News

Six-vehicle crash in Palo Alto sends three to hospital, closes road

Pile-up occurred on Oregon Expressway during rush-hour traffic

A six-vehicle crash on Alma Street and Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto injured at least three people and snarled rush-hour traffic on Tuesday afternoon.

The chain-reaction collisions, which occurred at about 4:40 p.m. on the westbound entrance to Oregon Expressway from Alma, sent one vehicle across Oregon and into the center divider, Palo Alto police said. Some of the cars were struck at least twice and paramedics transported three people to the hospital. Their conditions are not currently known.

At least one of the vehicles was sideswiped. Most of the vehicles were removed from the scene on flatbed trucks. The ramp at Alma is a notorious blind spot for drivers trying to enter the expressway.

Police are still trying to determine what caused the accidents. They closed off westbound Oregon Expressway between Alma and Bryant streets for more than an hour, along with the entrance points at both locations.

Comments

40 people like this
Posted by slow down and pay attention
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Whatever caused the initial collision, the chain reaction is surely caused by drivers speeding and tailgating. People need to slow down and pay extra attention on any road when visibility is limited and/or lanes are narrow.

Best wishes to a full recovery for the hospitalized people.


53 people like this
Posted by Bad Roads
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 25, 2015 at 7:52 pm

That ramp is so poorly designed. It requires you to merge into fast moving traffic on a blind curve. I always wait until the traffic is totally clear, and even then a vehicle will dash around that curve at the last second and I have to floor my gas pedal to zoom ahead. Who designed the roads around here? Was there a lack of qualified civil engineers at some point when all these roads around were built?


26 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 25, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Bad Roads - the problem is that the roads and the train were there first, and then they tried to fit in the underpass way after the fact.

The current timing of the lights on Oregon rewards speeders, and punishes people who drive the speed limit. It is the exact opposite of how well managed streets are set up. If you drive 50mph, you can make a good run down Oregon. If you drive 35, you will miss every light. It is a much worse street to drive on than before all the work and the extra signals with promised synchronization.


Posted by Reader
a resident of another community

on Aug 25, 2015 at 8:41 pm


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3 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 25, 2015 at 8:56 pm

@ Bad roads--

Part of the problem is that the undercrossing has to account for the curve between the east and west sections of Oregon Expressway. Most crossings have 2 straight streets, but this one has a real bend in it. Plus, I'm sure the designers wanted as compact an interchange as possible, hence some of the sharp angles.


43 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 9:27 pm

When you enter Oregon from any of the streets or ramps you need to stop. The yield signs need to go and be replaced with stop signs. That's it.


15 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 25, 2015 at 9:27 pm

The roads were not meant for the huge increase in traffic these days. More of this will happen, sorry to say.


15 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Has Google tried a self-driving car down there at rush hour?
Any opinions on how they'd fare compared to humans?
The fault, perhaps, is not in our signs, but in ourselves.


7 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:15 pm

>> The train tracks have been there for 150+ years. The roads came later, first as a grade crossing and finally as an underpass fairly recently.

The underpass was built sometime around 1960 - I guess that's "recently" in the scheme of things. ;)

I don't see how the underpass could be widened or made safer, so how about we just stop adding more traffic and start enforcing the speed limit. Yes?


16 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:16 pm

I would LOVE to see a self-driving car negotiate that on-ramp! A true test!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:22 pm

@Traffic:

"I don't see how the underpass could be widened or made safer, so how about we just stop adding more traffic and start enforcing the speed limit. Yes?"

The underpass works fine in low traffic situations, probably similar to what was "normal" in the Sixties. Today that means traffic on the same road before 12 noon on a regular weekend.

The city can't really control the number of vehicles that use the road. They can reduce the speed limit.

Sadly, insufficient foresight resulted in a situation where current vehicular traffic is greater than what the infrastructure can support.


13 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:29 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Resident "The city can't really control the number of vehicles that use the road."

You control the number of cars by limiting the amount of development that happens. The huge office on Park that is being built in is going to bring in hundreds more cars every day down Oregon, even if it is a so-called "transit friendly" development.


