Almanac

News - January 1, 2014

Atherton residents fear traffic light would increase traffic woes

by Barbara Wood

Residents of Atherton's Selby Lane say traffic has become so bad on their formerly quiet street that they frequently have long waits to get out of their own driveways.

After several Selby Lane residents testified about their plight at the Dec. 18 Atherton City Council meeting, council members decided to delay for further study a decision on adding a traffic light at the Selby Lane intersection with El Camino Real, which neighbors fear would bring even more traffic to Selby Lane.

Council members worried that making changes that attempt to divert drivers from Selby Lane, such as eliminating or reducing left turns, would just dump it on other Atherton streets.

"Traffic is increasing every day," said longtime Selby Lane resident Claire Starry. She has had pets killed and "I've almost been hit when I put my recycling out," she said. "Please try to do something ... to stop the traffic on Selby Lane."

Ms. Starry suggested banning left turns onto and from Selby Lane during commute hours. Other residents suggested getting rid of the left-turn lanes altogether. But council members suggested either might cause a whole new set of problems.

Banning left turns at Selby "would mean traffic would probably move to other places where they could make a left turn," said Councilman Jim Dobbie.

The increase in traffic on local streets "is an issue everywhere in Atherton," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis. "I cannot get out of my driveway in the morning."

Caltrans had asked the town to consider putting a traffic light at the intersection of El Camino Real and Selby Lane because of the number of accidents there. Between 2002 and 2011, the intersection has been the site of 50 accidents, with about half of them being one vehicle broadsiding another, according to information provided to the town by Caltrans. None of the accidents involved pedestrians, according to the report.

In September, one man was killed and another seriously injured in a three-vehicle collision at the intersection when a car traveling northbound on El Camino Real tried to make a left turn onto Selby Lane, according to police.

The council also put off making a decision on adding a pedestrian-controlled light, called a pedestrian hybrid beacon, on El Camino Real at Isabella Avenue. Caltrans had offered to pay the costs for the light, and had also offered to pay for such a light at Selby Lane if the council decided against a traditional traffic light there.

The matter will go back to the Transportation Committee, and town employees will also bring the council a proposal to do more studies on the issue.

In the meantime, Ms. Lewis had one short-term solution. "Can there be more police presence there?" she asked.

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