News

Residents praise new Oregon Expressway plans

Community meeting to be held Wednesday on county proposals for major thoroughfare

New plans for Palo Alto's Oregon Expressway call for preserving trees along Middlefield Road and leaving open the possibility for a future bicycle boulevard at Ross Road -- two victories for residents, according to one neighborhood leader.

The revised Oregon Expressway plans were released by the Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department on Feb. 17. They will be discussed at a community meeting next Wednesday (March 4) from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jordan Middle School cafetorium, 750 North California Ave.

The meeting will be the last in a series prior to city review of the plans.

Residents had voiced alarm at a meeting last year that as many as 13 mature street trees would be removed along Middlefield Road, shrinking the vegetative buffer between traffic and the sidewalk.

Other major concerns included proposed medians on Oregon at Waverley Street and Ross and Indian roads that would have prevented left-turns from the expressway onto those streets.

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Residents called the plans ill-conceived and not based on traffic studies. In response, county officials last June promised to take neighborhood concerns to heart.

Residents now say the revised proposals signal a surprising turn-around that is representative of how city "civic engagement" should work.

"It's a complicated process for input when you're working with two agencies -- city and county, a large geographic area, ad hoc groups and organized neighborhood associations," said Pam Radin, traffic chair for the Midtown Residents Association. "This is a blueprint of how a process gone right is supposed to work."

Radin said she hasn't received any e-mails or phone calls critical of the revisions, but she also said the Midtown Residents Association has not endorsed the plans.

The changes to Oregon Expressway are in part designed to improve safety among vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

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Masoud Akbarzadeh, county project planner, said bicycle-safety concerns, especially routes to and from schools, were a priority in the planning.

Between Bryant and Cowper streets along Oregon, plans call for a 5-foot-wide paved shoulder going east, he said.

Also, "we are ... shifting the roadway toward the median to provide a continuous bicycle travel way between Bryant and West Bayshore so that bicyclists can go over Highway 101," he said.

At Middlefield Road, the intersection is being modified to have straight crosswalks and better-situated pedestrian ramps, he said.

Middlefield Road resident David Fryberger, a founding member of the community group Friends of Reasonable Expressway Design (FRED) said he was glad to see an option for the Middlefield intersection that won't eliminate any trees. Two proposed alternatives would remove four trees; one option, alternative 4, would preserve all of the trees.

The intersection would also include left-turn lanes, but the road's lanes would be narrower as a result.

"I don't like the narrower lanes, but maybe that's suitable," Fryberger said.

Fryberger said he is also glad to see that the new plans do not include barriers that would have prevented left turns onto Ross Road and Waverley Street.

Radin agreed. The proposed cement median at Ross would have eliminated the future bike boulevard. But the revised alternatives especially alternative 3, which adds two crosswalks and "bicycle only" push buttons at signals will create safer access to Jordan Middle School and Garland Elementary School, which is planned to reopen, she said.

The Louis Road intersection, which Ohlone Elementary School students frequently cross, has had some of the highest accident rates -- 23 collisions between 2003 and July 2008, according to a traffic-analysis report by consultant Kimley-Horn. But the redesign improves the bike lanes and adds new signals for better traffic flow, according to Radin.

"It's very child-oriented and eliminates conflicts for left turns," she said.

The plan dovetails nicely with school redistricting and allows for changes that could not be achieved with city funds alone, she said.

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Sue Dremann is a veteran journalist who joined the Palo Alto Weekly in 2001. She is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who also covers the regional environmental, health and crime beats. Read more >>

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Residents praise new Oregon Expressway plans

Community meeting to be held Wednesday on county proposals for major thoroughfare

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 27, 2009, 7:25 am

New plans for Palo Alto's Oregon Expressway call for preserving trees along Middlefield Road and leaving open the possibility for a future bicycle boulevard at Ross Road -- two victories for residents, according to one neighborhood leader.

The revised Oregon Expressway plans were released by the Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department on Feb. 17. They will be discussed at a community meeting next Wednesday (March 4) from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jordan Middle School cafetorium, 750 North California Ave.

The meeting will be the last in a series prior to city review of the plans.

Residents had voiced alarm at a meeting last year that as many as 13 mature street trees would be removed along Middlefield Road, shrinking the vegetative buffer between traffic and the sidewalk.