Posted by Reader
a resident of another community

on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:41 pm


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22 people like this
Posted by faster and faster
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 11:11 pm

Of course that is a terrible entrance but everybody is going faster and
faster in Palo Alto with much more traffic on an old street network.This is
fed by overdevelopment- and everybody is in a big hurry. And we have far too few traffic cops. Palo Alto streets have become very dangerous.




19 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 11:34 pm

>> The city can't really control the number of vehicles that use the road. They can reduce the speed limit.

Sure, they can reduce the speed limit. But it's just as easy for drivers to ignore a 25 MPH limit as they do a 35. Unfortunately, our city does not get revenue from traffic violations - for some reason that money goes to the county. Consequently, the PAPD does not enforce time-wasting things like speed enforcement or dangerous driving near schools. Similarly, the city does not waste time on problematic traffic light issues that could easily help many dangerous situations, like... synchronizing the lights on Oregon Expwy to regulate the 35 MPH speed limit!


36 people like this
Posted by Pete Cockerell
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:08 am

Anon: "When you enter Oregon from any of the streets or ramps you need to stop. The yield signs need to go and be replaced with stop signs. That's it."

Well, it would be nice if drivers even knew what "yield" actually means. In my experience, most take it to mean "go ahead and merge, it will all be all right in the end." The idea of slowing down or, God forbid, stopping for cars already on the road they're merging onto doesn't even occur to them.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:47 am

Anybody know what color a "Yield" sign is?


25 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 26, 2015 at 6:57 am

mauricio is a registered user.

This is what happens when you overdevelop a town which has an infrastructure with no capacity to accommodate this huge volume kind of traffic. The pro development crowd keeps pretending that Palo Alto is a large metropolis and this is the kind of disaster that comes with this urbanization relentless push.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:00 am

That is a terrible intersection/merge. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the person at fault proves to be an out of towner using it for the first time.


Posted by Resident
a resident of another community

on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:00 am


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17 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:25 am

When merging onto Oregon Expressway several weeks ago, A Tesla refused to allow me to continue to merge. He sped up & pinned me to the side of the underpass. The car behind him, of course, let me in. Why is it that 98% of the
people act rationally, and 2% are so naughty? Bad social skills. I followed him ( as I was driving to my job on Cal Ave),
he ran into a new tech co startup. Bad social skills.......


14 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:50 am

I drive this many times a day, first its fairly impossible to speed round that curve, speed limit is 35.
Regularly I get cut off by traffic merging, they see me coming and just don't care. I have even had three or four instances of cars not even slowing down at the merge off of Alma. What surprises me is that this kind of accident doesn't happen way more often. A Stop sign at all entrances to Oregon probably would help.


51 people like this
Posted by roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 8:00 am

Oh I forgot to add, merging into fast moving traffic should only be done when the road is clear and it is safe to enter the faster moving traffic flow,
The above Tesla driver possibly was trying to avoid what happened last night,
a car forcing its way into traffic. Please note the sign says yield, meaning yield to oncoming traffic, it doesn't say , just go ahead and push your way in as so many do.


15 people like this
Posted by Check the map
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 8:53 am

"The yield signs need to go and be replaced with stop signs. That's it."

The on-ramps already have stop signs.


9 people like this
Posted by Stop the Growth!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 9:18 am

Totally agree with Slow Down: "It is a much worse street to drive on than before all the work and the extra signals with promised synchronization."

I use Louis Rd. and Greer Road often because it's near my house. The traffic signals on both now seem to have no car sensors and they are red for long periods. And there was no reason for the turn arrows to be installed - it just makes drivers wait longer and it was safe without them.

The traffic has become terrible because of too much growth. Drivers are cutting through residential areas to avoid the arteries. We have cars on Greer, cutting through from Oregon Expressway to Embarcadero. Traffic at the start of school in front of Jordan and Duveneck is backed up because of cut-throughs. Churchill is a mess from cut-throughs and it's not safe for Paly students walking or on bikes because of the selfish drivers.

I'm guessing most of the drivers on Palo Alto streets are not residents.


