News

No quick fix for dangerous intersection

Council delays vote on stoplight at Clark Avenue and El Camino Real

Despite discussion over two meetings, City Council members have yet to agree on a way to stop collisions at Clark Avenue and El Camino Real.

Because 27 collisions -- 18 preventable -- have occurred over five years at the intersection, which resulted in 14 injuries and one death, Caltrans is set to install a stoplight there and had even awarded a contract for its installation.

"It's the 27 accidents," said Nick Saleh of Caltrans, explaining Caltrans' push for the stoplight. "It's a safety issue and we need to take action."

But on Nov. 20, City Council members asked Caltrans to delay the stoplight so the city could gather more information on alternatives. The scrutiny came after outcry from residents of the neighborhood along Clark who said the light would increase traffic on side streets where there are already frustrations over speeding cars.

"If you make it easy (to make lefts onto Clark) by putting in a light, there's going to be an explosion in traffic," said resident Alan Limbach.

There are now 4,000 cars a day using Clark Avenue near El Camino Real, including trips to and from Almond Elementary School and Los Altos High School. Residents say Clark and streets connected to it, such as Marich Way, would be used even more heavily if a stoplight allowed left turns.

"I have kids and they are not allowed to play in the front yard because of traffic," said resident Paul Lesti of Marich Way. "If you make that left turn very easy (from El Camino onto Clark), Marich will just become a freeway and it's already bad."

Residents called for blocking unprotected left turns at the intersection. But Caltrans said that could hurt businesses along El Camino Real, including two adjacent shopping centers.

The idea of installing a stoplight came up in 2001 but neighborhood residents fought it off. It came up again this year with the proposal of a Chick-Fil-A at the intersection and may have been quietly approved without the resulting scrutiny.

According to a study of the 27 collisions at the intersection between Oct. 2001 and Sept. 2006, broadsides were the most common, with 15 cars getting hit by oncoming traffic while turning.

"When I sit on El Camino trying to make a left turn onto Clark, the traffic never stops," said council member Ronit Bryant.

A stoplight would cost the state $500,000.

"Spending a half million isn't going to help if we allow the left turns," said council member Tom Means. "We just need signs that say 'no left turns.' If this helps the state balance their budget by spending less, I'm also for that."

Council members wanted more detail about how the broadsides were occurring before deciding how to change the intersection. Ideas included a new traffic island preventing access across the middle of El Camino Real in certain directions. Mayor Mike Kasperzak suggested a porkchop-shaped median on Clark to prevent lefts onto El Camino Real.

"After driving this intersection 35 years, my guess is most of those broadsides are people turning left off of Clark onto El Camino," Kasperzak said. "You get four or five cars sitting out in the middle of the road, playing chicken."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

OK, I'm baffled. Of 27 collisions, only 18 were preventable? So the other 9 were pre-destined? Please explain how ANY collision could not have been prevented.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kman
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 30, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Solution: "preventing access across the middle of El Camino Real"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GDM
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm

El Camino doesn't need any more stop lights, it is already a night mare, and that intersection is so close to the light at Escuela and then again at El Monte.

Just stop allowing left turns there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Easy
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 1, 2012 at 7:57 am

Wouldn't it be nice if these were all this easy? Don't allow lefts from Clark to El Camino. Simple. That's a difficult left anyway, and those folks can instead go up to Escuela and U-Turn.

"That could hurt businesses along El Camino Real". Are you kidding me?

Another traffic light would be brutal and would create a painful bottleneck in that area.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

There are several businesses there that I have visited for many years. Banning left turns onto El Camino with some type of sign or barrier would make sense, but you also need a way to make an easier transition back to northbound El Camino.


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Posted by MV resident
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

This is bewildering.

"Council members want more information about how the broadsides were occurring...." The council does not need to spend taxpayer dollars for a consultant to announce that broadsides occur because drivers attempting a left turn onto El Camino mistakenly believe they have enough time to turn left in front of oncoming traffic. Duh!

Spending a 1/2 million dollars to add another traffic signal when there are already traffic signals a few blocks in either direction?

I'm actually agreeing with Tom Means (that's a first!) on this one: Put up a "No Left Turn" sign on both El Camino and Clark. Use the same easy strategy that was used at Levin and Grant. Allow right turns only both into and out of Clark, and install the same roadway divider that allows emergency vehicle access.

