Wed08202014

News

Caltrans signals plan to modify Page Mill, I-280 interchanges


Photo By: Courtesy of CalTrans
Photo Courtesy Of Caltrans Caltrans deemed the intersections on Page Mill Road at Interstate 280 in Los Altos Hills a safety hazard and proposed new traffic lights and design modifications.

The four-way stops at Page Mill Road when exiting Interstate 280, particularly in the southbound direction toward Los Altos Hills, frustrate motorists – and, according to Caltrans, they’re dangerous.

Caltrans engineer Ramiel Gutierrez said the agency has initiated a project to mitigate accidents at the busy intersections.

“We have an accident history at both of these intersections, and they’re correctable by regulating movement by signal,” he said.

According to Gutierrez, the southbound intersection averages more than five accidents per 15-month period, qualifying for funding from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program and the Minor Program, which earmarks funds for traffic projects that address safety risks.

A preliminary proposal for traffic lights at the southbound and northbound ramps from Interstate 280 onto Page Mill and for traffic moving east and west on Page Mill, including ancillary sidewalks and crossing elements for pedestrians and cyclists, is projected to cost $3 million.

Because Caltrans owns the property at the interchanges, Los Altos Hills bears no financial obligation. Caltrans noted that project funding has yet to be allocated, and a study report and final engineering documents could take at least three years to complete.

Although the Los Altos Hills City Council’s consensus is that the intersection is dangerous, some councilmembers and the town’s planning commissioners expressed the need to solicit further community input before proceeding.

“This is going to affect about a third of town,” said Richard Partridge, chairman of the Los Altos Hills Planning Commission, of the six stoplights proposed and how little residents know about the plan. “I think (councilmembers) really have an obligation to let people know this is coming. … If you have people coming with pitchforks and torches, you know that you’ve stirred up a heart attack.”

After reviewing Caltrans’ initial plan April 4, planning commissioners shared their reservations with the council. They determined that the project was inconsistent with the town’s rural nature, could cause an increase in traffic and required deeper study before progressing.

Even if the council hosted a public hearing and ultimately objected to the changes, Gutierrez said there is little the town could do to stop the Caltrans improvements.

“We’re kind of on the hook ourselves to do something,” he said. “Now, obviously, if you write a letter and want to stop it, it could change the mechanisms a little bit.”

Gutierrez warned the council that it could be liable for accidents at the intersection if it stalls Caltrans’ efforts to improve safety.

Councilmembers said they want to take steps to ensure that the project doesn’t come as an unpleasant surprise to residents.

“We need to get a process in place,” said Councilman John Radford. “Then, no matter what happens, we can at least be assured that we got everyone involved (through a public hearing and committee review) ... so that we know we did thorough due diligence in a timely matter to complete the project.”

View the preliminary plans for the proposal here.

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