Menlo Park to remove right-turn barriers on Ravenswood Avenue by next week | News | Palo Alto Online |


Menlo Park to remove right-turn barriers on Ravenswood Avenue by next week

City found some changes made crossing less safe

The results of a trial of roadway changes intended to make the Ravenswood Avenue railroad crossing in Menlo Park safer have shown that some of the changes may have actually made the crossing more dangerous. Those changes will be ended by Sept. 15, according to Menlo Park Transportation Manager Nicole Nagaya.

The barriers blocking eastbound Ravenswood Avenue traffic from turning right and heading south on Alma Street, will be removed by the end of the day on Tuesday, Sept. 15, she said. The left-turn barriers, from northbound Alma Street onto westbound Ravenswood Avenue, will remain for the rest of the six-month trial, she said.

Many users of Ravenswood Avenue near Alma Street have been fuming about the trial changes the city of Menlo Park began in June, in response to a fatal accident on the tracks in February. But other residents have said the changes have cleared cut-through traffic from their streets.

After evaluating the results of the first phase of the trial, Nagaya said the city found "the congestion during the evening has increased (the) risk of a vehicle getting stuck on the tracks." She said the city found some traffic improvements in the non-peak travel times, but said the increase in congestion offset that benefit.

"We will continue to evaluate the changes and make adjustments as needed," Nagaya said.

The trial, which cost about $20,000, was approved by the City Council in May. Mayor Catherine Carlton and Councilman Ray Mueller have asked that the subject be put on the agenda for the City Council's Sept. 29 meeting. An email from Mueller asks for "all available information to date, to determine whether the pilot should continue."

Mayor Carlton said that as soon as she heard that the number of vehicles stranded on the train tracks had actually increased during the trial, she asked to have it ended. "When I found out it was making things worse, I said pull it," she said.

Nagaya said the city has been paying close attention to the number of vehicles that end up stopped on the tracks, whether or not a train is coming. The city has figures from Caltrain from December 2013 and compiled its own counts in April of this year and monthly after the trial began. Those counts were made by video surveillance of the rail crossing. Both the figures from December 2013 and from April of this year (before the trial started) showed 13 cars or pedestrians had been stuck on the tracks at least temporarily in the eastbound direction during the afternoon rush hour (4-6 p.m.). The count in July, after the trial was installed, rose to 40.

Other numbers improved, however. In the mornings (7-9 a.m.), the number of eastbound strandings were reduced from seven in December 2013, and from 16 in April 2015, to four in July 2015. In the afternoons, the number of westbound stranded vehicles was reduced dramatically; from 15 in December 2013 to zero in July 2015.

Mueller said he would like the see the right-turn barriers come down even earlier if possible. "The only concern I have now is that they're going to wait until next week," he said.

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3 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2015 at 10:54 am

I am glad they finally realized what was obvious from day 1. Right turns are not the problem. They really need to move the crosswalks. Have people cross Ravenswood further east either in the middle of the block or at laurel. Remove the crosswalk from the south side of the intersection an allow people to only cross on the North side. Yes this will be an inconvenience for pedestrians, but it will be safer for everyone.

6 people like this
Posted by Listen Better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Why didn't the MP city powers listen to the complaints people registered since day one? It could have prevented that horrible tragedy last year that left an infant motherless!

I hope the infant's father has filed a big, fat lawsuit.

1 person likes this
Posted by ListenBetter
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2015 at 1:02 pm

The barriers that are being removed were put in place after the accident. @Listenbetter, you need to do some more research before making such inflammatory statements!

6 people like this
Posted by OldGuy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Ultimately we need grade separated rail. Could have done it in the '90s when there were federal funds available, but Menlo slept instead. Could have had it done by now if we (and Atherton & Palo Alto) had embraced HSR instead of throwing a NIMBY tantrum.

Maybe someday.

Like this comment
Posted by YoungGuy
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:08 pm

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Pamela
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Why not have the cars pay attention to traffic and pedestrians ahead of where their cars are, instead of stopping on the tracks? The current crosswalk location makes a lot of sense and should not be moved because motorists can't be bothered to pay attention to traffic. One should not even begin to go over the tracks until there is a guaranteed space for the vehicle on the other side. Plain and simple.

Or maybe we need the road to stay four lanes the entire way to Middlefield, instead of narrowing to two right after the library. Or maybe we could have more people live near where they work, instead of driving over to the East Bay (you know that's where they're going, Willow to Dumbarton bridge). Wild ideas, I know.

3 people like this
Posted by baycommuter
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Two out of Pamela's three ideas require modification of driver behavior. Safety engineers learned a long time ago that people will do dumb things so you have to engineer around them.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2015 at 7:50 am

At a different level here, there is an important, critical point being made here, that the City of Palo Alto in particular needs to heed and that is the need to evaluate the actual effects of what it is doing on safety, driver response,aesthetics in traffic engineering,signage, street markings.In Palo Alto it appears there is a complete disconnect in this regard. The Lytton/Alma intersection with its confusing, distracting flashing signals,etc is just one example. This is one more facet of an
out of control city government in Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident & Logic Fan
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 12, 2015 at 9:30 pm

I'm shocked that any reasonable traffic planning consultant would have advised shutting down right hand turns onto Alma. I respect the City Council, but I have to question either (A) the quality of the traffic consultants they're using or (B) ignoring traffic consultants they're using. Not sure whether it was (A) or (B), but either way something is fundamentally wrong. OF COURSE shutting down right turns onto Alma was going to increase cars on the tracks. How could that have been otherwise? How did someone think that? No, better question: Who thought that? And is the city still using that person?

Like this comment
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2015 at 5:51 pm

"Who thought that? And is the city still using that person?"

Of course they are -- that person is rumored to possess certain videos. Be sure your insurance is paid up if you drive in Menlo.

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