7 people like this
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 9:31 am

People here seem to be complaining about additional traffic through the underpass, however, it's been my experience that during rush hour it's actually safer to merge here. Traffic is so thick that people start zipper merging off of each of the ramps. When it gets most dangerous is when traffic thins out, and speeds increase.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2015 at 9:54 am

Roger, that is not what happened. Sorry to say. I was there, the Tesla sped up. He put my life in danger, by pinning me next to the underpass. All of the other traffic involved saw what he did. Cars were honking at him, shaking their heads. I have been driving that way since I got my drivers license 38 years ago. 98% of drivers are courteous, really.

I am sorry that you feel you know better than I do, what happened to me several weeks ago.


5 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2015 at 10:01 am

Sparty is a registered user.

"the chain reaction is surely caused by drivers speeding and tailgating. "


I'd say its caused by having a turn that creates a blind spot and two on ramps that most people can barely see from.

Does anyone really think there is a difference in the cause of an accident when going 35mph vs 45 or 50 when you come around a turn and a car is at a dead stop?

I thought for sure it must be the eastbound side...coming from that ramp off Park. I saw dozens of fender benders there


6 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 10:24 am

The Traffic department at the lovely City of Palo Alto needs to program the traffic lights to whatever speed so that there is moving traffic most of the time. SAN FRANCISCO does it on 19th Avenue, Sunset, Franklin, Gough etc.; why can't Palo Alto? Or is this a Santa Clara County or CA state operation?

People do speed; that's the way it has been in PA since I've been here (1967).

Drivers do not seem to understand what YIELD means. Do NOT merge - YIELD to the other traffic.

I use to drive cross town to Waltkin-Johnson Co in the 70s and 80s and the problem exiting Alma onto Oregon has always been a problem. There's just a lot more traffic now thanks to the previous City Council/s to make PA a DESTINATION town. I'd like to send them to a destination town.


30 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 10:37 am

I drove by the accident scene just as the PAFD arrived (thank you firs responders!).

No way these cars/trucks were going 35mph or less. Four of the vehicles had the front-ends completely smashed in - totaled for sure.

I agree - most drivers these days have no idea what "Yield" means. For example "Palo Alto" states that a Tesla didn't allow him/her to merge...that's because the Tesla has the right of way and you don't. Yield means that you have to wait for an opening before proceeding. You can't just merge onto Oregon like you would from a freeway on ramp.

I think the only time where merging would apply at the Oregon/Alma interchange is when the traffic is backed up and no one is moving - then yes, it would be civil to allow alternating merge efforts.

But if traffic is streaming along - then you're obligated to wait until you can enter the flow of traffic without impeding the vehicles already on Oregon.


31 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

@Palo Alto:

I have to agree with Roger and CPD - based on your own description of your experience, you treated your entrance to the intersection as though it were a "Merge" situation, rather than a "Yield" requirement. If you truly yielded the right of way to the existing traffic on Oregon, the Tesla driver could not have been in a position of "pinning" you to the wall, and the next driver would not have been in the position of "letting you in."

Are you sure all the honking and head wagging was not directed at you, rather than the Tesla driver?

It's possible you endangered your own life (as well as others') by not understanding the difference between Merge and Yield.

Also, I don't know how it's possible to tell if a car sped up on such a short stretch of road - more likely you misread his speed. (Not saying he wasn't speeding already, just not sure there was anything vindictive going on.)

BTW, not sure what the type of vehicle or the driver's destination have to do with this incident, unless it's to somehow further blame the other driver because he is "one of them."


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 26, 2015 at 10:57 am

A Tesla can go from zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds. They can cut you off when you have no inkling that you're about to "impede" their flow.


3 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:06 am

Wow! Gotta love that. People that clearly can see events
That they were not involved in. That is above, clearly way above average!


13 people like this
Posted by Citizenship and Transportation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:15 am

Traffic lesson 101:

Oregon Expressway is a COUNTY expressway. It is NOT controlled by the City of Palo Alto. If you have concerns about its operation, you should keep the city in the loop of your communication but your first stop should be the county because they did the recent work on redesign and signalization.

That said, pay attention, follow rules of the road (including speed limits), stay off your cell phone. Your convenience is not worth your life or the life of another person. YOU could be maimed by your own carelessness. YOUR irresponsible driving can change YOUR life. Be a patient, considerate and law abiding driver. Give this task your full attention, because you are operating a large, heavy, and fast-moving machine in a public area shared by vulnerable fellow citizens on bikes, on foot, in cars and strollers. BE the citizen you would like others to be. Together we create the community we live in with the individual choices we each make daily about our personal behavior.


