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Menlo Park Residents Near Sand Hill Road Lambast Traffic Mitigation Plan

Stanford University Medical Center expected to put at least 10,000 cars on Sand Hill Road when expansion project begins.

Residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Sand Hill Road are not convinced that Stanford Medical Center employees will be willing to bike to work and use public transportation, if and when the Stanford Hospital expansion project is approved later this year. They’re also concerned that patients and employees are going to use their residential roads to circumvent the congestion on Sand Hill.

Kathryn Stevens purchased her home on Sand Hill Circle in 2007, and has watched the traffic on Sand Hill Road grow thicker by the year, especially so after the Rosewood Hotel opened in 2009.

“It is currently taking me at least 30-40 minutes in the evening to drive up Sand Hill Road if I leave any time between 5-7 p.m.,” Stevens said, describing the voyage she makes upon leaving her office in the Stanford Medical Center.

“The journey is three miles, which should take five minutes with no traffic, and sometimes I wonder if it would be quicker if I walked,” she said.

These days, Stevens intentionally stays at work late into the evenings to thwart the traffic jams that form as people try to get to 280.  When that the Stanford Hospital expansion project is expected to put an estimated 10,000 cars on the road during at least one of the rush hours, she said she started to wish that she had purchased a house elsewhere. 

She is one of 369 Stanford Medical Center employees who live in Menlo Park that will be dealing with the inevitable increase in traffic on Sand Hill Road, as new patients and employees travel to the Stanford Medical Center.

The Stanford University Medical Center intends to finalize the plans for an expansion project by late April or May, according to a memo from Michael J. Peterson, Vice President of Special Projects, to James Keene, Palo Alto’s City Manager.  The project will add 1.3 million square feet in hospital, office and clinic space over a span of 20 years, according to this memo. Some buildings would be bulldozed, while others would be modernized.  When the project does begin, the trucks that would take the building materials and workers would use roads such as Sand Hill in Menlo Park to get to the construction site. 

Before Palo Alto greenlights the project, its city staff has to assess the project’s environmental impact report, which details how traffic, noise, and pollution from the project, among other things, would change the pulse of the city. This document identified Sand Hill Road as one of the main arteries that vehicles will course through to reach Stanford Medical Center.

Menlo Park’s Transportation Commission also scrutinized the project documents to discern how it will affect Menlo Park and found many elements within them that would adversely affect residents, including the practicality of the initiatives proposed in the EIR for traffic control.

“Given the cost of residential and commercial property in our community, and the sacrifices many families and individuals have made to live in Meno Park, it is wrong to ask our residents to bear the burden of risk to our community and property values posed by an FEIR bsed on deficient assumptions," states the report it published earlier this week.

During a special meeting last Friday afternoon, Menlo Park resident Rich Rollins said that he wasn’t confident that Stanford's plan to deal with trffic would work.  He said that it’s not uncommon for people to take Oak Creek to get around the traffic on Sand Hill, and stressed the fact that the amount of cars parking on the streets and driving through the neighborhoods will grow when construction begins.

“I am not confident that the suggested transportation demand program is really going to mitigate the traffic," he said, during the Transportation Commission meeting held on March 18.

That program is designed to subdue traffic on the roads by giving employees passes to use public transportation such as Caltrain, instead of driving.  It also encourages employees to use bicycles to avoid problems with traffic and parking.

And while Stevens said that many employees who live close to the Medical Center do travel via bikes during the summer months, she cannot envision that being a feasible option during the rainy season and in the winter months. 

“I for one would not like to ride home along a main road in the dark, or when it is pouring rain,” she said. 

“I know that staff can get a free Caltrain pass now, but that is impractical for staff having to get in very early in the morning, or who leave very late at night. Plus, then one has to catch a Marguerite shuttle to and from the station, which takes additional time,” she said.

The Transportation Commission published an assessment of the situation earlier this week and will it to City Council, so the council members can discuss it at their April 5th meeting. 

You can peruse that the Transportation Commission prepared for City Council .

You can also read more about the project .

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