Check II
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 24, 2011 at 7:45 am

The real problem lies more with the timing of the lights - they are not timed to permit good flow through of traffic along El Camino. There are also places where, quite frankly, left hand turns should be eliminated.
But, of course, none of this will happen because, after spending money on various consultants, our "do-nothing" city council will live up to their rep.

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Not to be intentionally perverse, but I think making El Camino six lanes is a very bad idea. Think about it. Do we want even more through-traffic going through Menlo Park without stopping, except for the lights?

While describing this drive as "sewer" may be a bit strong, I get the point. And I agree with "Reality Check's" premises.

When you increase traffic flow, you increase traffic volume. That’s a law of physics. Right now, even before this dramatic change, El Camino is the Grand Canyon, dividing one side of the city from the other, somewhat like the railroad corridor. Pedestrian crossings, at intersections, are tough enough, without our making it even worse.

I would even reduce the width of El Camino by introducing a park-like center divider, with foliage, walking path, even kiosks. That’s what “Grand Boulevards” have around the world. I would also impose major set-backs for any new construction on both sides of El Camino, including much wider sidewalks. (See Cafe Barrone/Kepler's as a prototype.)

I would make crossing El Camino a two-stage process, with a safety island in the center between north and south bound lanes. Better for parents with strollers, older types, bike riders.

Peninsula through-traffic belongs on either #101 or #280, not El Camino going through the heart of Menlo Park. We need more open space in our town, not less. We need more pedestrian welcome-access in our downtown, not less.

What we don’t need is a third Peninsula freeway right down the middle of Menlo Park! Four lanes is enough!

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Posted by Bob Highlander
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm

El Camino is a bottleneck through Menlo Park.

Lets facilitate our ability to get around in order to get things done by giving six lanes a try.

As a pedestrian and cyclist, crossing El Camino won't get much more difficult than it already is if there are six lanes rather than four. And as an occasional driver, I won't be stuck in stop-and-go traffic, wasting time.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I recall people objecting to widening Sand Hill Road just east of the Alameda (where it runs next to the Stanford golf course). They seemed to think the bottleneck was preferable to cars "whizzing" through.

But the solution to widen that street resulted in LESS congestion, fewer cars idling next to these homes (with their exhaust and radio noise) and a little less frustration for drivers.

One could learn from that experience.

Yes, widening El Camino through Menlo Park would probably impact businesses that front the street. But there are literally thousands - probably tens of thousands - of drivers who must endure the frustration of daily congestion along that one mile stretch of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park can ignore the problem and pretend it doesn't exist, or they can be part of the community of the Peninsula where people have to commute along El Camino Real to get to work and get home! Remember that someone else in another town may have sacrificed so you can speed along the 101 and 280.

Like this comment
Posted by against 6 lanes
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

The parked cars provide an essential buffer to traffic for pedestrians, and are essential to support Menlo Park businesses. We need bike lanes, not car lanes, if we are to wean more people from cars and promote safe biking around town.
A big part of the problem in Menlo Park is that the El Camino intersections are slowed by east-west traffic. This is caused by lack of any grade separation for the train tracks at multiple busy intersections, and by busy 4-way intersections of El Camino with every east-west street.
Rather than widen El Camino's traffic lanes, how about adding bike lanes and making Ravenswood and Menlo 1-way westbound and Oak Grove 1-way eastbound? At least from Alma or Laurel.

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