9 people like this
Posted by wiggy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:15 am

I have lived in Palo Alto for 25 years. I used the Alma ramp to Westbound Oregon once when I first moved here. Have not used it since...there are better ways of getting around town. My main concern is people behind me who don't expect me to actually YIELD to oncoming traffic. My husband got rear-ended at this spot once while waiting for a chance to move onto Oregon. I live near Embarcadero/101...if I had a dollar for every time I've almost been sideswiped by cars "merging" onto Embarcadero westbound from 101 (when this is a clearly marked yield situation), I could afford to buy a house here! It makes me wish that the DMV had more stringent requirements for obtaining a driver's license.


12 people like this
Posted by Observation
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:20 am

I wonder how many years before we have gridlock in PA. The town is under assault by greedy developers, over development, incompetent planners at city hall, airplane noise, the threat of the high speed rail and foreign investors buying up the residential property. Palo Alto is in decline.


7 people like this
Posted by An Engineer
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:33 am

This junction was badly misdesigned even for 1965 traffic. A properly engineered and controlled traffic light system will solve its many and dangerous problems. It's way overdue. Hopefully this incident has fulfilled the quota of mishaps needed to trigger action.


3 people like this
Posted by Jon Claerbout
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:36 am

I'd like to see a red/yellow/green traffic signal at that merge. It's more like an intersection than a merge.


1 person likes this
Posted by South Palo Alto
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:44 am

I simply don;t take either of the two westbound onramps to Oregon any longer. Way WAY too dangerous.


11 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:46 am

I am a US citizen, but originally came from Europe about 15 years ago.
I was SHOCKED to find out that a professional driving school is not required here. I was taught to drive by my American husband, but i was not and still am not 100% comfortable in traffic.
I am constantly amazed by crazy things people do on the road and lack of common sense.
I advocate for enacting a law that would require all wanna-be drivers, local or immigrants, to learn driving in a professional driving school where they would teach us ALL the rules of road, what all signs mean, parking, etc.


6 people like this
Posted by Katherine
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

Plain and simple.....that intersection stinks. It's very, very dangerous and whoa if you are from out of the area and unfamiliar with how to navigate that merge. Bad design all around. Be careful out there!


8 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:51 am

@Palo Alto:

>> "People that clearly can see events That they were not involved in. "

As clearly mentioned, I, and others, are "seeing" this event via YOUR description. If you did, in fact, yield to oncoming traffic, and then proceeded onto Oregon when there was enough distance to get up to speed without impeding traffic, only to have a Tesla come out of nowhere and deliberately speed up for the joy of pinning you to the wall, and all of the "other traffic involved" that "saw what he did" also suddenly materialized (and, presumably, also sped up in order to witness this event, and be on hand to "let you in"), then just say so.

All I'm saying is that your statements are in conflict with your assertion that the Tesla was in the wrong instead of you. That's all I'm saying.

@musical:

>> "A Tesla can go from zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds. They can cut you off when you have no inkling that you're about to "impede" their flow."

I guess it must have been a whole pack of Teslas then, that all sped up so they could witness the incident and then honk and shake their heads about it.

If I had time I'd do the math to show just how little time any vehicle would have to do what the poster is claiming, but alas, back to work!


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:59 am

Or the witnesses were in the next lane over.


5 people like this
Posted by Stop the Growth!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Agree with Citizen about Driver's Ed. When I was at Paly in the early 80s, we all took Driver's Ed and Driver's Training after school at Paly. I think each was 3 months. Now, I think they only offer it in the morning, prior to the start of the school day.

There are no other classes in the area so most people are "learning" through the online programs, which are far less effective and informative, as my teenagers have experienced them. People these days don't have a good foundation when they step into the car. Drivers don't even realize the simple rule of fast-lane/slow lane/passing on the left on freeways. Many seem to think all the lanes are the same.

And for an adult to gain a drivers license, they just have to pass the written test and the driver's test. They could have just a few hours of driving practice prior to obtaining their license to kill.


