Safety measures planned for Page Mill interchange

Interim solutions would reduce traffic speeds, add warning signals and other roadway improvements this year

A permanent fix to the hazardous Page Mill Road/Interstate 280 interchange could be a decade away, but transportation officials plan to make some alterations to make the road safer for bicyclists as soon as this fall, Santa Clara County Roads and Airports officials said during a community meeting on Wednesday, April 20.

Long considered dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, the roadway, and in particular the stretch approaching the I-280 interchange, has been on the county's list of expressway system upgrades. Previous public meetings have looked at potential long-term fixes, including the possibility of adding a roundabout and traffic signals, widening Page Mill through the Foothill Expressway intersection, and making grade separations (an under- or overpass) for Page Mill and Foothill.

But the Nov. 3, 2015 death of bicyclist Jeffrey Donnelly on Page Mill near Christopher Lane is spurring a quicker, if only partial, solution to the problem.

During Wednesday's meeting at the Los Altos Hills Town Hall, there was universal agreement that speed is the primary culprit. Safety modifications would include pushing the 35 mph speed-reduction zone for traffic going west back about 1,100 feet toward Old Page Mill Road. Signage currently sits just prior to the interchange on-ramp. "Optical" road striping along some stretches would create the effect of a narrowing road to slow traffic down, and amber flashing-light beacons would warn drivers they are entering a reduced-speed zone and the presence of bicyclists.

Of two concepts presented on Wednesday, the first concept puts cyclists traveling west on a green-colored bikeway to the right of vehicle traffic prior to Christopher Lane. The bike lane shifts to the left and crosses one traffic lane as it approaches the interchange, then shifts back to the right after passing the freeway access point. This concept puts the bikes where cars expect them to be, but there are multiple conflicts for cars and bikes at the merging zone at Christopher Lane, said Hugh Louch of consultants Alta Planning + Design.

The second westbound concept reduces many of the conflicts with traffic, but bikes must cross two lanes to access a bike lane at the median. At some points, vehicle traffic moving through the interchange also crosses the bike lane, Louch said.

Eastbound, the first concept positions bikes on the right where most people expect them to be. But bicyclists would face conflicts with merging traffic, and they would have difficulty with high-speed traffic crossing at the northbound off-ramp, Louch said. The second eastbound concept significantly reduces conflicts at the ramps and interchanges, but the bikes are in an unexpected left-side position, and it is more of a challenge to access the shoulder of Page Mill, he said.

Members of the audience preferred the second concepts for both directions, but they said a traffic signal would still be necessary where bikes merge across the two lanes. Cyclists said they would not mind stopping and waiting for the light, but some motorists are against more traffic signals, which they said would cause traffic to grind to a halt during peak times.

One possible compromise would add push buttons at the merging point, which a bicyclist could use to trigger the stoplight that is to the east at Deer Creek Road. That would halt traffic long enough to create a gap, giving bicyclists time to cross the two traffic lanes to reach the center bikeway without conflicts with vehicles.

Another audience suggestion would add a two-way bikeway on one side of the road instead of having two separate bikeways for either direction.

Long-term fixes, such as adding stoplights, probably won't be in the mix this time around, said Dawn Cameron, deputy director of Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department.

With a $300,000 budget for capital improvements, transportation officials are looking for the quickest and cheapest fixes at this time. A single stoplight could cost $600,000 to $800,000 and requires additional traffic studies, she added.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who convened the meeting with county officials and the Town of Los Altos Hills, said what the long-term future of Page Mill Road will be is unclear.

There are outstanding funding issues for a long-term fix, but part of the issue is also jurisdictional. There are so many entities involved in the planning that it is challenging, from the cities of Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills to Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, California Department of Transportation and county Roads and Airports, he noted during the meeting.

"It is very clear that we need to take some action sooner than later," he said on Friday. But his concern is that any steps taken will make progress that is real.

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11 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2016 at 9:32 pm

The last paragraph is the most telling. Although there may be good intentions all around, the amount of money available is not enough to do anything significant.

