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After recent car crash, council delays plans for medical office complex

Original post made on Jul 19, 2007

Following a serious car crash Saturday on El Camino Real near the former Acorn restaurant site, the Menlo Park City Council decided Tuesday night a traffic study is needed before a proposed medical office complex can be built on the property.

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 19, 2007 at 4:40 pm

RE: City Traffic Safety
DT: 7.18.07

Honorable members of the Menlo Park City Council:

Last night’s council meeting was enormously educational for me. I wish to commend the City Council on its thoughtful discussions and decisions. There was unanimous concern for the traffic safety issue not only at the Watkins intersection, but for the entire length of El Camino. Thank you for your concerns. I am confident that this issue will remain on your strategic agenda.

Although my neighbors, colleagues and I feel very strongly that there is a direct connection between what is developed at the 1906 El Camino site and its traffic consequences, I concur with Councilman Boyle that this intersection is “dangerous” regardless of site development.

However, I disagree with his and city staff's premise that “danger” and “safety” are defined by statistical averages. In fact, they are perceptions which govern our behavior. Thus, if that intersection is perceived as dangerous by a number of people with experience at that cross street -- regardless of the accident rate -- it must be considered as dangerous.
As they say in research, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." 

“Near misses” in aviation are called “incidents.” Records of incidents are carefully collected in the industry. It is unfortunate that vehicle “incidents” or “incursion” records are not kept or taken seriously as predictive indicators as they are in aviation.

The parking issue, I believe, will come back to bite us. With no underground parking at 1906, and a reduction in the spaces required, there is no question that there will be parking on Watkins, and spill-over on other streets. It will be a source of conflict. It can be prevented now. This Council has the authority to see that the parking problem is corrected before it is too late.

In order to support the constructive efforts on the part of the City Council, I propose a number of suggestions, many already raised by Council, whereby the City of Menlo Park can approach both Atherton and Caltrans with the least intrusive modifications for increasing safety at the several intersections in question:

1. Signs: No left turn during the hours of 6am to 7pm. posted for Watkins to El Camino.

2. A longer holding lane, or “safe harbour” on the southbound entry to El Camino from Watkins. (Used when left turn lanes are legal.)

3. Zero street parking on El Camino northbound from Encinal to Watkins. Business interests must defer to safety interests.

4. Two-lane traffic continuing beyond Watkins, with a northbound entry-lane for each cross street after Encinal, including Stone Pine Lane, Buckthorn Way, Spruce Avenue, and Watkins Avenue.

5.  Strict enforcement of 35 mph limits with fixed radar/cameras on the northbound and southbound sides of El Camino covering the section between Atherton Avenue and Encinal.

6. Negotiations with Atherton regarding jurisdiction and responsibility for the length of El Camino from Encinal to Watkins and resolving any ambiguities thereto.

Respectfully submitted,

Martin Engel

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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 9:07 am

I am pleased to learn that the city came to its senses. The trigger based on project size for conducting was simply a guideline. There was plenty of knowledgeable testimony, albeit anecdotal, regarding the dangers of that intersection that finally is being heeded.
I hope the city also reconsiders the adequacy of onsite parking. There essentially is NO additional parking available offsite in that vicinity so it makes little sense to make a reduction below the normal city standard.

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