News

Oregon Expressway slowdown to speed up

Contractor issues caused upgrades to fall behind schedule

Motorists and residents wondering when the Oregon Expressway traffic crawl will come to an end should get relief by early September, when a years-long traffic-flow improvement project is slated to be completed, said Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department Project Engineer Craig Petersen.

The construction project, which was first proposed in 2008 and approved by the city in 2009, will replace 50-year-old traffic signals along Oregon Expressway from U.S. Highway 101 to Alma Street and along Middlefield Road from Garland Drive to Marion Avenue. The road's need for signal-timing changes to speed traffic flow and safety features for pedestrians and bicyclists is the major catalyst for the project, which since its proposal has been heavily debated and publicly vetted.

The project contract was finally awarded to Hayward-based Golden Bay Construction, Inc. in June 2013, and construction was to be completed in February. But the work came to a crawl last fall and this spring after a subcontractor failed to perform.

At times, one lane has been closed for roadwork during non-peak weekday hours, causing traffic backups.

The county has "lit more of a fire" to get the job completed, and work is now picking up, Petersen said. "The curb is in now and the median paving is done. They are standing up poles (for the lights) and looking at switching one signal on next week," he added.

Additional poles still need to be added; there is also underground wiring, striping and road surfacing that needs to be completed.

The signals will be switched to their new configurations as they are installed. The first signal change will be at the intersection of Cowper Street, Petersen said.

The county posts project updates and a lane closures schedule online on a weekly basis. View them here.

Comments

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Right, September of what year? Does someone get fired if it does not get done?


Posted by hey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Good Lord! I thought the article was going to state "one week" or something! not "September!" Your government at work (maybe).


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm

There are two conflicting trends here ...

1. Always over-estimate the time necessary to finish a project because Palo Altans are tired of having projects come in late.

2. However long a project takes, slow down, stall, and milk it for all it's worth, because no one will actually do anything except pay more money.

These two trends trade off so often it is a wonder that Palo Alto projects actually get finished ... that is, if they ever do?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2014 at 5:23 pm

I am looking forward to improvements even though I don't use Oregon often in commute times.

The problems I have experienced is that so much traffic comes from side streets at each red light that there is very little space for more than a few cars going straight in each lane to cross the intersection before the light changes again. Then more cars from side streets come in and so on.

I hope that this will be fixed by the new sequences.


Posted by @commuter, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I use this road everyday. I am always puzzled by planning of the tasks. For instance, the contractor would close one lane to do a one block section of the curb. Then a sub-section of the curb that required some asphalt digging would remain undone until a couple of weeks later. Then they would come back to the same spot and close the lanes on the same block again to repair the remaining sub-section. It appears rather inefficient planning and very little regards to the traffic.

Despite the inconveniences, I am looking forward to the road improvements.


Posted by @commuter, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I use this road everyday. I am always puzzled by planning of the tasks. For instance, the contractor would close one lane to do a one block section of the curb. Then a sub-section of the curb that required some asphalt digging would remain undone until a couple of weeks later. Then they would come back to the same spot and close the lanes on the same block again to repair the remaining sub-section. It appears rather inefficient planning and very little regards to the traffic.

Despite the inconveniences, I am looking forward to the road improvements.


Posted by uh huh, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

"one lane has been closed for roadwork during non-peak weekday hours"

They've also been closed during peak weekday hours. Weekly, don't take the city's PR at face value.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 19, 2014 at 9:09 pm

This is NOT a Palo Alto project. The city has nothing to do with it. It is all being done by Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department.


Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2014 at 5:56 am

What's going on on Oregon Expwy now is terrible and is causing awful hardships to drivers, yet it's all but certain that the project will be completed before the Mitchell Park library reopens.


Posted by Mike Alexander, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 20, 2014 at 6:25 am

A few years ago the County dug a ditch all the way from Bayshore to Foothill Expy to install what the cabling needed to flexibly control flow. Whether controls to enable that were installed isn't clear. The new signals going in now are the same, except that now each lane will have it's own set, which must be the current standard. I'll be surprised if flow changes at all, but those new curbs look great!


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 20, 2014 at 7:25 am

The cabling installed a few years ago was used for controllers on Page Mill, but the ones on Oregon are still those installed 50 years ago. The changes may not be obvious now, but will be very beneficial. At the moment you can't use the crosswalks in a wheelchair because the medians block them, and the medians can't be cut because they have left turn signals in them. Modern-style lights that hang over the lanes will change that, and crosswalks will all be ADA-compliant with countdown signals. Cross streets will have a separate green cycle for each direction, so drivers can turn left without the confusion and danger from oncoming drivers. Overall it should be safer and more convenient and will allow more sophisticated timing of lights along the expressway.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 20, 2014 at 8:38 am

If the commute hour flow on Oregon is improved, does that just mean longer back-ups at El Camino in the morning and 101 in the afternoon?


Posted by Mike Alexander, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm

@Donald: It sounds like you know a lot about it, and I'm glad one of us does. That cabling project definitely included Oregon, but it sounds like the controls needed weren't added there. OK on wheelchair cuts -- I'm guessing there will also be call buttons at the center divide, yes?


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

What we really need is a freeway off the end of the Dunbarton bridge up the Willow corridor to 280.


Posted by Philly, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Yet another Palo Alto project that fails to deliver on time on budget. At least all the trees aren't being cut down this time.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

"What we really need is a freeway off the end of the Dunbarton bridge up the Willow corridor to 280."

Yes - too bad Menlo Park decided not to play ball and do their share of managing East-West traffic flow. The Willow Expressway was intended to connect 101 to 280 via Willow Road and Sand Hill Road.


Posted by To Philly. , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Oregon Expressway is controlled by the COUNTY, not the city. This is made quite clear at the top of the article. This is not a City of Palo Alto project, and so the city has nothing whatsoever to do with the budget or schedule. However, for a project of this scale, a September deadline is quite reasonable.


Posted by Jean, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 20, 2014 at 5:02 pm

If it ain't broke, don't fix it....


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm

But it was broken, and they waited a very long time before they got around to fixing it.


Posted by BudS, a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2014 at 12:47 pm

The light on Ross Road that they have added looks inadequate. Does anyone know if there is a plan to add more lights or do something to make the Ross Road light more visible?


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