33 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2016 at 10:06 pm

This road was far safer 5 or 10 years ago when there were only 2 merge ramps from westbound Page Mill to I-280. Bicyclists could ride through the left merge ramp and cars wouldn't try to pass them until it was safe. Now there are 3 merge ramps and a separate bike lane on the far left side of the highway (with no indication of how the bicyclists are supposed to get to the far left of the highway from the right shoulder). We don't dare let our kids bike to Arastradero Preserve with the new configuration.

Was the 3 merge ramp configuration allowed because Stanford promised to build a family-safe bike path from campus to the Arastradero Preserve in return for zoning changes on campus? That promise was more than 10 years ago and no one made them keep the promise.

2 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2016 at 8:40 am

How about non-grade train crossings at Churchill, Charleston and Meadow.
Put the streets under the tracks (like Embarcadero and Oregon)

These should be higher priorities, in my opinion.

22 people like this
Posted by Don't Say
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2016 at 8:59 am

Just ban bikes in the stretch.

22 people like this
Posted by Nailed It
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 22, 2016 at 9:14 am

Don't Say is dead on! Banning bicycles on that dangerous stretch of road is the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to solve the problem!

25 people like this
Posted by Yah!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 22, 2016 at 9:33 am

[Post removed.]

17 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

Traffic needs to stop to make it safe for bikes to cross to the left-side bike lane. The suggestion to allow cyclists to trigger the Deer Creek light is a great one. It will stop traffic without the cost of installing a new light. They need to make the red log enough to create a gap at the crossing - with some cars going 20 and some 50.

Moving the 35mph zone back is a good idea but most drivers will just ignore it. They will continue coming down the hill at 50+.

7 people like this
Posted by Jon Claerbout
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 22, 2016 at 11:55 am

The freeway entryway is gracefully and gently curved, so naturally cars speed up. Give the a right turn instead and they'll slow down!

19 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Apr 22, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Just Ban Bicycles from using the expressway from 101 to 280 . Ideally most of the lights should be removed and The speed limit raised to 50 the entire length. Afterall it is/was designed to be an expressway.

29 people like this
Posted by More Budget
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 22, 2016 at 5:56 pm

I recognize the budget is the problem but..a light at Christopher Lane would allow cyclists to cross safely, slow down traffic overall AND allow the residents and guests of Christopher Lane the ability to move into traffic and across traffic safely (especiaally at busy times of day when they cannot at all)

2 people like this
Posted by Impatient Driver
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2016 at 7:14 pm

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by Carl
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 23, 2016 at 2:45 am

I live up the hill from this intersection and I drive this up and down every day. My personal opinion is the the cross-sections should be converted into large turnabouts common in Europe (and now at Stanford) to accommodate the sort of traffic that passes through there.

I personally want to have the option to ride my bike, however, given the high traffic it isn't an option anyway since I am risk-averse. I would recommend in any situation to not allow bicycles in this intersection for the same reason thy are not allowed on the freeways.

16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2016 at 7:18 am

I support banning bikes from this intersection.

Be honest: most of the cycling that happens around here is NOT essential. They are mostly leisure riders who are retired or off work. Those who MUST ride bikes because they don't have cars are a very small minority.

In my opinion, cyclists do not belong anywhere near freeway ramps.
This is an extremely dangerous situation for cyclists in many other places too... such as University ave. where it crosses into EPA. Let's create dirt paths alongside/under the freeways instead.

Merging onto the freeway must be smooth and efficient because people have to get to work. Efficiency is the most vital aspect of transportation.

It is unfair to hinder traffic in favor of those who are sporting on the road.

Commuting is more important than leisure rides.

Safest place to exercise is on a stationary bike, in the gym. I respect & admire cyclists who go on adventures down 84 and 92 but let's not pretend they aren't -- rather selfishly -- putting their lives in the hands of drivers.

20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2016 at 9:19 am

Some of you are missing the point. Cyclists are in this intersection because there are no other options for miles to get past 280. Cyclists would prefer a safer alternate route. Please don't judge people for choosing to ride a bicycle for either commuting or recreation. Rather, let's all be alert and share the road, and continue to try to make all of us safer.

