Study: Traffic problems would be unavoidable

Stanford, Palo Alto, Menlo Park face 44 'significant' environmental impacts from project

The costs of Stanford University Medical Center's hospital expansion will greatly exceed the $3 billion Stanford is sinking into the project.

That's because the project will generate 44 "significant" environmental impacts, including traffic jams, obstructed views and disturbed wildlife, according to the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report, a detailed analysis of the expansion project. Paying to ease these anticipated consequences will fall at least partly into Stanford's lap.

In most cases, the negative effects of "Project Renewal" could be reduced to "less than significant" levels through a wide range of mitigation measures: New bike paths and traffic signals could ease the congestion; design reviews by the city's Architectural Review Board could help ensure the new buildings blend nicely into the fabric of the city; tree pruning could wait until birds finish nesting.

But the report also states that there would be 14 "significant and unavoidable" impacts as a result of the redevelopment. These include the following:

■ A few bad intersections will get worse. Even if Stanford were to install traffic-adaptive signals, build new pedestrian and bicycle undercrossings and buy Caltrain passes for all hospital employees, it wouldn't be able to fully ease the anticipated traffic congestion. In the evening commute hours, the traffic, as measured by "level of service," is predicted to go from bad to the worst rating possible at three intersections: Middlefield and Willow roads; Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road; and University Avenue and Bayfront Expressway.

■ Traffic jams would also clog four major roadways near the hospitals: Marsh, Willow, Sand Hill and Alpine roads, all in Menlo Park.

■ No matter how diligent Stanford is at covering construction trucks, watering streets and sweeping dirt during the redevelopment, the massive project will create considerable air pollution.

■ The larger hospitals will also emit more pollution, based in part on its employees' commutes to and from work. The report states the project would "result in a substantial contribution to an existing regional air quality problem and a significant impact." Stanford could reduce the pollution by giving Caltrain passes to its workers, but the impact would remain significant and unavoidable.

■ The project would contribute to climate change and "contravene the goals in the city's Climate Protection Plan," even if Stanford holds waste-reduction audits, participates in the Palo Alto Green program, and pledges to recycle at least 50 percent of construction or demolition materials, as the impact report recommends.

■ Bigger hospitals mean more ambulances, which mean more sirens along Sand Hill Road, west of El Camino Real.

■ The "Stone Building," site of the nation's first heart transplant, would be razed to make way for the new hospitals. The loss of the 1959 structure, which according to Mayor Pat Burt once hosted baseball legend Ty Cobb -- is a significant and unavoidable impact to Palo Alto's historical resources, the report finds.

■ Tree removals in Palo Alto are always a cause of concern among community members. In this case, 58 trees would be sawed off, including 48 that are protected under Palo Alto's Municipal Code. Stanford has pledged to replant or replace every tree that is removed for this project, but the operation is sure to stir some protest in Palo Alto.

Gennady Sheyner


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Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Replacing the current Stanford Hospital so that it meets current seismic standards and adequate space is provided for the Trauma Center/ER is reasonable.

Palo Alto should, however, ask Stanford why expand?

Sizewise the current hospital certainly is adequate for the current patient load. We never read about patients being turned away because no bed or OR space is available.

Just because UCSF has plenty of space to expand at Mission Bay is no reason for Stanford to expand to compete with it.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cancer Nurse
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

Comments from individuals about Stanford seeking foreign patients and not serving this community are ill-informed at best. As a nurse in the ITA (infusion treatment area) of the Cancer Center I make it a topic of conversation-"where did you come from today?" Patients we see are overwhelmingly from Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties-Sunnyvale, San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City. Certainly many do come from the Central Valley and other parts of CA, and yes Stanford does have facilities to help make their experience a positive one. As for traffic-more people need to use alternate transportation to get to the hospital but that can also be said of the schools in Palo Alto-let your children walk or bike to school and stop driving them!! I bike to work at Stanford and would love to see fewer SUVs and Odesseys loaded with one able-bodied child.

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