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Planned Page Mill signal lights meet resistance

Los Altos Hills residents are mounting opposition to Caltrans plans for up to six traffic lights and new traffic safety measures at the north- and southbound exit ramps from Interstate 280 onto Page Mill Road.

“Would you rather spend $7 million and let it go down the drain or spend more … to implement a systemwide approach?” said Garo Kiremidjian, a resident involved in the effort to petition the town, Santa Clara County and Caltrans to delay the project until further study can justify the need and benefit of installing lights at the intersection.

Kiremidjian estimated that more than 100 people have signed petitions that began circulating door-to-door at the end of February. Residents fear that the traffic lights could reduce property values if local roads become bypass routes for drivers looking to escape congestion. They question whether the proposed changes would alleviate the regional transportation problems causing traffic backups on Page Mill and I-280. Out-of-date accident data and a lack of alternative proposals are also cited as points of contention in the petitions.

The petition process follows earlier objections lodged by Los Altos Hills residents in 2013 through public comments and citizen feedback. City Engineer Richard Chiu reported that Caltrans was notified of the public comments gathered on the town website but said “there was no input, comment, request or urging from town staff or the town Traffic Safety Committee regarding any of the signals that Caltrans proposed.”

The Traffic Safety Committee passed a motion Feb. 25 urging the city council to ask Caltrans to postpone the project until after the county addresses capacity problems on adjacent stretches of Page Mill.

“People come off that exit mad – I can see it in their eyes. They want to make up time, and they speed on our streets, which makes it dangerous for us,” said Martha Bowden, committee chairwoman, during a report to the council in February. “If signalization transfers car backup to our streets, is this really a good solution?”

Bowden said residents have offered alternatives, including new Park and Ride lots at El Monte, Alpine and Sand Hill roads, the addition of a bus turnaround at the interchange and roundabouts. According to town staff, the committee is slated to provide a project update at the March council meeting.

Town staff confirmed that Los Altos Hills is working with Caltrans to set a date for a special council meeting to discuss the proposal. Although formal project plans for signalization are not yet complete, Caltrans is scheduled to present a scoping document for the project in April.

Whether public opposition can change Caltrans’ plans remains to be seen.

“I’m wondering if this is becoming like the Titanic – too difficult to turn around,” Kiremidjian said.

To view the petition, project plans and updates, visit pagemill280.org.

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