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'Intelligent signal' to support traffic flow

A downtown Los Altos traffic improvement measure costing $416,100 should aid the flow of vehicles, but motorists won’t see any visible alteration at the problem intersection.

The project features a new traffic control cabinet in the stoplight at San Antonio Road and Cuesta Drive/First Street to update signal phasing and timing.

The Los Altos City Council unanimously approved the transportation measure earlier this month, although Councilman Jean Mordo called into question the expense of upgrading one intersection’s signal.

“I think it’s an enormous amount of money to spend for saving people a few minutes on their commute,” he said.

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins called it a “more intelligent signal” that will also save staff time and resources. The system responds to real-time traffic conditions to move traffic more efficiently. New pavement loop detectors, part of the overall project, also benefit bicyclists.

“When the bicycle gets to the intersection, it will be treated as a vehicle at the intersection,” triggering the signal to provide a green light, Public Works Director Susanna Chan said.

The city financed the upgrades with $281,100 drawn from traffic impact fees and $135,000 from state vehicle registration grant funds. The city council awarded the construction to Mike Brown Electric for $347,400; design, advertising and contingency costs run $68,700.

The new control cabinet makes the signal consistent with Santa Clara County standard requirements, enabling the city to eventually contract the maintenance to the county for better coordination with the nearby light at San Antonio Road and Foothill Expressway.

“The coordination of those signals is critical to the movement of traffic through the intersection,” Councilwoman Megan Satterlee said. “And if we do not have the equipment that the county can coordinate with, then we get left behind and the intersection just erodes even further.”

Chan said city staff intends to eventually upgrade the entire system to the current standard.

“This one rose to the top because of the fact that we have some grant funds toward the project, and also because of the coordination issues,” she said.

The city owns 16 signals, five of which have been upgraded to county standards and one that is jointly owned with Cupertino, according to Chan.

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