Palo Alto's lane-reduction experiment on a busy stretch of Arastradero Road could be extended for another year as staff continues to gauge its impact on traffic.
The city began implementing the Arastradero Road project last year as part of a broader effort to improve pedestrian and bicycle mobility in the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor in south Palo Alto. The Arastradero segment stretches from El Camino Real to Gunn High School.
The project, which the city implemented in 2010, involves changing Arastradero from four lanes to three, with dedicated left-turn lanes going in each direction, widening the crosswalk at Arastradero and Clemo Avenue and changing traffic signals to provide left-turn arrows during the busiest travel times. The traffic signals at Arastradero and Coulombe Drive are scheduled to be modified later this month, according to a report from Transportation Project Engineer Rafael Rius.
The Planning and Transportation Commission will discuss the project Wednesday night and consider the staff recommendation to extend it until August 2012 (view agenda).
So far, the plan has received a mixed reception from the public, with some city residents claiming that the new design has significantly slowed down the traffic in the busy corridor. The city hosted a community meeting last month, after which time residents submitted comments describing the project as a "complete failure" and a "poor design," and citing increased road rage.
Others praised the project for making the road safer for students and bicyclists.
The city's own traffic study found mixed results, at least when it comes to vehicle traffic. The study showed that in some portions of the Arastradero Road corridor, travel time increased significantly, while others have seen little change.
The amount of time it took eastbound drivers to get from Foothill Expressway to El Camino Real during the busiest morning rush (from 7:30 to 7:55 a.m.) climbed from 4 minutes and 49 seconds in 2006-07 to 6 minutes and 22 seconds between fall 2010 and spring 2011. For westbound drivers, however, the travel time slipped from 7 minutes and 53 seconds before the project was implemented to 6 minutes and 24 seconds after fall 2010.
The project's impact was less significant during the evening rush hour, staff found.
Given the remaining uncertainty over the project's success and the continuing modifications to the Arastradero segment (which make improvements difficult to measure), staff is hoping to continue the project for another year.
"It is difficult to be conclusive about travel times given somewhat different data points and the delayed implementation of project improvements," Rius wrote.
The City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider extending the project on Aug. 1.