Wed07302014

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City eyes June to decide on Blach traffic projects

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Barbara Crill, above, helps students cross the Miramonte Avenue and Covington Road intersection.

Residents anticipating traffic-mitigating projects around Blach Junior High School will have to wait at least until June, when the city of Los Altos approves its next budget.

The city council Jan. 4 voted 4-1 – with Councilwoman Megan Satterlee dissenting – to advise staff to prepare cost estimates for several undertakings, including a bike/pedestrian path along Carmel Terrace and a stoplight at the Miramonte Avenue and Covington Road intersection. Actual construction awaits approval, scheduled for discussion in six months.

“I sometimes feel that we get in our own way,” Satterlee said. “Waiting until June is an example of that.”

“That’s the process,” City Manager Doug Schmitz said in response, noting that the city has until July 1 to adopt its budget.

In addition to the Class 1 bicycle/pedestrian path proposed for the west side of Carmel, which some residents said could prove more dangerous than on-street travel, and the Miramonte/Covington stoplight, Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants’ 200-plus-page report recommended removing the “No Blach School Drop-Off” signs along Altamead Drive and Carmel, provided the city implements the series of improvements.

The council voted 3-2 – with Satterlee and Councilman Jarrett Fishpaw dissenting – to carry out the projects once budgeted.

The signs prevent parents from dropping off children at the rear entrance of the school. Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis said the department installed the signs in 2009 in response to residents’ complaints about traffic and unsafe U-turns on the street.

Blach neighbors and teachers appeared divided on the signs’ removal at a special council meeting last week, held in Los Altos High School’s Eagle Theater.

“The difference (in traffic) is night and day” after the signs were placed, said Carmel Terrace resident Vivian McNulty, who supports keeping the no-drop-off restrictions.

“To thrust all vehicles into one single entrance (the front entrance of Blach) is unconscionable,” said Blach teacher and Mountain View resident Karen VanDeVanter. “The ‘No Stopping’ signs need to come down sooner.”

The suggested four-way stoplight at Miramonte and Covington, which would function as a stop sign during off-peak hours, drew criticism from some residents, who said it would increase volume and speed. The light could help mitigate delays up to 10 minutes at the current four-way stop, according to the report.

“I don’t understand what the light solves,” said Mark Millet, who lives near the intersection. “I’m very worried a light would allow cars to go too fast. … I’m terrified my wife is going to be killed” when driving.

Fehr & Peers consultant Robert Eckols said the light could increase traffic, but the possibility of “a large increase in traffic is not that high.”

Once city staff crafts a more specific proposal with cost estimates for the bike path and stoplight, the council can resume discussion and critique the design.

“Sometimes the best solutions take time,” said Mayor Ron Packard.

To view the entire Fehr & Peers report, visit www.losaltosca.gov.

Contact Elliott Burr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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