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Lane reduction eyed for stretch of Middlefield Road

Original post made on Jan 17, 2017

After years of collisions, congestion and complaints, a bustling, three-block stretch of Middlefield Road near the Menlo Park border may soon be in for a dramatic redesign, including a reduction from four lanes to three.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017, 9:33 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by Joe M
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2017 at 10:56 am

It may not be within the scope of street configuration, but traffic enforcement could make a bundle of money if they set up radar and ticketed speeders. Many southbound drivers who come from the 35 MPH zone in Menlo Park to our 25 MPH zone ignore the change in speed limit. Many northbound drivers seem to enjoy taking the bend in the road at high speed, too. Sizeable fines can reduce enthusiasm for such dangerous driving.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2017 at 11:18 am

Penny is a registered user.

Here we go again. Traffic ticket revenues do not stay local. The city cannot "make money" that way.

That is wrong information. Please don't state something as a fact if you don't know for a fact that it is true. This is why blogs are extremely poor sources for actual news and great resources for people who spread fake news--either through ignorance or through deliberate desire to manipulate others.

Further, the police cannot use radar unless the 85th percentile speed is consistent with the posted speed. I don't know whether or not that is the case at this location. From the article, it sounds like it may not be. We should design streets for the speed and user behavior we want. Enforcement is a VERY,VERY EXPENSIVE way to manage traffic.

Posted by OK-SomeQuestions
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2017 at 11:20 am

In the larger report I see versions 6A and 6B.
Can someone explain the difference between 7A and 6A?
Also, the southbound bike lane seems to 'disappear' past Everett (between it an Lincoln). Is that correct?
All in all, seems like it is worth an experiment.

Posted by naphtuli
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 11:31 am

Traffic is like water in a system of pipes. It has to back up somewhere. Look for evening peak hour northbound traffic to back up at Hamilton and Forest Avenues instead of Lytton and University Avenues. But that is what the pilot is designed to let us know.

Posted by 5 coats
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:14 pm

The Charleston/Arastadero lane reduction has caused more delays rather than to improve flow of traffic. Why make the same error again at great expense without solving the problem?

Posted by Willows Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:18 pm

It's going to be interesting (understatement) to see how these plans work when Willow road is shut down for redesign of the 101 interchange. This work is supposed to start soon and will shut down the access to 101 for long periods over the next two years. I expect Menlo Park to implement measures to prevent cut-through in the Willows (we'll make sure of that!), so all traffic will have to go Marsh or University. Enjoy!

Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:19 pm

My husband used to ride his bike to work almost every day from South PA to Downtown. Then his office moved to Marsh Road, and the only way to get there is down Middlefield. He now drives everyday. Middlefield is just too dangerous for bikes. Will this help? I doubt it. That stretch is too narrow, even if it goes down to 3 lanes.

Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:26 pm

I really do not like this plan of redesigning Middlefield Road 3 blocks at a time. Changing the number of lanes and speed limits on different parts of the same street causes a lot of confusion and distraction. This is a residential street (lined with homes, schools, churches, etc) for its entire length through the city. We should apply the same safety treatments to the entire street.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm

@naphtuli -- the Middlefield northbound rush hour traffic already backs up to Oregon and beyond. With this change, maybe Middlefield cam be solidly backed up all the way to Mountain View.

I hope the city bureaucrats will take the trouble to survey the whole length of Middlefield, not just the section they're tweaking today. Maybe -- now that it's January -- they'll get around to checking their "improvements" at N. Cal Ave and Jordan, too. It's only been 6 months.

Posted by Larry
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm

The median at Hawthorne is necessary- nobody is paying attention to the no left turn signs and causing congestion and hazardous driving conditions.

Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2017 at 1:19 pm

The real problem here is that Willow was not extended to 280. The NIMBIES in Menlo Park killed that idea. The cars have to go somewhere.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm

The purpose of traffic management is to design efficient traffic movement not to provide bottlenecks.

Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm

I live right there and so I do want it fixed, I hear the accidents through my window all the time, however I am wondering a few things: Under what logic does putting fewer lanes make traffic flow better. It will be slower, yes, but it will just back up farther. Maybe if people are too irritated they will find some other street to go down (one which is not made for the amount of traffic we have either) As it is, Middlefield is a mess all the way down to Oregon. As for the "no left turn between 4 - 7" that was a fabulous idea but it is rarely enforced (I don't care if the city is "making money" or someone else is, some people won't learn unless ticketed!) What that means is we who live around here know to go around the block to Lytton because you cannot make a right onto Middlefield either because there are always 5-6 cars lined up down Hawthorne who can't go because of the moron at the front who is trying to go left when he shouldn't and when there is too much to do so without waiting several minutes anyway. It truly is a Cluster F. and who knows what the solution is. Thanks to my dedicated neighbors who have put so many hours into trying to find a solution!

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 17, 2017 at 2:23 pm

@DT North, you write "Maybe if people are too irritated they will find some other street to go down" but the problem is that all the connector roads to 101 and those paralleling 101 are already jammed. There's no "other" place for the cars to go.

