The Caltrans paving project that snarled Menlo Park traffic won't be complete until mid-November -- and neither will repairs to the traffic signal system.
Now they know. Caltrans has yet to finish repairing the damage from an Oct. 1 mishap. A work crew accidentally severed the electrical lines that feed into the traffic light system at the intersection of El Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue, said Chip Taylor, the city's public works director. While the crew has fixed the signals, the synchronization remains busted, leading to backed-up traffic for blocks during rush hour.
That might have happened anyway. Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said that control loops, which handle signal synchronization, are routinely damaged during the grinding that takes place during a paving project, according to the agency's engineers. "This is the procedure in any paving job," she said. "After they do grinding, they'll pave and then do the loops and striping simultaneously sometime next month, probably mid-November."
There are 16 control loops for each side of the street. Repairs require more specialized equipment and time than the traffic signal lines, Ms. Navarro said. Right now the signals are on a timer; without functional loops, the lights can't adjust "on demand" to the amount of traffic -- a situation leading to the jams now enjoyed by drivers in downtown Menlo Park.