3 people like this
Posted by Pete Heilman
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:15 pm

1) I pray for some kind of regular (not just on Sunday mornings) enforcement of speed limits and driving rules on Alma between 7:00 and 9:30 AM (northbound) and between 4:00-6:30 PM southbound. Even during non-commute hours on Alma, traffic generally moves between 40-45 mph but not the high speed of rush hours when the traffic in the #1 Lane moves between 45 & 60 mph and driving less than 40 mph in the #2 lane is a life threatening activity. Yesterday (8/25) around 7:00 AM a driver passed multiple cars (driving @ 45 mph in #2 lane) in the two way left hand turn lane heading north.

2) The "YEILD" merges from Oregon to southbound Alma and from Alma to westbound Oregon rarely lead to folks actually "yielding in part b/c it's difficult to see oncoming traffic, in part worrying about getting rear-ended, and in part simply hoping oncoming traffic will yield; some drivers of course cannot read or think the "yield" sign applies to someone else.

The above concerns come from driving Alma and Oregon multiple times a day for over 50 years.


2 people like this
Posted by Mikael
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:16 pm

I can confirm that the Google Self Driving knows it's way around Philz Coffee. It parallel parks sloooooowly and then takes a well deserved break.

That's all...


Like this comment
Posted by Barry
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:42 pm

LOL. Yeah, I'm sure that's it. And if a car changed lanes they would have been in the wrong too, because surely they did it just to pin someone against the wall, not because they were preparing to exit at Cal Ave.

Even with all of the back and forth, @Jon Claerbout still thinks this intersection is a merge...

Teachable moment folks. Yield does not mean merge.


2 people like this
Posted by wiggy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

@ Stop the Growth!
Actually, passing on the right on a multi-lane freeway, or on any roadway where there is sufficient pavement for the movement of two vehicles in the same direction side-by-side, is not prohibited. See DMV handbook V C Section 21754 Passing on the Right.) The original prohibition against such movement refers to using the shoulder or unpaved side of the road for this maneuver. Yes, slower traffic SHOULD stay to the right...if every car traveling at a slower rate than surrounding traffic did so, then passing would de facto be on the left. However, in the real world, this does not always play out and it is not always practical or even advisable to pass on the left. Say I'm 101 in the No. 4 lane, going 65 mph. There is a car on my left in the No. 3 lane going 60 mph. What, I'm supposed to move over 2 lanes to pass that car? No, much safer to stay in my lane and pass on the right. Or, I'm in the No. 3 lane behind that car. To my left is a steady stream of cars zipping past at 75 mph. To my right is a wide open lane. There is no reason I can't use that lane to pass the car in front of me. Passing can be fraught with danger... what makes it unsafe is not what side one passes on, however; it's when drivers don't pay attention, don't look around and check their blind spots, don't maintain safe distance, don't use their turn signals, and generally drive like maniacs that things go wrong. I have been driving for 40 years, (yes, passing on the right sometimes) and have never been involved in a crash because I take the responsibility of driving very seriously.


9 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Lots have said it, but why not one more. You are meant to yield to oncoming traffic at the Westbound from Alma to Oregon intersection. If you look and nothing is coming, you can just slow way down, and then move right into the right lane on Oregon. But, really slow way down because experience has taught me that someone can suddenly appear when you thought it was OK to move forward. Bottom line, you gotta yield. However fast or slow the guys on Oregon are coming around there, THEY have the right of way.


Like this comment
Posted by Check the map
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Why are people talking about yielding? The ramp from both southbound and northbound Alma onto west Oregon (towards El Camino) have stop signs.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:28 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Bad Underpass
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

I've been driving that underpass my entire life. It has always been dangerous, and frankly I'm amazed that there isn't an accident daily.
It is narrow, you are trying to get onto a road in traffic that is speeding, downhill, with poor visibility. And, then there is another, even worse onramp in front of you where that person can't even see the onramp to their left.
And, there is no shoulder or room for excess cars.
No to mention that up on top, getting onto Alma can require crossing 3 lanes of fast moving traffic.
I've often pondered ways to improve this mess. The best thing I came up with is to actually put signals in for the onramps. Make them red when there is a green light on the Expressway, and make them green when the light on the Expressway is red. It may slow traffic down a bit (can't do much harm in that mess). And if it makes either the expressway or that underpass less desirable, that should reduce the traffic load.
BUT, it would keep people from thinking they have enough room to get on the road because they can only see 10-30 feet, and hopefully the cars they can't see are doing the speed limit (instead of 55). Thankfully, I've always driven cars with a 0-30mph in less than 5 seconds, and I've often needed it there.
The main problem is that California Ave. is a city center at the intersection of 2 huge main roads, and there just is not enough room left for reasonable access.


