Mon09012014

News

Residents voice safety, traffic concerns at Blach

The Los Altos City Council may fast-track pending capital improvement projects near Blach Intermediate School after neighbors voiced concerns Oct. 25 over traffic hazards during student drop-off times.

According to a city staff report, safety measures are currently slated for installation during the city’s 2013-2014 fiscal year and include the construction of a pathway along Carmel Terrace during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Los Altos Councilman David Casas said the council would likely discuss the projects during its midyear budget review in January.

“It makes sense to review the timeline,” he said.

At issue is a one-year pilot project, approved by the city in November 2009. The city erected street signs prohibiting drivers from dropping off students at the rear entrance of the school along Carmel Terrace and Altamead Drive. The project also established a residential parking permit program for the streets’ residents.

A handful of residents raised questions about the traffic effects of the pilot project, stating that it created unsafe conditions for students at the school. Karen Van De Vanter, a resource specialist at Blach, told the city council that a couple of students have been struck by cars already this year.

“Right now, with those signs in place, there is a nightmare in front of the school with all of the traffic going to one place,” Van De Vanter said. “There is no reason to have all of the traffic routed to one place.”

Carmel Terrace resident Carol Commendatore, however, said she favors keeping the “No Blach School Drop-Off” signs in place.

“Now it is safe for children and adults to walk and ride bikes to school,” she told the council.

Casas noted that the installation of a no-right-turn sign at the corner of Eastwood Drive and Miramonte Avenue in 2004, coupled with the signs in place at Carmel Terrace and Altamead Drive, has created a domino effect that exacerbates traffic congestion at the main entrance of the school. That entrance, located on Covington Road, is the lone drop-off spot for students, he added.

Casas said drivers who drop off children at Blach also bear a portion of the responsibility.

“Most of the violators, both in speed and accidents around the schools, are the direct result of parents,” Casas said. “The parents have to take it upon themselves to be safe. That will make the situation better.”

At a meeting last January to review the findings of a traffic circulation study conducted by Fehr & Peers, the council directed city staffers to keep the signs at Blach’s rear entrance in place until capital improvements around the neighborhood are complete. In addition, the council directed staff to undertake an access and circulation study one year after the completion of the improvements.

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