Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blach Neighboorhood Traffic & Los Altos City Council

Last night I attended the Los Altos City Council meeting. The special session was called to discuss a consultant report on traffic in the Blach School neighborhood.

I serve on the LASD/City committee, so I have followed this discussion pretty closely. We've had a number of problems around Blach, made progressively worse as streets on each side of the school tried to make it harder for folks to use those routes to access the school.

I'm not unsympathetic to the concern. In some of the comments, I hear genuine concern for student safety, which is my #1 priority in these discussions. Unfortunately, each time residents have asked the city to take measures to reduce traffic on one street, it gets worse somewhere else.

I was pleased with this study in particular because it looked at the entire situation as a whole. This is the only reasonable way to distribute the load of 500 students who need to get to their neighborhood school. The consultant recommended several key steps, which I have urged the city to adopt:

  • Place a special traffic light at the intersection of Miramonte and Covington to ease congestion at that intersection

  • Create a class I bike path on Covington to separate students from vehicular traffic along this very busy road.

  • Create a Class I bike lane on Carmel Terrace to facilitate safe bicycle access to the rear of the school

  • Remove the "No Stopping" restrictions along Carmel Terrace and Altamead Dr, and make several improvements that would facilitate safe drop offs at the rear entrance to the school

  • various other improvements to other approach roadways, crosswalks, and intersections around the school

  • Through pure luck or misfortune, I wound up being the first person to provide public comments last night. What I said then was only reinforced by the 30-or-so speakers who came after me. I told the Council that there is no such thing as a perfect plan, but that I urged them to adopt as many of the consultant's recommendations as possible, and to do so with as much speed as they could muster. People will undoubtedly object to various aspects of the plan: Some are concerned that a traffic light might "bring more traffic". Others want to adopt all of the changes except the one right on the street where they live. Nonetheless, I urged the council to take action now.

    In May 2010, we had a student-car collision near Blach school. I am very, very concerned that if we don't act soon, we will have more such accidents, some with permanent and perhaps fatal consequences.

    I appreciate how difficult this is. Thirty years ago, Los Altos was a rural community. Now, though, the community has grown substantially, and the volume of traffic is here to stay. Asking to keep one street closed just pushes the issue to other streets, and increases the concentration of students somewhere else. We owe it to our fellow residents, and their children, to ensure they have safe routes to school. The answer to that lies not in keeping one area free of student traffic, but in opening as many pathways to the school as we possibly can. I hope that we can all work together to improve student safety and access to this important neighborhood school.

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