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Residents angered over Oregon Expressway project

Original post made on Jul 2, 2008

A proposed traffic-flow improvement project along Oregon Expressway has angered residents and prompted an extension of the comment period to the County of Santa Clara Roads and Airports Department to July 19.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 9:40 AM

Comments (18)

Posted by money money now
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 2, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Oregon Expressway is perhaps the worst expressway in Santa Clara County. The outdated interchange at Oregon/Alma is a complete nightmare full of stop signs and blind merge lanes.

The Middlefield/Oregon intersections is another complete mess. Traffic congestion backs up on Middlefield and clogs up Midtown. These proposed changes are being subsidized by federal money. We should take this money before the feds change their mind and grow tired of the Palo Alto Process.

Posted by another palo alto process
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Here we go again... another Palo Alto process nightmare!

Remember when Palo Alto opposed building Central Expressway thru town and decided to build it it's own way (aka Alma St) Great decision! Traffic from Central never slowed down as Palo Alto had hoped and continued driving at 50+ mph down a poorly designed roadway full of driveways and parallel parking spots.

The well-maintained Central with its landscaped medians, sound walls, bike lanes, and timed traffic lights becomes a commuter's nightmare as soon as you enter Palo Alto. I can't believe some bicyclists actually try to ride on Alma in Palo Alto. It's suicide! Traffic is horrendous at every intersection on Alma... at Charleston, E. Meadow, Churchill. The interchange at University Ave and at Embarcadero is another nightmare.

Let's now let Oregon become another dilapidated, poorly-designed roadway by Palo Alto. The county can do a better job of planning and coordinating this project.

Posted by Death by Input
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2008 at 1:12 pm

There have already been two well publicized community meetings regarding this subject with more meetings to come. Why is an additional meeting being requested? Is it an attempt to bog down the process and thwart the project?

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 2, 2008 at 1:28 pm

PA needs to turn down the money unless everyone and I mean everyone in Palo Alto is happy with the results. They need to hire consultants, hold study sessions, set up ad hoc committes, have neighborhood meetings to reach a consensus that EVERYONE agrees on regarding the Oregon Expressway.
The city council will endorse this approach since it will mean that they will not have to make a decision anytime soon and possibly upset people in the city. After all there are more important things that need to be dealt with by the council--keeping Pat Briggs at PACT, getting PA to generate zero waste and dealing with climate change, while taking no solid action to have "walkable neighborhoods".
That is the Palo Alto way

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Palo Alto has no money to turn down. The expressway is owned and operated by Santa Clara County Roads. They can almost do what they want, but to their credit they held a public meeting before doing any engineering, designing or planning. They want to improve traffic flow along the expressway, but bicycle and pedestrian safety is also one of their top priorities. So far they have presented alternatives for comment, but they have made no firm decisions yet. Instead of writing hysterical letters to the paper, the residents should be sending their comments to County Roads, where their input can make a difference.

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 2, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Donald, you are confusing sarcasm with hysteria. This has all the makings of another cause celebre in Palo Alto. We shall see how it unfolds.

Posted by Ugg
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2008 at 6:53 pm

A lot of residents protested reducing 4 lanes to 2 lanes on Charleston and Arastradero. It didn't work and this year they will be realigning Arastradero and reducing it to 2 lanes. Don't forget there will be more than 1,000 new housing units built at either end of Charleston which will definitely increase traffic.

Protesting doesn't work, particularly if the road improvements favor bicycles and pedestrians. So I expect the Oregon Expressway changes will go forward. The bicycle lobby is all powerful in this City, and they will win.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2008 at 12:04 am

Ugg and Marvin and others,
I tried to tell you that this is NOT A PALO ALTO PROJECT. It is a County Roads project that happens to be in Palo Alto. The process is entirely different than that for a Palo Alto project. The City Council has little to do with it.

Oregon Expressway still looks as it did when it was built in the 60s, while all the other expressways have been updated multiple times. Oregon needs wheelchair friendly ramps and crosswalks and new light timing equipment that can be synchronized. Basically it needs to be dragged into the current century, and that will happen no matter what. The question is exactly what configuration and set of turn lanes to have at each intersection.

The people who are complaining about Middlefield remind me of the woman on the Simpsons who is always saying "The children, won't somebody please think of the children" regardless of what is being discussed.

Also, please understand that congestion and delay lead to bad driver behavior which leads to danger for pedestrians. Reducing congestion can increase safety without turning a street into a spedway.

Posted by Lynn
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2008 at 8:38 am

Middlefield Rd. in Midtown is already a traffic raceway that has required additional traffic signals for pedestrian safety. I would like to see increased safety at Oregon Expressway crossings for bicycles and pedestrians. Once the road frontage is gone it's not coming back - I have read that it is hard to get money and we need to use it...We should meet the needs of the community and it's goals for public transportationand bicycling. Utilizing the Cal train, and commuter access from 280 should be emphasized for commercial traffic and communting to El Camino Real.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 3, 2008 at 9:05 am

