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Decision time: Palo Alto City Council to weigh closure of Churchill Avenue

Original post made on Oct 28, 2021

Nearly a decade after Palo Alto embarked on a journey to redesign its four rail crossings, the city is preparing to answer a critical and divisive question: Should the city close Churchill Avenue to traffic near the train tracks?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 28, 2021, 10:13 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by Tom
a resident of Triple El
on Oct 28, 2021 at 2:05 pm

Tom is a registered user.

I would love a bicycle crossing under the tracks at Churchill. Currently the way a bike crosses is really awkward and it gets very crowded when the high school lets out. I'm surprised there aren't more fatal accidents at that intersection given how cramped everything is. My one concern is that it would be nice if there was a wider or separate bicycle and pedestrian tunnel so that there isn't congestion and animosity between pedestrians and cyclists like there currently is in the California Avenue tunnel to the South.


Posted by It.is.what.it.is
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2021 at 2:48 pm

It.is.what.it.is is a registered user.

That intersection is a DISASTER in the mornings when Paly students are riding their bikes to school. When I grew up here and rode my bike, there were almost no cars driving on Churchill Ave. but now the cars use it as a cut-through and have to drive dangerously close (about a foot or less) from the bicycles due to narrow lanes. And the students crossing Churchill to get to the Paly parking lot are at risk of being hit too. It's amazing that no student has gotten killed but you know the city will get sued for negligence if someone is killed.

Can't they just install the automatic gates that can rise and fall (like the train gates) so that cars are blocked from Churchill during the bike commute times?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 28, 2021 at 6:00 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Let us vote on this. No one could possibly believe that diverting more traffic to Embarcadero makes any sense.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 28, 2021 at 9:20 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

Caltrain had 20 riders on it the other day of the unfortunate accident. There is little need for more Caltrain service as few are riding it....so no need for more gate downtime.


Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2021 at 7:24 am

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We should definitely start the traffic study for traffic levels for 2040, because at this rate, we won't make any decisions until 2035.


Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2021 at 7:42 am

Palo Alto native is a registered user.

It is past time to close this street. It used to be a street with few cars so bikes and pens could cross safely with few impediments. Today, cars speed by and completely overwhelm this intersection. Usually when I cross Alma I see 3 corners with bikers or pedal trying to get across. Surprised nobody has been killed, but City will be sued on a second if this happens. Do your job City Council for the safety of your citizens!


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 29, 2021 at 8:10 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Palo Alto native, by that logic they should close a lot of streets where cars and bicyclists are backed up. Drive by any school. Drive up and down Embarcadero where people have been killed.

How great we're forced to increase population density. Another "win" for PAF and the DIMBYs


Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2021 at 9:20 am

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Reduce congestion by charging a premium for non-residents to drive into overly congested downtown core. Work with existing businesses to decentralize - like it or not saturation has been reached. Focus on innovative ways to move people around the city before adding more people that can’t get around. Absolutely enforcing the speeding rules along that stretch of Alma would help. Maybe Palo Alto can’t be both high density commercial and high density population until transit improves - maybe it should move in the long term direction of majority residential. In the meantime, re-engineering Churchill doesn’t really fix anything.


Posted by 20 yrinPA 6thgenABC
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2021 at 10:43 am

20 yrinPA 6thgenABC is a registered user.

Closing Churchill without first addressing the overbearing and dangerous traffic down Embarcadero Road is irresponsible. Embarcadero Road is too congested (like a parking lot!) with commuters from 101 and Dumbarton Bridge while Oregon Expressway is not near capacity in the mornings and afternoons.
Utilize Oregon Expressway as it should be!
We must attempt a permanent solution for this entire area by making changes before closing Churchill.
Palo Alto should expand Oregon Expressway's capacity and DECREASE Embarcadero Road to 1 lane each way with PROTECTED BIKE LANES before closing the Churchill crossing for construction. My kids have been hit by cars and almost hit as pedestrians and will be more at risk with Churchill's closure if safety and mitigation actions are not taken.
There are too many commuter CARS competing with local traffic and school kids biking USING EMBARCADERO ROAD TO GET TO STANFORD TO jobs.
This was evident with heavy traffic on Embarcadero Road remaining despite the school closures during the pandemic's worst times. Keep our neighborhoods safer by diverting commuters to Oregon Expressway with added extra lanes. Facilitate easier through traffic on Oregon with an underpass for the El Camino Real and maybe also the Middlefield road crossing.


