Willows residents press city to fight cut-through traffic | March 8, 2017 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - March 8, 2017

Willows residents press city to fight cut-through traffic

by Kate Bradshaw

Drivers cutting through the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park to get to U.S. 101 and Bayfront Expressway are creating increasingly hazardous conditions, particularly for children, say residents of the area who want the city of Menlo Park to come up with mitigation measures.

"Even while we watch our boys as they play in the front yard or ride their scooters on the sidewalk, we don't quite feel our children are safe, and we don't feel the cut-through problem is being addressed adequately," said Willows residents JD and Monica Kuchinski in an email to the Menlo Park City Council.

Traffic has increased "severalfold" in the neighborhood in the last year or so, said Willows resident Ross Wilson, who suggested the city install signs prohibiiting cut-through traffic and consider installing license plate readers.

Addressing cut-through traffic in the Willows is on the council's work plan for 2017, but city staff members say they are overloaded with other work. They asked the council on Feb. 28 to merge the project with plans to develop safe routes to school for Laurel Upper Elementary School.

The merger proposal was approved by the council on a vote of 4-0-1, with Councilman Ray Mueller abstaining. He said he supports the Willows project, but doesn't want it merged with the safe routes to school work.

Assistant City Manager Chip Taylor said the city has contacted people at Waze, the Google-owned traffic navigation app, and they were "not overly cooperative," with the city's request that the app reroute commuters away from Willows' residential streets.

He said the company would, however, incorporate into its algorithm actions the city takes to reduce cut-through traffic, such as posting signs that prohibit certain turns at peak hours.

The council plans to discuss the matter further at its March 28 meeting.

Councilman Ray Mueller also asked the other council members to consider having a closed session with the city attorney to discuss potential legal actions the city could take against the navigation app.

"How a city designates that street will affect what safety precautions are in place," he said in an interview. Streets designated as residential, he said, are not designed to handle as much traffic as those with other designations and can create a need to spend additional city resources to maintain the street.

Commissions merge

The council voted 4-1 on Feb. 28, with Rich Cline opposed, to merge the bicycle and transportation commissions.

Mr. Cline said he voted against it because he thinks the commissions serve different purposes. As he sees it, the Bicycle Commission focuses more on advocating for better, safer resources for bikes, while the transportation commission is supposed to prioritize the needs of all transit modes.

All commission members will keep their posts during the one-year trial of the merger, said Nikki Nagaya, the city's transportation manager.

The plan is to not replace members who are termed out or quit, until the commission has seven members, she said.

IT hiring

The council unanimously approved recommendations to add staff to the city's administration services department.

The city will hire two full-time provisional employees: an enterprise applications support specialist for five years to work on the city's information technology master plan, and an entry-level management analyst for three years to work on the master plan and other management needs.

Also to be hired are a full-time senior accountant and, on a contract basis, a network systems engineer.

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