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Oregon Expressway traffic-signal upgrades to begin

Original post made on Jul 23, 2013

Long-awaited traffic-signal improvements along Oregon Expressway could soon begin, replacing half-century-old signals along the busy expressway, the Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department has announced.

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Comments (19)

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Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2013 at 10:27 am

Will we finally get sidewalks along the south side of Oregon Expressway all the way to the Caltrain station?

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Posted by Driver
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2013 at 10:34 am

What about Alma to Oregon Expressway merging? It is currently difficult and dangerous and could use improvement!

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Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 23, 2013 at 10:39 am

That intersection is not in the scope of this work.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

Could we please have roundabouts like Britain put in instead of traffic lights? Think of the better flow of traffic and more importantly the reduction in pollution! IT's time drivers work together rather than against each other.

AND, if you do manage to put in real roundabouts...don't use stop signs! What a waste of the traffic flow!

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Posted by HooDoo
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm

When I grew up in Boston, we had the English-style roundabouts downtown. But several years later they had to be removed. They did not work for east coast American drivers, because they require a lot of politeness and respect for the rights of others. Boston drivers simply do.not yield the right of way to other drivers, because they are always in too much of a hurry, and think they have "priority of destination". The traffic circles only increased the number of collisions as a result.

Sound familiar? Imagine what would happen if we had traffic roundabouts here in Silly Conniving Valley?

They work in Great Britain simply because drivers there are courteous.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Single lane traffic circles work OK, and can keep traffic moving without the need for stop signs. If they are designed to slow traffic to 15 mph they can be made to work for bicycles and pedestrians, too. Multi-lane traffic circles are a nightmare, as are those designed for higher speeds.

There are no plans for circles on Oregon. The green cycles for cross streets will be split (as they are now at Middlefield) to avoid the problems with left-turning drivers and oncoming cars going straight. This should greatly improve safety and also help with throughput on cross streets at peak hour. The downside of that is that only one side of each intersection will have a crosswalk.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Multi lane roundabouts do work in the UK and efficiently move traffic not because drivers are more polite than here but because they are used to them and understand them. American drivers can't cope with them because they see them as hurdles rather than tools.

Mini single lane roundabouts would be a great improvement to all the four way stops around town. Any type of roundabout would be better than the red lights which stop traffic in the late evenings and through the night.

The British aim to efficiently move traffic and also understand that there are some roads where bikes are not a sensible option and put in separated bike lanes and pedestrian paths. They also have traffic lights controlling pedestrians, bikes as well as vehicular traffic and each do not cross when they are not allowed to do so. British bike riders understand that they are not pedestrians and do not cross with a pedestrian signal.

American (Bay Area) road users would do well to copy some of the British road habits. To say that Americans can't do the same as the British is to undermine the abilities or intelligence of Americans.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

This town fought the Roundabout wars several years ago--and the Roundabouts (and their supporters) were routed.

The streets in Palo Alto are generally too small for effective Roundabouts to make any difference. The couple of Roundabouts in Downtown North have more-or-less been accepted by the residents--but it's not clear that they have made a lot of difference in the volume of traffic, or the number of actual accidents on the streets where they were installed.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Our (California) road tests ought to be harder, too. Ours are more of a bureaucratic thing (written) and the driving one ought to require a higher level of competence. Seriously.
I think it should be absolutely required that drivers fully understand English as road signs are in English language.
I don't understand how illegal aliens constantly get away with driving infractions and/or crimes on a regular basis.
I do see more courteous driving in certain other areas of the States than here(not Boston, though!), but I respect that those across the pond had to pass a harder test.
Roundabouts: neutral on those.

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Posted by PA Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It's faster to do a California stop than do a roundabout. You still have to slow down to almost a stop to do a roundabout. [Portion removed.]

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2013 at 7:18 am

The roundabouts on Everett Downtown are bare, have absolutely no landscaping, no tiles, nothing. This is the only City I have ever seen anywhere which does this. That is not on the radar in Palo Alto apparently.

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Posted by Driver
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2013 at 8:09 am

Kids on bikes have to cross Oregon Expressway to get to school. Roundabouts will not work for them. It would be very unsafe for a kid on a bike to try to navigate a roundabout.

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Posted by Lights are necessary
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:36 am

Just look at the behavior of drivers when they hear an emergency vehicle... rather than pulling to the right and attempting to get out of the way, many drive with the red light runner mentality - it only applies to the next person or one more car ignoring the siren won't be a problem. Just pray you won't be in the next ambulance trying to maneuver during rush hour. I think emergency vehicles should be equipped with video cameras and letters sent to those that don't move out of the way.
I seriously wonder if people understand what common courtesy is when it comes to driving - unfortunately lights are necessary...

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Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

The roundabouts came up in Palo Alto years ago in conjunction with the Embarcadero improvement project, long since gone away. Someone stood up in a council meeting and said, "I went around a traffic circle once, and it was terrible!"

The data on traffic circles is irrefutably in favor of much greater safety, even for bicycles and especially for pedestrians, who only have to look left before crossing short distances. Cars have 8 possible points of contact, as opposed to 32 at regular intersections.

The traffic circles in north PA have little resemblance to "real" traffic circles w/o stop signs and on larger streets. These are used all over Israel in residential communities on intermediate streets like our residential arterials. They keep the traffic moving at reasonable speeds.

All that said, they have never once been mentioned in connection with the Oregon Expy project.

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Posted by street aesthetics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2013 at 11:42 am

In Europe, France and Italy for example, roundabouts are always
landscaped and many times very elaborately and beautifully in
very creative ways. Our roundabouts on Everett in Downtown North -
well, we are at the other end of the spectrum you might say.
This is a little embarrassing when you realize that Albi, France
is one of our sister cities.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2013 at 1:55 pm

@ lights are necessary
I agree with your post. I have had recent experience that had me shaking my head - multiple cars not getting over/out of the way of obviously major emergency vehicle situations - rushing, screaming ambulance and so on.
All I can think is that either some drivers are very entitled and oblivious to others, or listening on earbuds and can't hear (?!) or else literally don't know the rules of the road, that one must pull over to make way for vital emergency services.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2013 at 4:18 am

I grew up with high speed multi-lane roundabouts and they were fine... To a point. The amount of traffic in the region increased so much that they have since been replaced with lights again and/or major interchanges.

I think the current plan is probably the best solution given all things considered. The timing of the lights is key to making it work AND especially when pedestrians are crossing. That alone can cause major backups because cars cannot move when pedestrians cross that huge road.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2013 at 7:26 am

Not sure why we are talking roundabouts as this is an article about what has already been decided and no roundabouts are proposed or planned.

I like roundabouts that work but Oregon is not going to be the place for them.

However, I could seem them working well at many places around town and discussing where they may help move traffic efficiently could be helpful. I suggest Churchill/El Camino, Alma/El Camino, Bayshore/Oregon, as starters for full scale roundabouts, and most four way stops around residential areas as well as Charleston/Louis for mini roundabouts.

But, most drivers here have never used a proper roundabout and would call them a terrible idea from their one time experience!

Roundabouts are tools to efficient traffic flow, not hurdles that have to be challenged.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

There is one big benefit to having lights: platoons. With roundabouts the expressway traffic would flow freely with no breaks. Lights open very large gaps between platoons of cars, which is helpful to those trying to cross at a minor intersection (without a signal or circle), merge during peak periods, etc.

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