The Mountain View City Council last week prohibited left turns from Clark Avenue onto El Camino Real after Caltrans finishes work on a controversial traffic signal for the intersection.
The council in general agreed with concerns from residents in nearby Los Altos and Mountain View neighborhoods about increased traffic congestion that could result from allowing protected left-hand turns.
“I’m really disappointed the state didn’t see the light of day on this one,” Councilman Mike Kasperzak said of Caltrans’ decision to forge ahead with the $1 million-plus project.
City officials had urged Caltrans not to pursue the signal. Councilmembers and some residents suggested a pork-chop-shaped traffic island to prevent left turns.
Caltrans officials authorized the traffic signal based on studies that disclosed 27 collisions at the intersection between 2001 and 2006. The project at Clark includes Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant wheelchair ramps, extending the raised concrete median island, new asphalt and re-striping.
“Another stoplight is lazy thinking and planning, and an unnecessary interruption in traffic flow that is already a problem on El Camino,” said resident Bob Sutis. “There are or would be 30 stoplights between Encinal (Avenue) in Menlo Park and Grant Road along El Camino. That’s about one every quarter mile, and if you count the ones between San Antonio (Road) and Shoreline (Boulevard), the ratio per mile is even worse.”
Other residents feared a traffic signal would entice more cut-through auto traffic on Higgins, Almond and Clark avenues instead of staying on El Monte Avenue to reach El Camino.
Caltrans officials, however, said the signal would have little impact on traffic in the neighborhoods.
“This may help alleviate some of the cut-through traffic that might be attracted by the new traffic signal and its potential to attract motorists who wish to avoid the El Camino Real/El Monte and El Camino Real/Escuela intersection,” said resident Stephen Friedman of the council’s decision to ban left turns.
Friedman cited city reports of 4,000 auto trips daily on Clark near El Camino Real, “far more” than the 1,500 trips considered normal for such a street.
Still others were concerned about bicycle and pedestrian impacts.
“My main concern with any changes to the intersection is to preserve and improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and access to and from the Gemello and Los Altos High School neighborhoods, especially for students going to school,” said resident Terry Barton.
The council agreed to request an additional crosswalk on the west side of Clark, across El Camino. Caltrans initially proposed one crosswalk on the east side of Clark.
“Crosswalks on both sides of Clark would be safer and reduce travel times for pedestrians, especially since Rengstorff (Avenue) already has only a single crosswalk on the west side of the street,” Barton said. “I think a design with crosswalks on both sides would better support goals of improving pedestrian safety.”
The council also directed city staff to monitor traffic impacts for at least six months after completion of the Caltrans project and report their findings.