Plan to ease Willows gridlock approved

Above, vehicles clog the streets near Arnold Way and Durham St. in Menlo Park. Photo from Ana Uribe Ruiz.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Menlo Park City Council last night (Dec. 5) approved a list of items designed to improve traffic in the Willows neighborhood, which has been so bad a man allegedly
brandished a gun during a case of road-rage.

Traffic is backed up from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Willows, which borders East Palo Alto and Palo Alto due to Caltrans’ construction on the Willow Road-Highway 101 overpass.

About a month ago Caltrans shifted the on-ramps.

If you’re headed east on Willow and want to get on Highway 101, the on-ramp, which used to be in the right lane, is now in the left lane. That’s causing confusion and the new stoplight is adding to the bottleneck on the already congested overpass.

Gregory Gibson, 22, of Danville, was arrested on Nov. 29 after he felt threatened by another driver and brandished a gun, said police Cmdr. Dave Bertini.

This incident horrified residents, who pointed out that a preschool is located about a block away.

Residents worried

Residents are also worried about their children as they bike to school. Stephanie Zeller told the council that when she’s at work in San Francisco, she watches an app on her phone that tracks her 13-year-old son to ensure he gets to school safely.

“Every day when my son’s dot appears at his school, I am so grateful that he made it alive,” Zeller said.

While things have improved slightly for residents in the area since the council on Nov. 15 approved putting up no-through-traffic signs in the neighborhood, traffic is still a problem for Willows residents.

“Traffic has been bad, but it’s not carmageddon level anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’s solved,” said resident Chris Andrews.

Bertini also said that two officers and two parking enforcement workers have been patrolling the Willows during commute time and police have been parking empty patrol cars to discourage people from driving recklessly.

The council approved temporary measures in a 4-0 vote, with Catherine Carlton absent. The measures include the following:

• Signs saying “No right turn, 3-7 p.m. weekdays,” will be put up at O’Keefe, Chester and Durham streets. (The city may later put up a sign at Gilbert Avenue);

• Signs saying “No left turn, 3-7 p.m. weekdays” will be placed to restrict left turns from Woodland Avenue to Baywood Avenue.

• Signs saying “No access to Willow Road” will be placed at Laurel Avenue at Chester Street and Menalto Avenue at Chester and Green Street.

• A partial sidewalk bulb-out will be constructed at Middlefi eld Road and Woodland Avenue.

The city also approved $275,000 to improve signal timing in the area. Additionally, the council authorized Assistant City Manager Chip Taylor, Transportation
Manager Nikki Nagaya and Senior Transportation Engineer Angela Obeso to change any of the approved traffic measures if needed. The council will review the Willows traffic issue at a meeting in January.