“After three decades of lobbying, negotiation, and litigation, the (Sand Hiil) road was finally completed to El Camino Real in 2001. Only the existing portion from just north of Alameda de las Pulgas to just south of Stanford Shopping Center was widened to four lanes; the new extension past the shopping center was built only as two lanes.” – Wikipedia
What’s Wrong With The Current Intersection At Sand Hill And El Camino Real
When you read the traffic circulation section of the Specific Plan you immediately notice that there is no treatment of the major El Camino Real intersection which lies just south of the Menlo Park-Palo Alto border.
This is a big omission because the existing configuration UNNECESSARILY causes Palo Alto Alma – Sand Hill Road traffic to travel (a) through the intersection twice and (b) between El Camino Real and Cambridge Avenue twice. Effectively, Cambridge Avenue becomes a virtual pivot point for a traffic loop and the short length of El Camino Real part of an ingress and exit to and from Sand Hill and Alma. Also, the traffic coming from Alma must cross multiple lanes of ECR to reach the left turn at Cambridge, and at peak traffic times this can be extremely difficult. If a westbound driver either cannot safely reach this left turn or the left turn line is too long, they likely continue and either make a u-turn back to Sand Hill at Middle Ave OR turn left and travel to Oak to reach Sand Hill Road. This configuration contributes significantly to current Menlo Park traffic congestion on a stretch of El Camino that is expected to carry much more when the 500 ECR development is completed.
This connection was controversial when built, and it will become a much bigger problem when Stanford completes its development at 500 ECR in Menlo Park. Palo Alto fought against a direct connection between Alma and Sand Hill, and Caltrans yielded to its demands. While Menlo Park clearly had skin in the game it lacked any authority to stop this decision. Why Caltrans accepted this odd solution remains a mystery to me. There is substantial traffic flowing through this intersection.
What Menlo Park Should Do About This Problem
Since Stanford must perform a project-level Environmental Impact Report for 500 ECR, Menlo Park should require Stanford to study the expected impact of the current configuration and a direct connection between Alma and Sand Hill Road. It should also require Stanford to study the impact of making the narrow two-lane section of Sand Hill Road between El Camino and Arboretum four lanes wide.