East Palo Alto looking into making University Avenue a toll road

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BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Commuters who use University Avenue in East Palo Alto may have to pay to use the road if city officials decide to continue down the path of a toll for the road.

East Palo Alto’s City Council last week discussed ways to reduce and manage traffic in the town, and one of the options discussed was whether to have a type of toll, called congestion pricing, on University Avenue as a way to deter commuters.

Congestion pricing is when drivers would pay to use the road during certain times — such as during rush hour.

East Palo Alto officials have not picked which option they would like to pursue, but many obstacles still stand in the way of being able to enact such a plan.

At the council’s Oct. 8 meeting, most council members said they want Public Works Director Kamal Fallaha and his team to keep looking into whether charging drivers to use University is a possibility.

One big hoop the council would have to jump through is getting the backing of a state legislator to take the issue to Sacramento.

According to consultant Michelle Hunt, local agencies cannot charge for people to use a public road unless given permission by the legislature.

Getting support outside East Palo Alto

Councilman Carlos Romero said he’s been told by some at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that it’s unlikely the city will get a legislator behind the tolls.

Romero also said he wants to hear from Menlo Park and maybe Palo Alto on the toll roads.

But Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones commented that it’s possible to get support for a toll road in East Palo Alto since San Francisco was able to get legislative support for a toll road for tourists on Lombard Street.

The Lombard Street toll proposal made it through both the state Senate and Assembly, but was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom, who said the tolls would create “social equity issues,” saying that access to the street ought to be available to all.

Wallace-Jones pointed out that the Lombard toll request was brought forth by residents being irritated by tourists and that the congestion there is seasonal, while the congestion that East Palo Altans face is every day.

Romero questioned whether the city needs to charge a toll to everyone or if it should only be for commuters during rush hour.

Developer also suggested tolls

This is not the first time toll roads have been discussed this year. Developer Bill Uhrig brought up the topic at a May 30 community meeting for his 1.3 million square foot office project at 2020 Bay Road. Uhrig brought up toll roads as part of his response as to how to deal with traffic his project would create.

The topic was also broached at a July 17 Public Works and Transportation Committee meeting where many of the commissioners said they want residents to be able to bypass the tolls.

Fallaha and Hunt’s team will bring back more information about converting University into a toll road and other traffic fixes, such as a bus only lane down University and adding traffic cops to the city, in December.

26 Comments

  1. I guess we should be grateful to NY developers — who want to build even more offices to worsen the jobs/housing imbalance — for suggesting toll roads. That was Uhrig’s “solution” when residents raised concerns about the traffic impact of his office project.

    Tolls won’t cut traffic on commute routes. People have to get to and from work. It’s tough enough for the average person to live here without imposing fees just to use public roads.

    Developers are the ones who should be paying hefty impact fees for the problems they cause. Better yet, there should be a moratorium on offices until housing can catch up — if that’s even possible. We just don’t have the infrastructure to support the humongous office projects up and down the peninsula.

  2. Cities that don’t allow developers to keep up with market demand for local, location-efficient housing should be made to pay for pushing housing (and affordability) out into the far fringes, causing unsustainable long-distance soul-crushing “super commuting” to clog our highways, bridges and local streets and communities.

  3. Why dont you close University Ave in East Palo Alto during peak traffic time. Close it at the entrance to Dumbarton Bridge. The way it was many, many, many years ago. Divert all traffic through Will Rd or Marsh Rd.

  4. This is a ridiculous to have people pay for toll on a public street maybe if there better paying jobs and affordable housing. Maybe people wouldn’t have to drive far from there home. If they could work in there city were they live and affordable housing in there city this would maybe help. Stop trying find a way to take more money out the American people pockets.

  5. This is absolutely ridiculous and will guarantee a lawsuit against the city of East Palo Alto. This will force more traffic onto other roads like Willow and Marsh making them even more congested. The answer is not to do toll roads the answer is to start limiting office development until the road infrastructure can keep up with what’s already built

  6. The answer is a southern approach to the Dumbarton at Embarcadero instead of putting the burden of southern approach bridge traffic through residential areas in one of the poorest communities in the Bay Area. However, citizens of Palo Alto nixed that on multiple occasions. This is the next best solution.

  7. They just built a 101 ramp for Willow Road Exit. Need to take extend that ramp as a flyover to 84 on top of Willow. That will significantly reduce traffic on University and Willow. Have EPA and Menlo Park city agree, and get developers (and FB & others) pay for the flyover.

  8. They just built a 101 ramp for Willow Road Exit. Need to take extend that ramp as a flyover to 84 on top of Willow. That will significantly reduce traffic on University and Willow. Have EPA and Menlo Park city agree, and get developers (and FB & others) pay for the flyover.

  9. Piecemeal solutions don’t work. Public transport can work when part of a unifed transport, housing, traffic and policing programme. Generally communities don’t recognize this until serious economic damage sets in.

  10. Piecemeal solutions don’t work. Public transport can work when part of a unifed transport, housing, traffic and policing programme. Generally communities don’t recognize this until serious economic damage sets in. (Second attempt to post)

  11. Bill Uhrig needs to be stopped. We need less ignorant developers here. I have to commute this way on the regular (thankfully not during traffic times). I would be happy to never having to. I am just trying to work and save enough money to leave the area.
    Bill Uhrig, pay my rent instead and provide me a substantial income to live and I will never take that route again.
    His proposition screams “predator” and needs to be put in place. Enough is enough!

  12. I personally absolutely love the idea. They would have to implement it for Willow Road as well though. I don’t think a fly over would be safe unless it’s over someone else’s house and not mine or my family’s. I was an East Palo Alto resident for 30 years and am now an East Menlo Park resident. Between the hoirs of 5pm-7pm, I can’t even get onto my street or into/out of my driveway. I’m sick of it so yes, please charge people to use the roads. Commuters not having work or affordable housing in their cities is not my cities problem.

  13. Where would the toll booths go? And wouldn’t the booths need some lanes where cars would wait to get through the booths? I think there’s enough land to do this on the east side, but I don’t know about the approach from the west. It would be a good idea to stop the 8-story building that’s going to replace the Drew Pharmacy and use that land for the toll booths.

  14. I’m for it only if the residents of East Palo Alto are excempt. Everyone should have a driver license when driving. And I would think it would have your home address on there. If it has an EPA address you’re free of charge. (; Also, adopt the process they use for the toll at the Golden Gate bridge. Take a picture of your driver’s license and send you a bill. This way we are not adding to the traffic problem.

    • So, Patricia, I assume you will then be OK with Palo Alto exempting its residents from driving on PA streets, Mt. View exempting its residents, etc. We’re all in this together! ALL the streets are congested and we’re all suffering.

  15. Create a transit-only lane on the bridge and increase the bridge toll to $10+; that should lessen car traffic between EPA and the bridge… if it doesn’t, just keep increasing the bridge toll. Ideally, we will get Dumbarton rail built soon.

  16. The problem is that there is only ONE way to get into and out of Palo Alto from the Dumbarton. The answer is not a toll road. The answer is that there needs to be new infrastructure built to handle the increased traffic. University was built many many years ago and is not set up to handle these many cars. Our community leaders need to step up and offer real solutions, not make it so expensive that regular folks can’t afford to go to work.

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