Why is this such a big deal when they've already solved this problem elsewhere?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 1, 2012 at 8:18 am

And why is the Voice adding to the mentality that every molehill must be made into a mountain by falsely proclaiming in their headline that there is "no quick fix?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Homeowner
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Of course there is a quick fix. Mr Means and Mr Kasperzak have perfectly well thought out (although both solutions just popped into my head after reading the first few sentences) and inexpensive solutions. Why would Caltrans and Mr Saleh immediately jump to the conclusion that we need to spend $500,000 of our money? The "process" (I think the process is called ad hoc bureaucracy) that led to that conclusion is ridiculous if not corrupt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by dc
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I also vote for LET THEM MAKE A U TURN at the next light. It not that far and lot less risk.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I frequent that area and the ONLY thing that will work is to extend the curbing to eliminate any turns into/out of Clark across the center divider. The traffic is moving deceptively fast and even making a left INTO Clark can be hair-raising. El Monte has several entries into the neighborhhood and traffic would actually be lessened. Traffic does NOT need another signal. It is already a gauntlet from Castro to San Antonio.


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Posted by JWubbs
a resident of Gemello
on Dec 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I live a couple blocks from this intersection, and can personally verify it's one of the most dangerous, congested, terrible intersections in this city. I've wondered for 10 years why there is not a light here, it's well nigh impossible to cross at rush hour, and is dangerous at all other times of the day. As much as I will hate to have to sit through ANOTHER light on this small section of El Camino, PUT A GODDAMNED LIGHT IN so people stop being slaughtered!


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Posted by Random thought
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

How the he'll does a traffic signal cost half a million dollars?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm

JWubbs: Finally someone who cares more about people living than whether there are a few more cars in the neighborhood or another light on El Camino. Thank you for restoring my faith in at least a small part of humanity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carol
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Does anybody know how to petition City Council to put in a traffic light at the intersection of Cuesta and Springer? Right now, it's an 8-way stop sign and nobody knows when it's their turn to go. I saw 2 accidents there and witnessed many more near-accidents. Plus, lots of honking because people take their turn when it's not their turn.


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Posted by AC
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

AC is a registered user.

@ Carol

Maybe it's a good idea. I don't live in the neighborhood, so I don't really know. But I do drive through it to get to the Post Office.

I've observed that making eye contact with other drivers helps cue who goes when. Seems like a good habit. I rather like the idea of people being more communicative in their driving habits.


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Posted by Darin
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Darin is a registered user.

Re: "How [...] does a traffic signal cost half a million dollars?"

From Web Link

6. How much does a traffic signal cost?

A signal can cost form a quarter million to half a million dollars to install. Over half of that cost is labor.

A signal controller and cabinet costs about $15000. A mast arm costs almost that much. Signal heads are about $1000 per signal face.

Maintenance is about $8000 per year per signal. This includes parts and labor. Relamping is the primary expense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mom living on Clark
a resident of Gemello
on Dec 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Hi all,

I raised small children while living on Clark Ave and walked them frequently to Castro School and downtown. Crossing El Camino was nearly fatal but walking along sidewalks past the driveways of the strip mall up to the Escuela light and crossing at that light was often a near death experience for all. Cars are out of control there and have way too many driveways and feeder streets too close together at a very wide crossing. Not safe for peds and walking bikes across.

Traffic on El Camino needs to slow down. If drivers 'won't stand for another light' on El Camino they should keep their cars parked until they figure out how to respect others. Businesses, car and bike traffic, and the sustainable behavior of people walking require careful attention, slow speed, and predictable stops. Grow up drivers or surrender your licenses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by saejin
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 6, 2012 at 12:56 am

Accidents at this location are forcing Cal Tran (not city council) to make a change. They could either put a light in or close the divider.
A center divider would solve the car accident issue, but not the Pedestrians crossing without a cross walk issue. I guess that would require a fence on the meridian.

Our government leaders electing to add a signal will help make cars less comfortable to drive, and walking more comfortable. This will help displace those residents that refuse to give up their car centric way of life, and turn Mountain View over to the next wave of residents whose lifestyle choices conform to beliefs that do not use so much energy to save their personal time and effort.


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