Oregon Expressway is just that - an expressway. It's wide with the homes set back behind a second median strip. It was always intended to move traffic from 101 to the other side of Palo Alto and it is a county road. Thank goodness the City of Palo Alto does not have any influence here. In contrast, University Avenue, a narrow residential street with more traffic then it can possibly handle, has become the defacto expressway of choice. Everyday, large, heavy trucks use it, even though there is supposedly a cap on the size of the truck allowed on it. Cut-through traffic routinely use it to get to Stanford, El Camino and 280 from 101. Joe Kott, former head of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Department, in his infinite wisdom, decided to widen University Avenue at Middlefield. It is a disaster. Traffic now routinely uses the designated bike lanes to run up the side of long standing traffic jams. They come very close to the side walk area. They endanger the lives of everyone legally using the bike lane on University. We have very few bike lanes in Palo Alto and this one has been destroyed, compliments of Joe Kott. Crossing Middlefield is a nightmare. It divides the areas in a way that is not conducive to a coherent neighborhood. The City of Palo Alto has destroyed many of the best residential streets in Palo Alto by allowing local streets to be used as a shortcut to El Camino, Foothill Expressway, Stanford and 280. I don't believe in road closures because that simply punishes an adjacent road with additional traffic, but I do believe that the Planning and Transportation Department has no idea of how harmful the widening of local streets can be to a neighborhood. Oregon Expressway is an exception due to the width of the road, the distance that homes were built from the expressway and the expressway status designation by the county.

Posted by Jazzy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2008 at 10:23 am

Congestion causes speeding ? Come on people.... reality check time.
Frustration and impatience do not cause speeding, its selfishness , free will, thrills and carelessness that do, because the "I" is more important than the other

Everyday , I use the Middlefield & Oregon Expressway intersection. It's only backed up a few times a day during morning & evening peak traffic times for a few minutes.

Middlefield has several schools, churches and midtown shopping very near this intersection, so making a residential street a speedway is not the answer.

In the mean time

Check out

Web Link

Please leave Middlefield Road as it is and fix the Alma/Oregon interchange instead. Shutting off access to the side streets will not make Oregon expressway safer.

And if you want to see ugly ,then check out Lawrence Expressway from 101 to 880 (17) in south county to see what Oregon Expressway could become - ugly with high walls, dirt medians (if at all), unkempt and dangerous and the way its lights are synchronized it takes 5 to 10 minutes to cross during peak traffic times . Another fine "County of Santa Clara upgrade".

So let's fix the wheelchair ramps etc and Alma and keep the rest.

Posted by Tony
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2008 at 2:47 pm

I second Jazzy's posting. While certain legitimate safety improvements such as pedestrian countdown signals would help, other "improvements" in the name of safety are unnecessary and make the Oregon/Middlefield intersection more dangerous. The sensors already installed at the intersection help traffic flow smoothly--even during rush hour--so I don't understand what's the need to widen the road at the expense of landscaping.

I also don't understand why the county wants to block off Waverly, Ross & Indian--those streets are convenient for residents, aren't congested, and aren't dangerous.

If anything should be done, it should be at the intersections of Oregon/Alma and Oregon/El Camino, where there actually are safety and congestion issues, respectively. Of course, dealing with those issues is too costly, so the county resorts to doing cheaper, unnecessary "fixes" elsewhere. It's just unfortunate that these fixes will end up causing more problems without fixing any real ones.

I would also like to draw attention to page 10 of the county's recommendations (Web Link), which call for eventually removing landscaping along the sides and median of Oregon and installing a sound wall from "10 feet minimum to 16 feet maximum." If this is what it means to bring the road up to county standards, then I am absolutely glad that the Palo Alto process is being invoked.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Sound walls are off the table. That report was written many years ago, and they are no longer being considered. Alma is way too costly for this project, which only goes from Bryant to 101. If you like the Oregon and Middlefield lanes the way they are now, send an email to [email protected] and tell them that (and why). Nothing you say here will make any difference, but sending comments there will.

Posted by joe
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2008 at 10:37 pm

I'm glad Donald took the time to inject a voice of reason and give good information into this posting. It sure beats emotional and uninformed inputs.

Posted by Liann
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2008 at 5:24 pm

I have lived on Middlefield in Midtown for 25 years, and it has become more and more of a RACEWAY. I object to the proposed changes, and know that they will only facilitate this trend.
I also cross the Middlefield at Oregon intersection every single morning at 8:00 am, and watch as Jordan students try to navigate their way across an already huge and unfriendly intersection. I have seen so many near-misses!! These are kids on their bikes, taking on the I-could-care-less-who-is-in-way drivers of Silicon Valley today.
Please Please PLEASE do not add to this with the proposed widening changes. I grew up in Palo Alto, raised my son here, and have the perspective of changes over time: we do NOT have to cater to the "Traffic" as our priority.
We need to look at the human beings who try to navigate around that Traffic.

Posted by Robbie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Some of these changes will make it safer for pedestrians. As for kids on bikes, they should not be using Middlefield. They should cross at Bryant, Cowper or Louis, depending on where they are coming from. A competent adult bicyclist may be able to navigate the current intersection (and the proposed ones will not be much different for bikes), but it is not a place for those whose skills and experience are less than top-notch.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2008 at 9:05 am

The closing of streets, crossing Oregon will increase the response
times of emergency vehicles. Those extra blocks and turn will make a big difference,
when you dial 911.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Oregon is an expressway. If you live nearby, you knew it was an expressway at the time you bought your home. Emergency vehicles have ways and means of moving quickly.

Lets applaud the move to improve our only expressway (apart from Foothills).

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