Other major concerns included proposed medians on Oregon at Waverley Street and Ross and Indian roads that would have prevented left-turns from the expressway onto those streets.

Residents called the plans ill-conceived and not based on traffic studies. In response, county officials last June promised to take neighborhood concerns to heart.

Residents now say the revised proposals signal a surprising turn-around that is representative of how city "civic engagement" should work.

"It's a complicated process for input when you're working with two agencies -- city and county, a large geographic area, ad hoc groups and organized neighborhood associations," said Pam Radin, traffic chair for the Midtown Residents Association. "This is a blueprint of how a process gone right is supposed to work."

Radin said she hasn't received any e-mails or phone calls critical of the revisions, but she also said the Midtown Residents Association has not endorsed the plans.

The changes to Oregon Expressway are in part designed to improve safety among vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Masoud Akbarzadeh, county project planner, said bicycle-safety concerns, especially routes to and from schools, were a priority in the planning.

Between Bryant and Cowper streets along Oregon, plans call for a 5-foot-wide paved shoulder going east, he said.

Also, "we are ... shifting the roadway toward the median to provide a continuous bicycle travel way between Bryant and West Bayshore so that bicyclists can go over Highway 101," he said.

At Middlefield Road, the intersection is being modified to have straight crosswalks and better-situated pedestrian ramps, he said.

Middlefield Road resident David Fryberger, a founding member of the community group Friends of Reasonable Expressway Design (FRED) said he was glad to see an option for the Middlefield intersection that won't eliminate any trees. Two proposed alternatives would remove four trees; one option, alternative 4, would preserve all of the trees.

The intersection would also include left-turn lanes, but the road's lanes would be narrower as a result.

"I don't like the narrower lanes, but maybe that's suitable," Fryberger said.

Fryberger said he is also glad to see that the new plans do not include barriers that would have prevented left turns onto Ross Road and Waverley Street.

Radin agreed. The proposed cement median at Ross would have eliminated the future bike boulevard. But the revised alternatives especially alternative 3, which adds two crosswalks and "bicycle only" push buttons at signals will create safer access to Jordan Middle School and Garland Elementary School, which is planned to reopen, she said.

The Louis Road intersection, which Ohlone Elementary School students frequently cross, has had some of the highest accident rates -- 23 collisions between 2003 and July 2008, according to a traffic-analysis report by consultant Kimley-Horn. But the redesign improves the bike lanes and adds new signals for better traffic flow, according to Radin.

"It's very child-oriented and eliminates conflicts for left turns," she said.

The plan dovetails nicely with school redistricting and allows for changes that could not be achieved with city funds alone, she said.

Comments

Jeff Weitzman
Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 10:56 am
Jeff Weitzman, Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

The Ross Road bike boulevard is a red herring, and I wish the Weekly would stop citing it as a real issue without discussing the underlying facts. While I would be happy to see such a development, if you read the plans, there are other higher priority bike lanes in the plans. Further, the short stretch of Ross north of Oregon is not considered critical to a bike boulevard primarily conceived as a central bike corridor through south Palo Alto.

Again, I'm not against seeing Ross become a bike boulevard. I'd welcome it. It is just not dependent on the Oregon plan.

Of greater concern is that the traffic study identified heavy cut-through traffic during rush hour onto Ross. The new plans eliminate any restrictions on that without any explanation as to why that is no longer a concern. I'll be looking for answers to that question at the meeting.


Sarah
Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm
Sarah, Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I'm glad the updated plan tones down a lot of the changes and makes the area a little more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. My only real complaint about the new plan is that original plan included a sidewalk along the south side of Oregon Expressway from Alma Street to Middlefield, but most of the sidewalk has been deleted from the new plan. A sidewalk would improve pedestrian safety, allowing people living on streets with no traffic lights to easily walk to the next signaled crosswalk. If traffic volumes increase on Oregon, the crosswalks without signals will become more dangerous.


Erin
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 27, 2009 at 6:04 pm
Erin, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 27, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I am actually not quite sure why they are bothering with anything other than safer crosswalks at Ross. If you take a close look at the data there are very few cars turning left onto Oregon from either side of Ross. It was a no-beainer to allow cars to turn left off of Oregon onto Ross as it alleviates left turns and u-turns at middlefield and Louis.


Be smart
Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:41 am
Be smart, Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:41 am

I am in favor of having left hand turn lanes on Middlefield, the backup of traffic waiting to exit Middlefield onto Oregon is getting longer and longer during commute times. I have been been using Colorado and Ross Road to get onto Oregon which only sends more traffic onto neighborhood streets.


