City traffic cameras count cars at 7 possible stop-sign locations

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The city of Los Altos is evaluating traffic data captured with camera poles this month to assess the need for stop signs on Main and State streets.

The city of Los Altos implemented a stop-sign policy six months ago in response to residents’ requests for new signs, and the first round of candidates entered the vetting process this month.

Portable camera poles padlocked to signs and utility poles surveilled seven intersections in or near downtown, recording traffic flow – and providing a tip-off to passersby that a new project was underway.

“Every once in a while we would receive a request from a citizen to put a stop sign in a particular intersection,” said Erica Ray, the city’s public information coordinator.

She added that the policy provided a systematic way to begin evaluating those requests, and that “these poles are part of the analysis.”

The stop-sign policy describes the conditions that would make a location eligible for a new stop sign, going into specificity about circumstances in which drivers might not be able to safely apply the right-of-way rule without need for a sign. Traffic volume, pedestrian activity and obscured sightlines appear on the list of roadway characteristics that could make an intersection eligible.

The first round of vetting called for camera poles at seven locations: Second Street at State Street, Second at Main Street, Third Street at State, Third at Main, Fourth Street at State, Orange Avenue at Lee Street and the intersections of Sherwood Avenue at Acacia and Leveroni lanes.

After a resident submits a request, city officials estimate that a three-month data collection will prove whether traffic safety would improve with a new stop sign. Major intersections must have at least 300 vehicles per hour to qualify for consideration, with an average delay to minor street traffic of at least 30 seconds per vehicle. Those minimum volumes are decreased for roads with average traffic speeds exceeding 35 mph, and for residential neighborhoods with lighter traffic flow but other criteria making a stop likely to improve safety, such as peculiar intersection geometry impairing driver visibility.

The city’s policy specifies that signs should not be considered a means of slowing traffic to a posted speed limit, or to downgrade a collector road into a local street. A proposed stop sign also might be disqualified if it would either create significant new traffic queuing or adversely affect an adjacent intersection.

For more information on the city’s criteria for successfully adding a new stop sign, search for “stop sign.”

Have an opinion about adding a stop sign on Main or State streets downtown? Add a comment on this story at

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