That's why intentionally backing up Middlefield by barring right turns on Willow (Menlo Park) and Palo Alto creating the mess in front of Jordan eliminating left turn lanes on N. Cal during rush hour -- when the kids aren't even there -- is so frustrating and dangerous.

It would be real special if the transportation czars of Menlo Park and Palo Alto got together to eliminate the bottlenecks they create before someone gets killed.

Posted by BRD
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Jan 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Prepare for Carmagedon. It will be a mess. Emergency vehicles wont even be able to get bye.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2017 at 4:48 pm

BTW 3 line roads with a turn left middle lane are also known as suicide lanes. The only reason the one on Alma works is because it runs parallel to a railroad track. I have had several near misses outside Target in Mountain View.

Definitely NO to suicide lanes.

Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley

on Jan 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2017 at 7:07 pm

The signs at the end of Alma and Middlefield prohibiting turns at certain hours are not helping much, due to lack of enforcement. Everett and Hawthorne have become thorough fares with high speed drivers and a high volume of cars. Some of the stop signs down these streets now have 4 or 5 cars in line waiting to stop and proceed. Cars are whipping around corners, rolling through stop signs, and speeding. This has become a very unsafe condition for the neighborhood residents. Especially for the children, seniors, and bikers in our neighborhood. The quality of life has become worse with the constant parade of vehicles, noise of honking frustrated drivers racing down our streets, and pollution from exhaust. My hope is that the city takes this seriously and works on implementing traffic calming so we can have a better quality of life and feel safer on our neighborhood streets.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm

So let me get this straight -- the population grows rapidly, we have catastrophic congestion, firefighters complain that they can't get to emergencies because of the "traffic calming" changes... and the solution is: lane reduction???

Government has become frivolous, bloated, and utterly irrational.

Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 18, 2017 at 1:21 am

What a mess. I remember in 1970 or so I wrote my first-ever letter to the editor. I(and many, many others) opposed a plan to build an expressway from 101 to 280 that would have straddled and channelized San Francisquito Ck from 101 to El Camino, and then followed Sand Hill Rd. County planners knew then what was coming and tried to deal with it, but the neighborhoods were having none of it. I would write the very same letter now.

What's needed is a BART line from Fremont, under the bay, under EPA, under downtown Palo Alto, under Stanford, to SLAC and VC row on Sand Hill. Then another BART subway should replace CalTrain. With that done, meaningful mass transit is possible throughout this hideous thing we call Silicon Valley. And until that's done, fixes are going to come 3 blocks at a time.

It'll cost billions, but will be worth every penny.

Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jan 18, 2017 at 7:21 am

Forest Avenue and Middlefield is VERY dangerous! I see crashes all the time. Why isn't this area being included?

Posted by Not working
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm

So as some people said the non turn lanes at the end of Hawthorne and Everett from Middlefield and Alma really don't work as nobody pays attention and nobody monitering.
I also think putting all these crosswalk with no lights blinking is very dangerous for everyone. The older ones on Alma /Hawthorne and Alma/forest are so dangerous at dusk and night.
They now have new crosswalks on Middlefield and can't remember the crossroads. But they all need lights!!! Los altos, Redwood City, East PAlo Alto all can afford the blinking lights. If there are no stop signs or stop lights they need blinking sidewalks !!!

Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Unbelievable is a registered user.

What an abomination this will cause! [Portion removed.]

This will force traffic to use residential streets as traffic-free thoroughfares!

Posted by Middlefield Lane Reduction
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2017 at 8:22 am

This is just going to force even more cut through traffic through the residential neighborhoods to the northeast of Middlefield in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. I expect my favorite cut through on Chaucer over the bridge to Pope will become significantly more congested than it is already. Any guesses on what residential streets will become the new best cut through after this project is implemented? At least it is only going to be a one year "pilot" at this point.

Posted by Hawthorny
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Great ideas need to be backed up with enforcement - and fines. The no left turns from Hawthorne to Middlefield are consciously and blatantly disregarded - motorist after motorist - every afternoon. Without exception. As others have stated - these people create more congestion for everyone selfish.

This past summer, one neighbor counted 40+ cars insisting on making their left turn onto Middlefield - in spite of the ever-prominent signage saying not to.

A traffic officer told me that enforcement is difficult in the afternoon (due to staffing challenges - perhaps a change of shift??), but assured me that they sometimes pull people over at PA Avenue. Don't know. Have never seen law enforcement there in the afternoon. I can imagine that pulling folks over anywhere near there could add to the congestion.

How about a traffic enforcement camera for left-turn-violators? Consider it a toll rather than a fine if you must. Deduct it from their Fast-Trac or send 'em a bill (and their photo).

Sick of blatantly rude behavior.

Posted by Dangerous
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Downtown north already bears the brunt of much cut-through traffic -- lots of frustrated drivers who don't stop at signs and don't want to yield to pedestrians or vehicles that have the right of way. A once-tranquil neighborhood has become dangerous...but nothing like the killing zone it will become with this plan. I hope the city is doing traffic counts on interior streets as part of the test as I predict they will double, along with accidents.

