Wednesday Nov 7 comment deadline for Willow/101 interchange

Caltrans is taking comments through tomorrow, Wednesday November 7 on what they should consider in the environmental study of a revamped interchange at Willow and Highway 101, at the border of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

A presentation from Caltrans in Menlo Park was silent on bicycle and pedestrian safety, prompting Council Members Kirsten Keith, Kelly Fergusson, and Andy Cohen to urge Caltrans to create a design that was safer for biking and walking. The Willow interchange is a major safety problem in the commute corridor to Facebook, the upcoming Bohannon development, and other businesses near the Bay, and threatens residents in Menlo Park who walk for everyday school, shopping and daily life.

All of the options Caltrans is considering will remove at least some loops from the current 1950s era cloverleaf design. These create merges which add delays and reduce safety for everyone including drivers. Emerging best practices call for a “diamond” design with T-intersections and normal traffic lights, rather than continuous on-ramps.

Last night, at Menlo Park’s Bicycle Commission meeting, Commissioner Harding spoke in favor of the proposed “Compact Diamond” design alternative, which removes all but two merges.

The best local example of a highway interchange that prioritizes bike and pedestrian safety is the Stevens Creek/880/280 Interchange Project in Santa Clara County. Many of our recommendations below are derived from this design.

Peninsula Transportation Alternatives is sending a comment letter urging Caltrans to make the project safer. Can you send your own comment letter by Wednesday, November 7 to Yolanda Rivas, Branch Chief, Caltrans District 4, yolanda_rivas@dot.ca.gov. For a simple letter, urge Caltrans to focus more attention on bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Here are the highlights of the recommendations from Peninsula Transportation Alternatives:
* Encourage Caltrans to place higher priority on non-motorized access and safety than is typical for highway interchange projects.
* Recommend the “Compact Diamond” design (see below) which removes all but two merges; has less impacts on neighboring properties; does not create “cul de sacs” on local streets reducing neighborhood connectivity; and has lower construction costs than other alternatives.
* Include traffic signals at all intersections between the Highway 101 on-ramps and off-ramps and
Willow Road
* Keep the radius of right hand turns as near to 90 degrees as technically feasible in order to reduce vehicle speeds in the turn and reduce vehicle-bicycle conflicts
* Continuous, high-quality bike lanes on Willow Road through through the crossing
* Continuous 12 foot wide sidewalks through the project area
* High visibility pedestrian crosswalks with “zebra” striping
* Pedestrian-actuated signals at all crosswalks, and bicycle-actuated loop detectors
at all intersections.
* Consider the relative safely of each design alternatives for all user groups: motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and persons with disabilities
* Gather data for collisions on Highway 101 between Marsh Road and University Ave, Willow Road between O’Brien Drive and Durham Street, including accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians.

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