Almanac

News - February 23, 2011

City wants to stop traffic at Santa Cruz and Elder avenues

• $291,000 in traffic signal changes coming to intersection near school.

by Sandy Brundage

The Menlo Park City School District and the city will each chip in $120,000 to add a new traffic light at the intersection of Santa Cruz Avenue and Elder Avenue, and take away a pedestrian signal in front of Hillview Middle School at that intersection.

The lighted, in-pavement pedestrian signal will shift to the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and Olive Street.

The city will spend an additional $15,000 for staff time and $35,000 to create a right-hand turn lane from Elder Avenue to Santa Cruz Avenue.

First things first, though. At the request of the City Council at its Feb. 15 meeting, Menlo Park will also spend $1,000 to create a "keep clear" zone in front of Atkinson Lane, a residential street that intersects Santa Cruz Avenue about a block from the school.

During the meeting, three Atkinson Lane residents expressed concern about traffic problems worsening if the city installs the traffic signal, saying it's already hard to pull in and out of their driveways.

"I do know that if we want to get into our driveway on Atkinson we're stopping all the traffic behind us and we can't go, because the cars are in front of our street," Anny Levin told the council. "Traffic is much more dangerous at that particular intersection than where it is now (on Seymour Lane)."

The residents asked the city to postpone the changes until it knows whether there truly is a problem with the current arrangement.

Data provided by the Menlo Park police department shows five accidents occurred at intersections around Hillview Middle School during the past two years. Three happened at the juncture of Santa Cruz Avenue and Olive Street, while Elder Avenue and Atkinson Lane had one each where those streets joined Santa Cruz Avenue.

Engineering services manager Chip Taylor told the council existing traffic issues would already benefit, and that waiting could make the problems worse. "The student population is going to slowly increase over the next four to five years," he said. "It takes time to get a signal in place, so if you wait until you see the problem, it could be six to eight months before you can get the signal installed."

The school district would like to see the changes made sooner rather than later since it plans to use bond money to pay for its half of the costs, Mr. Taylor said, and hopes to have construction start by May 2012.

The council unanimously approved the changes, as well as creating a "keep clear" zone as soon as possible.

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