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New traffic signal to be installed near Paly

Original post made on Sep 28, 2009

A new traffic signal that will be installed starting Tuesday at the intersection of the Town & Country Shopping Center and the Palo Alto High School driveway will likely snarl traffic between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., city officials announced. The installation is expected to last through early November 2009.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, September 28, 2009, 3:15 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by Cardinal, a resident of Stanford
on Sep 28, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Too bad they couldn't install it today. There was no school. Wouldn't that have made more sense?

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm

traffic lights take more than a day to install, so no.

Posted by PA, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 28, 2009 at 5:43 pm

What a waste of money

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2009 at 5:50 pm

guess you dont shop at T&C and try to make that left turn. ;-)

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Google Earth shows a narrow road or wide bikeway from the Northeast corner of Paly to the Southeast corner of T&C. It would seem that encouraging student use of that way would be better than further restricting autos on an overloaded street.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2009 at 8:16 pm


This is about facilitating auto movement. Pedestrians already have a light to cross the street at that location. Sound like that light will be unavailable during this construction. Also the reason why that light exists is without it the kids jaywalked and were a hazard.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2009 at 4:50 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I subsequently learned that the long way around I propose would take too much out of the short break time. Perhaps T&C could encourage a - they called them malt shops in my day - a student oriented whatchamacallit at their Southeast corner. Perhaps even allow student operated garbage wagons in a couple of campus sites, adjuncts to a T&C facility.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2009 at 8:16 am

There is a very nice bike path parallel to the Caltrain tracks between Paly and T&C. Putting up a new traffic signal just to nanny the kids who are too lazy to use the path (or the existing crosswalk at El Camino) makes no sense.

If the real reason for this traffic light is to help cars turn left out of T&C, then PaloAltoOnline should have put that in the article title instead of "Paly".

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 29, 2009 at 8:21 am

The down side to all these new traffic lights is that where does it end? The section of Middlefield by Midtown/Colorado to Page Mill is case in point. There are so many lights there that it's really easy as a driver not to safely see them as there so many. What happened to pedestrians walking a half a block or so to cross at an existing light crossing?

The shining example of this is the city of Fremont; there are six-way lights at EVERY intersection or crossing no matter how minor. What this means is that even the shortest drive there takes forever as you have to wait through all the many traffic light cycles. People driving there are so tired of waiting at lights that when they go green it's like the Indy 500 as they try and go as fast as they can for so far until they have wait again.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2009 at 9:10 am

The secret to safe driving is SLOW DOWN! Traffic lights are easy to see if you drive at the speed limit. Middlefield and Embarcadero are both 25MPH roads. If you drive 25, the roads are perfectly safe. The idiots that are speeding and weaving the the ones causing all the accidents.

If you want to drive fast, use the freeway.

Posted by jim h, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2009 at 11:43 am

So, there will be one light at T&C for cars, and then another for pedestrians? Why not eliminate the pedestrian one? During lunch and after school Embarcadero will get packed with cars waiting for lights. The pedestrian light is an "on demand" light, so any time someone pushes the walk button, the light will go red. Have fun with that.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2009 at 12:40 pm

A few months ago I reviewed the overall development plans for Paly. There was a comment that the existing crosswalk light on Embarcadero would go away once the new T&C light is installed. Plans may have changed - but I believe that was the original intent.

I would imagine if the crosswalk light stays - that it would be coordinated with the new light.

And yes, the T&C light's main purpose is to facilitate a safe left-hand turn environment when leaving T&C. The added benefit is that people will be able to turn left out of Paly (towards ECR), where only right-turn is currently allowed.

As for the comments about the ped/bike path - access from the Paly campus to the path is severely limited - and that is for security more than anything else. The path runs behind classrooms, the corp. yard and the football field --- there is absolutely no supervision or patrols in that area. The school does not want (and I agree with this position) to make it easy for anybody to come on campus very easily. Access is purposely limited to the Churchill parking lot and the Embarcadero & ECR parking lots. So enough about lazy students or "nanny" issues.

It amazes me as to how people on the various threads assume the worse before doing any research on projects. Sure, there are some screw ups now and then (Calif Ave trees for example) - but generally speaking, if you consider the myriad of projects that go on in Palo Alto and the school district, an overwhelming majority of the projects are well-planned and built out correctly.

Posted by paly viking, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2009 at 7:30 pm

hey cardinal it takes 5 weeks to put it in

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2009 at 9:19 pm

The pedestrian crossing will stay where it is, and the waiting area on the T&C side will be enlarged. There will be no crosswalk at the driveway. Auto traffic and turning movements will be separated from pedestrian traffic, which should improve safety for the peds and facilitate turning movements by the cars. The signals will be coordinated with each other and with the one at El Camino. This is a historical first: Caltrans has usually flatly denied any requests for coordinating its signals with a local jurisdiction. Will all of this work well? Only time will tell, but it can't be worse than taking what was there and throwing in a whole lot of Trader Joe's traffic on top of it.

Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Where do the kids from
Gunn go for lunch? Just out of curiosity? do they need special lights?

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 4:37 am

Kids from Gunn who can drive go to downtown Los Altos for lunch. It is closer than downtown PA and has fewer lights!

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:47 am

About 30% of the Gunn students bike to school, so they can't drive to Los Altos unless they are with a student old enough to be able to have youth as passengers. The Paly students are fortunate to be able to walk to lunch, and we should encourage that and upport efforts to keep them safe when they do so.

Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I stay off of San Antonio and California because of no shade.

Now I will stay off of Embarcadero Road due to TRAFFIC. Oh well there are better "short cuts" and roads around the area...

Why don't we have a honest City/County Council that will honestly say "Developer (Contractors) Lobbyists , Developer (Contractors), "donate to us and we will approve"!!!!"

It would be great if the City Council and all the other "Councils" and "Work Shops" learned a new word – NO or new phase – DISAPPROVED….

There is no sane reason for this PROBLEM except MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and not caring about the people of Palo Alto or ANY of the other communities …..

I wonder how may Paly Students will be injuried before the end of the year crossing Embarcadero "against the light...

Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:17 pm

This sounds like a really good idea. I go to T&C fairly regularly and that left turn on Embarcadero to get back to Midtown can be pretty scary.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

@ rem - I'm sorry but I don't see how your money argument works under this scenario. The city told the developer that they had to install a new set of traffic lights at the developer's expense. The lights will make for a safer intersection and the existing Paly crosswalk will be made safer via the coordinated signals.

T&C has been around since the 1950's - the developer has revitalized the shopping space and is only adding square footage for the new Trader Joe's --- which just about everyone is excited about. T&C was half-dead before the developer came in and made the upgrades. Now we have a vibrant shopping center that should provide increased sales tax dollars to the city budget. And again, without significantly expanding the overall footprint of the shopping center.

What is wrong with any of this?

Would you rather have the city say "no" to the new/safer intersection and leave it the way it was? The Paly students already had their crosswalk so I don't get your rant "how many Paly students will be injured..." The new lights will improve the situation, not make it worse...

The "traffic" already existed before the new signals - so I don't get your argument at all. The purpose of the lights are to improve the situation, not make it worse...

How is any of this harming the people of Palo Alto or "any" other communities?

Try again...

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I'm glad there's an adequate number of firefighters on duty. At the same time crews were dealing with this fire/explosion, there was a truck with 2-3 guys attending to a medical call in my neighborhood.

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm

oops - wrong thread

Posted by Very expensive solution, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2009 at 7:13 am

Installing a simple 4 way traffic signal used to cost around $125,000.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 1, 2009 at 2:58 pm

It's about time. That particular spot is a traffic free for all. Normal rules regarding right of way are routinely ignored by cars exiting Town and Country when making a left onto Embarcadero Road.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2009 at 8:31 am

I am the parent of a PALY student. For several days I have experienced the interim construction on Embaradero and the morning commute and watched the unsafe behavior by drivers, bikers and pedestrians. I have several recommendations to the City of Palo Alto Transportation Office (which unfortunately I cannot communicate to anyone there directly because City Hall is closed today.) First, have a Community Service Officer direct traffic at the intersection of the PALY Embarcadero driveway and the Town and Country driveway for 20 minutes before school starts and for 5 minutes afterward. Second, have a second officer positioned at the El Camino stoplight. Third, have a third officer positioned at Bryant and Embarcadero to encourage persons on bikes to cross there using the bike lane in the middle of Bryant. Third, prohibit left turns from Town and Country onto eastbound Embarcadero during this commute time. Some of the same assistance would probably be helpful when school lets out in the afternoon. In closing I have a question: is this another situation in which there was little, if any, advance communication from the City's public works division to the public?

Posted by Facts, a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2009 at 11:32 am

To Jane Volk-Brew -

No, it was not Public Works. Why does everyone always assume the worst and try to further flog a dead horse. This project was initially handled by the Planning and Community Development Department as a condition of approval for the T&C project (as described by Crescent Park Dad above)and then implemented by the Transportation Division of the P &CD Dept. Public Works seved as a technical consultant to review the plans and specifications only.

As an aside, it about time that folks checked their facts and stopped assuming that everything they don't like is somehow attributable to Public Works. Even the newspapers do so. The facts are that they did mishandle the implementation of the Cal Ave project, but it had been given policy level approval in general by the City Council when they approved the Capital Improvement Program Budget - as did the Planning Commission, by the way. BUT - Lytton Plaza was not a PW project - it was done by a "Friends" group, this signal is a Planning project; Utilities is the one who digs up the streets, etc.

OK, rant over, I feel better now.

Thanks for asking!

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