Middle field resident
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:19 am
Middle field resident, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:19 am

Be smart, in case you hadn't noticed, Middlefield is a neighborhood street too.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Forgive me if I am wrong, but what advantage is there of left turn lanes exiting Middlefield to Oregon in either direction. From my experience since the light is three way, there is always a clear left turn without waiting on each green light. I do not think a left turn lane would make any difference.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm

If you design left hand turning lanes you increasing the stacking capacity from two to three lanes.


Neighbor
South of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm
Neighbor, South of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm

In Transportation Department lingo Middlefield is an arterial, both Colorado and Ross are collector streets; none of them are designated residential.


palo alto mom
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm
palo alto mom, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

The advantage of left turn lanes are that both the northbound and southbound traffic could turn at the same time, rather then one at a time as happens now. Twice as many cars moving in the same period of time. There would also be 3 lanes instead of two, the traffic on Middlefield often backs up through the N. California light.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Which means that there would be a left turn only light. Taking the left turn only light at Churchill (when going north on Alma) as an example, the amount of traffic wanting to turn left hinders those that want to go straight on as more traffic wants to turn left than can wait in the turn left lane. For this system to work, the left turn lane must be longer than the total number of cars wanting to turn left. This must mean that the turn left lane must take a greater distance than perhaps we have available on Middlefield without causing bigger problems for traffic wanting to go straight ahead, or for bicycles. Or am I wrong?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm

"...the left turn lane must be longer than the total number of cars wanting to turn left." That would be the ideal but not necessary as those wishing to turn left can wait in the left lane as I have often done on Alma at Churchill for two signal light changes.


Homer Winslow
Professorville
on Mar 2, 2009 at 1:39 am
Homer Winslow, Professorville
on Mar 2, 2009 at 1:39 am

”New plans for Palo Alto's Oregon Expressway call for preserving trees along Middlefield Road “

What does Oregon have to do with trees on Middlefield?

Could we expect some journalistic competence from the Weekly? Oh, sorry.... And the other comments on Ross Road bike path tend to show either this plan is pointless or, as I suspect, the writing is incompetent.


Neighbor
South of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 7:26 am
Neighbor, South of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 7:26 am

Homer Winslow says: "What does Oregon have to do with trees on Middlefield" Left hand turn lanes are proposed on Middlefield, however, to preserve the trees the turn lanes will be narrower than first proposed. Everyone seems happy with this solution.


biker
Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:18 pm
biker, Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:18 pm

The County traffic engineer who ran the meeting and a hired consultant strongly advocated for Alternative 3 for Middlefield Road which has two lanes going straight through towards town and one lane turning left onto Oregon Expressway. Alternatives 2 and 4 call for a dedicated right turn lane, one through lane and one left turn lane. Even though the consultant and planner repeatedly told us Alternative 3 was our best option, all the residents who commented last night preferred Alternatives 2 or 4.

Many commuters who would turn right onto Oregon Expressway cut through on side streets to avoid getting stuck behind a car in the right lane planning on going straight. As a bicyclist, I'd prefer to know cars queuing in the right lane, will be turning right. And if no cars are in the right lane, I've got a clear shot across Oregon Expressway.

As a driver, I'd actually use Middlefield Road to get to 101 North, if I knew I would be able to turn right on red and not sit through 2 traffic light cycles. Has the County taken into consideration the drivers who avoid taking Middlefield because of the traffic back-up?

I hope the City and County listen to the residents and give us a dedicated right turn lane on Middlefield at Oregon Expressway.

It was a long meeting, made longer because the County traffic engineer spoke slowly, belaboring points he wanted to stress and was patronizing to a number of the residents who had questions and comments. He even went so far as to state he was an expert on traffic issues, I guess to imply we should trust the experts know what's best for us. We just live here. Hope he learns to listen better.


Smith
Midtown
on Aug 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm
Smith, Midtown
on Aug 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Take a look at all the damaged tree on Oregon expressway during the sidewalk construction, some big tree has more than 50 years of history. Many of the damage are avoidable if they plan it better and keep the irrigation pipe a little far away. Given that damage made, there are no plan currently to replace those trees, or do some landscape improvement to the ugly scene there after the "improvement". I feel upset for that.


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