Please observe what is around you, use turn signals to advise others of your lane changes before you start to make the maneuver, make smooth and predictable adjustments to speed, yield when appropriate, and we will all likely reach our destinations both efficiently and safely.

18 people like this
Posted by Distressed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Distressed is a registered user.

It would be a great idea to have a stoplight at the end of the 280 off ramp.

Give drivers a few seconds to think and LOOK!

Like this comment
Posted by Lawyer
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 23, 2016 at 9:40 pm

"Commuting is more important than leisure rides."

This statement is in contradiction with our constitution. We are guaranteed freedom of assembly. It has long been established that in order to guarantee this freedom we must have freedom to travel to the point of assembly. Everyone is permitted equal use of public roads regardless of their reason for traveling. It is not permissible to prioritize or restrict travel based on the purpose of the trip.

Think for a bit about how an authoritarian regime could use restrictions on travel to suppress dissent and impose their will on people and you will understand how important it is for us to allow anyone to use public roads for whatever reason they want. Fortunately, the people who are in charge of making decisions on issues like bicycle access to Page Mill understand this.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2016 at 6:01 am

So why aren't there bikes on 280? How is allowing only Leafs and Teslas into the HOV lane constitutional? . I guess as long as it's helping the "environment" we can ignore the Constitution. "An authoritarian regime using restrictions on travel to suppress dissent and impose their will on the people" is exactly what we have as they try to force us out of cars.
We can use all sorts of subtlety so DON'T even try the "Constitution" argument again Mr. "Lawyer".

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2016 at 8:52 am

Dude, you missed the point. Control based on kind of vehicle is OK, reason for trip is not.

2 people like this
Posted by What
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2016 at 10:21 am

Agreed, we should ban anyone from using this road for leisure. It should only be used for business purposes. This means that anyone driving up to skyline because they enjoy driving is banned. Anyone biking to improve their health and enjoy the beautiful bay area scenery is banned.

Don't be ridiculous. Just because you think that a certain use of a road is not worthwhile doesn't mean that others don't have a right to use it.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2016 at 11:27 am

Cycling on roads & highways with high speed limits that are mainly used by cars is inherently risky. We shouldn't modify the roads with stop signs and stop lights to accommodate those who are sporting on the road. It's not worth the cost, increases congestion, and would hardly make them any safer. You are never safe. Keep enjoying the scenery and living on the edge, my little daredevils.

14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2016 at 1:09 pm

The law to allow bikes onto all roadways with the exception of freeways was written when there was a lot less traffic, both motor vehicle and pedal power. It is now long overdue to be revisited. I don't care whether a bike is ridden by someone going to school or work, riding for exercise, or for any other business or leisure reason, there are many roads which are unsafe for bikes and it would make sense for laws to be changed.

Laws are never written in stone. They can always be updated, rewritten or just altered for the sake of times having changed. This is one of those that need to be altered for everybody's safety.

2 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm

>> A permanent fix to the hazardous Page Mill Road/Interstate 280 interchange could be a decade away,

A decade away ??????

>> but transportation officials plan to make some alterations to make the road safer for bicyclists as soon as this fall

Is this supposed to be competent governance?

Get this done! I don't see much of anything being done except a lot of talk about
stuff that just requires talk and doesn't do anything. The talkers just breed more
talkers and meanwhile nothing changes and less actual work gets done.

Do your jobs please!

3 people like this
Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm

A decade away?????? How many people will be killed in that area in a decade?

Obviously saving lives is considered unimportant!

Like this comment
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2016 at 1:14 am

I don't know how many will be killed in the coming decade of
inaction, I hope none, but this area has always been confusing
for driving and traffic and it is way overdue for some kind of
reconfiguration. I see people taken unaware and going through
stop signs or being in lanes they should not be. It's just

Other cities, have situations that are similar for their roads that
reach up to 280, and they do not seem to be as confusing or
ambiguous. Why doesn't the city just study what other cities
have done and come up with a simple solution and then get
moving on it.

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

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