News - March 23, 2011

Stanford hospital expansion: Report calls traffic mitigation for Menlo Park 'intolerable'

by Sandy Brundage

A report drafted by the Menlo Park transportation commission calls the inequity between the $8.3 million Stanford has proposed giving Palo Alto to mitigate impacts from its upcoming hospital expansion versus the minimal amount allocated for Menlo Park "intolerable."

After taking 10 days to carefully choose their words, the transportation commissioners approved a set of recommendations to the Menlo Park City Council regarding the final environmental impact report (FEIR) for the Stanford hospital expansion. The action was taken during a special meeting of the commission on Friday, March 18.

The $3.5 billion project would bring about 1.3 million square feet of new development and more than 2,200 new employees to Palo Alto by 2025. It could add an estimated 10,000 daily car trips to the area, making traffic in Menlo Park a primary concern for the commission.

Menlo Park won't receive any general fund revenue from taxes associated with the project and has only been offered a 2 percent "fair share" contribution toward the total cost of traffic mitigation, even though 51 percent of the hospital's traffic will pass through the city, according to the commission, with Sand Hill Road as the most direct route to three of the four planned parking lots at the center.

Also, if Stanford doesn't makes its goal of having 35 percent of the hospital's employees use alternative forms of transportation to get to work, Palo Alto receives an additional $4 million. Menlo Park, again, stands to get only the "fair share" contribution.

"Palo Alto has the money to deal with it; Menlo Park does not," said Commissioner Ray Mueller during a discussion of what happens if the medical center doesn't reduce employee traffic by 35 percent.

Commissioner Robert Cronin, who abstained from approving the report, didn't share his colleagues' concerns, stating that "one additional car every 45 seconds to one-and-a-half minutes isn't anything to worry about. That's spread out over eight hours."

The commission's recommendations try to address that imbalance by asking the Menlo Park city attorney to determine whether the inadequate compensation and proposed traffic mitigations are grounds for re-doing the EIR. They also ask the city to demand Stanford pay the full costs of traffic mitigations as well as provide compensation if employee traffic is higher than expected.

The EIR goes before the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday, April 5. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St.


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