Posted by Enlightened
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

I live in Menlo Park and work in San Francisco. I walk to and from the Caltrain Station daily from the Willows through North Palo Alto. Since they added the signs limiting the left (and right turns) through North Palo Alto, I have seen police stop cars making the left turn from Alma to Hawthorne and Everett, perhaps 5 times. I believe that these intersections need to be monitored. The price of the tickets should cover the cost of the police monitoring the intersections. It is irresponsible to make rules that no one monitors.

Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm

Reducing the number of lanes on a street is the worst idea ever. The purpose of the street is to move people efficiently and quickly - if possible. When you reduce the lanes on a well-used street you now force people onto other residential streets. I have since figured out how to get across the city on residential streets based on where the main street lights are to cross the main thorough fares. So do the people on Waverly and Cowper appreciate cars on their streets on a regular basis because it is the fastest way to cross town? Don't think so. And yes - reducing Charleston to one lane each way is a disaster. What is even worse is that these actions are billed as a experiments but will never change. Sorry - that the city has gone off the rails here.

Posted by More Gridlock 3.0
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2017 at 10:09 am

Oh, goodie. Let's create more gridlock, more cut-throughs, more congestion, more pedestrian accidents, more road rage.

I've already given up on trying to get to Town & Country's Trader Joe's and now this will make it even tougher to get to Menlo Park.

Traffic's like sausage, squeeze it one place and pops up elsewhere.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

Hope Downtown North and Crescent Park residents enjoy the extra cut-through traffic in their neighborhoods. All because of some selfish residents of who decided to buy property on a major artery in Palo Alto. That's like moving near a club and complaining about the noise.

Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 18, 2017 at 7:02 am

I went up to Redwood City via Middlefield yesterday during rush hour and was glad that there were more than one lane. If you all haven't noticed the Embarcadero interchange is totally overwhelmed. The Bay Road is closed off after the shopping center - that is now driving traffic through the residential area - I am sure that everyone appreciates that. I am now taking El Camino as the route going north and if the cities try and turn that into one lane then we are in disaster mode. Who is making these decision to cut traffic on major crossroads? No one is going to be taking bikes on these roads. There has to be some right brain / left brain activity here as the logic just does not work.

Posted by Illogic R Us
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 18, 2017 at 11:06 am

@Resident -- "Who is making these decision to cut traffic on major crossroads? No one is going to be taking bikes on these roads. There has to be some right brain / left brain activity here as the logic just does not work."

Surely you jest. Not too long ago, the PA Transportation head proposed a plan to change the speed limit on Middlefield block by block!

Just ignore the fact that Bayshore and San Antonio are under construction and that Embarcadero is jammed and that the city is actually considering giving Casti its own exit ramp off Embarcadero, effectively eliminating one lane there.

Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2017 at 11:45 am

Marie is a registered user.

@ resident
Narrowing a three block area of Middlefield is nothing compared to plans to dedicate one lane on El Camino to BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) 24/7 by VTA. I believe this has been approved by San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Palo Alto has still said no. I'm not sure about Mountain View and Los Altos. Anytime the acronym BRT is used, this is one of the options. Please check out the Multimodal Corridor Plan:
Web Link
Web Link

There has been a lot of pushback which may be why is really hard to sort through the verbiage to the actual proposal. There are lots of other proposals to make El Camino a "Grand Boulevard." I'm hopeful that they will switch from a BRT lane in the middle of the street 24/7 to a shared lane at the curb. However, I have reviewed the plan above and can find no real information on the current progress of implementing BRT currently. The best I could find was from a 2006 proposal:

Preserve the through-lane capacity on El
Camino Real to allow for planned growth
and increased densities (minimum two
through-lanes required); consider potential
dedicated bus lanes for express
bus or bus rapid transit and incident

Note that they think that they think only two through lanes are required. Anytime El Camino has been down to two lanes in Palo Alto, due to temporary construction, massive traffic jams have occurred.

So I think they are still trying but couldn't find current documentation of the effort. If anyone else can, please enlighten us.

Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Don't worry TDM (Traffic Demand Management) will solve everything, ho ha ha ha ha.......!

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 19, 2017 at 1:12 am

@Marie, not just an exclusive Bus Rapid Transit lane at the center median, but also still the shared lane with Bus Not-so-Rapid at the opposite curb. I think VTA light rail would fit nicely in the remaining lane. /sarcasm

Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 19, 2017 at 6:12 am

I had relatives at Webster House and buses had to stop at the signal at Webster/Lytton. During the summer that was a total blast of bus fumes and annoyance. Buses are a total mess on the surrounding street area.
Note on Forest and Middlefield - the drainage ditch is low so once you figure that you have to cross slowly and that creates a problem. Maybe the street crew can check if that is a standard or just poorly constructed. People have to slow on the turn onto Forest with light, no light or no cars.

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