Developer suggests using tolls to reduce traffic in East Palo Alto

This story was originally printed in the Daily Post on May 31. Don’t be the last to know — pick up the Daily Post every morning at more than 1,000 locations.

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.

Local hiring?

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.


  1. Talk about developer giveaways. Instead of “congestion pricing” how about reducing the congestion by NOT adding new offices???

    • Exactly, the direct cause of traffic congestion suggests tolls for the people that live in EPA. Bad idea. People are barely making it, as it is.

  2. Eliminate the Greedy Developers, that want to make a profit off of Innocent Residents. WALLA, no Traffic.
    Uhrig kept saying that He was just the Messenger. Don’t blame Him.
    But what upset me the most was when he said the Citizens fought against being the Murder Capital. (Dog Whistle) Why did he have to open OLD wounds and poor Salt into them?
    Stereotypes and Labels.
    Patronizing Citizens that came to His MANDATORY Required meeting in “Good Faith”, to Hear him out about Why We should want 5 Buildings that will do us any purpose?
    Most of us were in agreement, that Another project of Comfort and Quality that the Citizens can use, would be MORE to Our Wants and Needs.
    After the 4 groups of input. We noticed that they chose to ignore a lot of our input.
    They Cherry picked and didn’t apply a lot of what We said to them.
    The Truth be known of the Facts. We could NOT fight against “MURDER CAPITAL”.
    It was futile because OUTSIDERS were contributing to the situation. Then came the Investors that began buying Rental Units that Housed perpetrators and Their OUTSIDE Clients that came in to purchase Drugs and to do other ill’s..”
    Also….A LOT of Murders were from Bodies being Dump into EPA.

    There were a LOT Of Variables that existed back then.

  3. Some people don’t want to accept changes…. but changes are coming no mater if you want or not. You can not live in the stagnation

  4. I work, don’t live in EPA. Am I confused but didn’t businesses cause congestion without thought to traffic consequences? residents/workers are to pay toll when they have lived in or came to work in the area? Shouldn’t big business pay? They widen the rodes, not for ease of traffic congestion but to make room in actuality for themselves? It seems like 1 big effin’ bs circle. They move in, we get a job and we pay the toll?

  5. First Source Hiring, the 30% referenced in this article, only applies to Redevelopment Projects, not all new construction in East Palo Alto. To the best of my knowledge, 2020 Bay Road did not use redevelopment funds, and thus are not in any way compelled to hire from the community.

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