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

Check the map is correct, the ramps to westbound Oregon have stop signs, not yield signs. However, the rules are the same regarding yielding right of way (you just have to come to a complete stop as well). So people points remain valid.


5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Bad Underpass - I don't think the underpass is inherently dangerous, but it does require thought and attention, which may be too much to ask of Palo Alto drivers these days. The visibility is better than you suggest. From the stop sign, you easily see all the way back to the curve where the road begins to descend, at least 200 feet. If the road is clear, you are going to be safe. The problem is if you try to squeeze out into traffic, and underestimate the speed of oncoming cars.


Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Westbound Page Mill traffic was backed up all the way to Bayshore....and the PAPD did nothing about it even after the ambulances were at the scene. Why didn't the PAPD stop inbound traffic at Bayshore immediately and divert traffic off of Page Mill at once?? We were going eastbound when ambulance/s were at the scene, and the PAPD was doing nothing to get the westbound autos off of Page Mill. Who is responsible for that nightmare?


Like this comment
Posted by Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Ha ha - no, STILL just someone responding to your posts. Really! I've lived in PA for 50 years and am well-acquainted with those intersections. I came along half an hour after the accident last night and could not get onto Page Mill so got stuck in a huge backup on Alma.

Too many cars in this town, for sure.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Kate is right.

The problem of the accident is the big news here. Accidents cause big traffic headaches in Palo Alto.

There has to be a better way of informing the driving public ahead of time about traffic gridlock around town. WAZE is good for highway but it is often too late to alter routes when you have already determined which way to go.

It would be better if PAPD could do a better job of alerting traffic of holdups before the encounter the mess. They were tweeting apparently, but did that make anyone change their route?

Anyone got some idea for a local traffic app that we could all check just before getting into our cars and starting out!


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Resident - We could start by asking the police (not just PAPD, all police do it) to stop treating traffic accidents like CSI investigations. First priority should be the health and safety of the victims, but the second should be quickly clearing the scene and reestablishing traffic flow, not standing around for an hour taking pictures and measuring.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:33 pm

To-tell-the-truth, I do not have a expensive super up-to-date cell phone that 'talks to me'. . It is a ' basic'. I am a senior citizen - amen. All that mess needed was one, even two, PAPD directing traffic northbound or southbound onto to Greer or Louis or Middlefield. Radio 'Channel 5' broadcasts warning - if it knows. Common sense, please.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 3:41 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

My memory fails me here. I Moved to PA in late 64.
Wasn't many of the roads just (Arestedero, Oregon Expressway, Embarcedero) 2 lanes back then?

These ramps are blind. Modern motorists yield not a foot (It does not matter Stop or Yield if no one will ever let you in).
It is time to Fix this obsolete 60's design, just like has been done with many freeway off ramps. Ditch the blind merge ramps and turn this into a controlled intersection.
BTW the ramp onto southbound Alma is also in need of a re-think.


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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Green Gables has it right. This is one of the safer entrances into the underpass. To go West on Oregon/Page Mill from Alma is much blinder and more dangerous.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:06 pm

@SlowDown - if you'd had seen the accident in-person, you would have a different point of view regarding taking the proper amount of time to take care of the victims and to document the results.

6 cars and 3 people in the hospital. With all the lawyers and insurance companies that will be involved, the police are obligated to do exactly what you complain about.

Blame the idiot drivers, not the police.


4 people like this
Posted by Mikael
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:13 pm

@Barry, I've been rear-ended in that onramp. American Girl on cellphone. I've been hit from behind on the Oakland Bridge Tool Plaza, American guy falling asleep.

