BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The developer of a 1.4 million-square-foot office project in East Palo Alto suggested at a community meeting Thursday (May 30) that to deal with the traffic the project will create, the city could start charging tolls to enter and leave the city.
London, Singapore and Stockholm charge drivers a toll to enter their system to reduce traffic congestion, and New York City decided in April to follow their lead for vehicles using roads in Manhattan south of Central Park, the Associated Press reported. The Manhattan toll will likely be more than $10. San Francisco is also considering a toll, something planners are calling “congestion pricing.”
New York developer Bill Uhrig proposed a toll or a way of metering cars in response to concerns that the development he’s proposing at 2020 Bay Road would worsen traffic congestion in East Palo Alto, where the streets are already crowded during rush hours as commuters fill University Avenue to get between Highway 101 and the Dumbarton Bridge.
Uhrig said that if East Palo Alto residents banded together to fight traffic, the problem could be solved. He pointed out that EPA was considered to be the murder capital of America in the early 1990s. But he said residents banded together to fight that problem, and they could do the same for traffic.
Another idea Uhrig suggested was extending Demeter Street east, around the subdivision that includes Fordham Street, and then west to University Avenue.
Uhrig said his project would bring 5,000 employees to East Palo Alto.
Resident Shawn Love asked how many of those employees would live in EPA.
Uhrig said he expected that about 90% would live elsewhere. Many of the two dozen or so residents in attendance at the meting groaned in response.
The city has a law that requires large employers to hire at least 30% city residents.
The Amazon deal
But City Council allowed Amazon and its landlord, the Sobrato Organization, to skirt the requirement when it opened its facility at 2100 University Ave. Council allowed Amazon to bypass the law in return for opening a job center to help residents find employment and assist them in writing resumes and developing interview skills.
There was no mention at last night’s meeting if Uhrig was going to seek an Amazon exception for his project.
Residents also asked if the soil at 2020 Bay Road would be safe, since the site used to be home to Romic Environmental Technologies, which handled hazardous materials.
Uhrig showed a video from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that discussed how sites with toxic soil can be remediated so that they are safe for employees.
Both the city council and planning commission will be reviewing the project at study sessions in July.