Sun10262014

Clark traffic signal a big waste of money: Editorial

At a recent Mountain View Chamber of Commerce event, Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-24th District) indicated that the state is back on the road to fiscal responsibility. Gordon cited some $20 billion in budget cuts.

That’s good news, but he and other state representatives might want to consider the state Department of Transportation for more cuts. If Caltrans’ planned traffic signal for the Clark Avenue/El Camino Real intersection is any indication, there could be much money going down the proverbial drain.

Caltrans plans to spend $1.3 million to install a traffic signal that is simply not needed.

The only possible rationale for the light, a protected left-turn signal from Clark onto El Camino, has been prohibited by the Mountain View City Council. The council banned left turns at the intersection to protect Mountain View and Los Altos neighborhoods, whose residents fear that the new signal would encourage motorists to cut through residential streets to reach Clark.

As it is now, motorists attempting to make left turns from Clark have to wait a while for heavy traffic on El Camino to clear. With the traffic signal, they could make left turns conveniently.

There’s a better alternative to a traffic signal, at a small fraction of the cost. A traffic island blocking the left-turn lane and allowing only right turns would do the trick. Add a sign, if you must, that reads “No Left Turns.”

Councilmembers and residents posed such an alternative, but Caltrans went ahead with its own proposal. The department’s rationale is that an unusually high number of collisions occur at the intersection; officials cited 28 during a five-year period. Seven of them, they said, involved left turns, leading to their conclusion that the signal was still needed – with or without the left-turn option.

However, think of the increase in expensive fender-benders along El Camino as motorists are forced to start and stop at short intervals because there are so many stoplights. Then add one more costly traffic signal to the mess.

Actual work has yet to begin on the Clark signal. We would appreciate it if Caltrans had a change of mind on this project.

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