I'm Swedish, haven't hit another car here yet.. Can't tell you how many times my cars have been bumped into and side swiped in parking lots here.

So much for your $20

:-)


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Dad - No, that's exactly the problem. The police are serving the lawyers and the insurance companies, not the public good of getting the road open. It's the police department's job to make 1000 people sit in traffic for an hour so some lawsuits go more smoothly? No.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm

We'll have to agree to disagree on this. Really don't want to argue. The reality is that the victims need to have their medical and PT bills paid by the dolts that caused the accident. Lawyers or not, insurance companies or not, you need an objective 3rd party (the police) to determine the facts of the accident and who is at fault. Taking measurements helps to determine how the accident happened and what speeds people were traveling, etc.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:35 pm

...and don't forget that there were at least 4 vehicles that had to be replaced...


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Wow, quite a bit of judgement and blame here, the truth is if people were obeying the basic speed law (and from driving in the area, few, if any, do), 99% of these collisions wouldn't occur.


7 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:16 pm

The article doesn't say which of the 2 ramps from Alma to westbound Oregon was involved, but the picture looks like the one from southbound Alma. That's a tricky spot, looking over your shoulder at that curving, sloping road. When the light turns red for Oregon at Bryant it clears, but cars from the northbound Alma ramp get the first shot, and they can be hard to see.

So, be really alert when you start out from that STOP sign. You have no right of way. If you get it wrong and find someone bearing down on you, the choices are to step on it, or to bail out against the wall (there's room), and you should be ready to do one or the other. Otherwise, a 6 car wreck may result.

If you're coming on Oregon, take it easy. You're going to have to stop at El Camino anyway, so rushing through the underpass gets you nothing useful.

All that said, the County might think about signage that would make the risks more clear to the large number of newcomers that encounter that intersection every day. A stop light there is not the answer.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 27, 2015 at 10:30 am

Though obvious to most locals...I typically drive in the right lane on Oregon. However, if the road is not crowded and it's safe to do so, I'll move into the left lane (heading towards ECR) before the curve/downhill to the underpass. And in my older vehicles (that don't have DRLs), I'll drive with my headlights on during the day (same when I'm riding my bike) - anything to avoid people not seeing my vehicle.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 27, 2015 at 1:39 pm

@ Crescent Park Dad: I always use the left lane on Oregon, so I don't get tangled up in the very thing we've been talking about. If I'm going to California Ave., there's usually a gap in the right lane (after the ramps) that makes it easy to get lined up for that turn.


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Posted by moot
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 27, 2015 at 2:05 pm

moot is a registered user.

Palo Alto in general needs to do something about the timing of the lights. It is ridiculous to drive through this city and get caught at every single light in the middle of the day. Then there are the people who drive well below the speed limit oblivious to the fact they are hampering the flow of traffic. I find it astounding how oblivious and zoned out drivers are in this city. And it is not the elderly that I am talking about.


2 people like this
Posted by Tspoon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 27, 2015 at 5:41 pm

I've never had a problem there in 35 years of driving, only problem with that road is the lack of driver attention. The amount of negligence on the road has increased drastically in the last few years.


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Posted by local, now student
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 29, 2015 at 4:25 pm

When I picture bad interchanges, this area at Oregon and Alma is right up there with the merge from 85 North onto 280 North. My mother had nightmares about the sharp turn from eastbound Oregon onto Alma going south while taking me to an evening activity at JLS years ago; tailgaters make it harder to take that turn safely. (Hint: if you need to have experience with a particular intersection in order to judge it properly, it is not well-designed.)

Other commenters have identified many of the factors that make this intersection so bad. I'll also mention the nearly inevitable flooding of the underpass; I avoid this interchange entirely when it is raining. Perhaps re-engineering this underpass and its ramps would be a valuable use of county transit funds for the North County.

For instance, what if the ramps onto eastbound Alma were demolished and instead traffic was diverted around a block, to instead enter at Emerson or High (with other reconfigurations to make High connect, of course). A traffic light at Alma and North California would allow drivers on southbound Alma to access this ramp. I know such changes will not be popular with neighbors there, but the status quo is obviously neither safe nor efficient.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Portola Valley

on Sep 26, 2017 at 8:40 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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