Posted by Chris S
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2021 at 11:14 am

Chris S is a registered user.

Trying to get across the tracks at East Meadow or Charleston has become a nightmare even without closing Churchill, and Embarcadero is worse most of the time. There has to be another way, wither under or over the tracks.


Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 29, 2021 at 11:33 am

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

Anyone want to make book that the council won't decide until the cars are backed up to 101?


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2021 at 11:46 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

The vast majority of train collisions and fatalities occur in south Palo Alto.

See Caltrain collision and fatality report here Web Link

This report shows that 16 collisions occurred at Meadow and Charleston causing 8 fatalities. That does not include the fatality at the Charleston crossing that occurred this week. The two other north PA rail crossings in the report had fewer collisions, and no fatalities.

Why? You might ask. Because north Palo Alto has FIVE grade separated crossings, and south Palo Alto has ZERO grade separated crossings. Could we please start work and decision-making with the part of town that has the greatest need? I don't mind sharing my tax dollars with north PA, but I don't like them being spent exclusively in north PA as seems to be happening with grade separations. City Staff and Council, you are starting this process with the part of town that is already well-served by multiple grade crossings. Why is that?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 29, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Consider your options, good points. Please write to the city council, city manager, transportation officials and tell them that!

As for narrowing Embarcadero as one person suggested above, people are ALREADY forming their own lanes because they're so frustrated with the backups, poorly timed lights and new traffic calming devices and bollards.

Where do you expect the ever-increasing traffic to go?


Posted by RandomGuy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2021 at 11:16 am

RandomGuy is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Closing Churchill will only drive more traffic to Embarcadero which is already very crowded. The width of Embarcadero is not designed for the traffic. Yes, it make lives better for people living on Churchill, but what about people who live on Embarcadero?

There are so many other solutions for separating bicycle and car traffic at Churchill. By the current City Council logic, we should close all the intersections.


Posted by Kelly
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 31, 2021 at 9:48 am

Kelly is a registered user.

If the youth population decreased then that shouldn’t be a factor when considering high volumes of school traffic. Also Caltrain ridership is down, so we should be focusing on local traffic. Those making a decision for southgate should be residents of southgate. Alma was constructed for residents to move swiftly through town hence the minimum amount of traffic signals and an overpass, but now then more traffic lights were Installed (even changed length and timing of lights too) and lanes were eliminated near downtown. We want to leave Palo Alto a quaint, charming and neighborly community for the next generation, right?


Posted by SEN
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 31, 2021 at 11:01 am

SEN is a registered user.

@Online Name and Consider your options, slight correction: north Palo Alto has 4 crossings -- 2 grade-separated, at Oregon and Embarcadero, and 2 level ones, at Churchill and Palo Alto Avenue. But I take your point. Many of us near Churchill and Embarcadero, which would be horribly affected by closing Churchill, agree that the City should focus first on South Palo Alto and on building bike tunnels across Alma and the tracks. We should return to the question of what to do at Churchill when proposals for the crossing at Palo Alto Avenue are available so that we can look at Churchill in context.


Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2021 at 10:21 am

Me 2 is a registered user.

"Embarcadero Road is too congested (like a parking lot!) with commuters from 101 and Dumbarton Bridge while Oregon Expressway is not near capacity in the mornings and afternoons.
...
Palo Alto should expand Oregon Expressway's capacity "

This makes no sense. Oregon Expressway is not near capacity, but we should expand it?

Also, complaining about Dumbarton Bridge traffic is hilarious. Chances are they'll be going through Palo Alto on University rather than Embarcadero.

But don't let facts get in the way of a rant....

"Why? You might ask. Because north Palo Alto has FIVE grade separated crossings, and south Palo Alto has ZERO grade separated crossings. "

Another complaint about how wronged South Palo Alto is again. Did it occur to you that the E. Meadow and Charleston crossings were already discussed before Churchill? Look it up.


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