Gridlock With a Chance of Road Rage

Murray Baron, retired Vice-President of SRI International, shares a letter he wrote to the City Council about the disparity between the Stanford Hospital FEIR and the current experiences of Menlo Park residents.

As a Menlo Park resident on Sand Hill Circle, I am very concerned about the potential traffic impact on Sand Hill Rd. of the increased traffic that would be generated by the proposed Stanford Medical Center expansion.  An additional 10,000 vehicle trips per day are projected as a consequence of the expansion.

Knowing by first-hand experience how congested the evening commute traffic is already, I was very interested to read the traffic analysis in the FEIR to see what were the projected impacts of the expansion. In studying the FEIR, I found its analysis of current conditions greatly flawed, and therefore its projection of future impacts very much in doubt.

The FEIR analysis states:

  • That current commute time conditions on Sand Hill Rd are at Level of Service (LOS) condition around “C”, i.e., reasonably acceptable;
  • That morning commute is worse than evening commute.
  • That the expansion project will not have a great impact on Sand Hill Rd traffic and thus little if any mitigation is required.

My experience, and the experience of many other residents of the Sand Hill Circle community, shows quite the opposite.

  • Evening commute westward toward I280 is significantly worse than morning eastward commute, contrary to the traffic analysis in the FEIR.
  • Often, traffic is stop and go from the Stanford Shopping Center all the way to I280.  Typically, it takes 25 minutes or so to travel this 3 mile stretch of road (an average speed of 7 mph.) This is clearly not LOS level C, but LOS level E or F.
  • Sand Hill Rd is the most direct access route to/from the Stanford Medical Center. It is only reasonable to assume much of the traffic, both for construction and to handle the projected 35% increase in patient load, will use Sand Hill to access the Hospital.

Why are the FEIR statements and conclusions so different than our current experience? Possible reasons are:

  • The traffic studies performed for the FEIR were done in 2006-2007.  Note, this is well before the new Rosewood complex opened for business.
  • For the intersection analyses, inappropriate intersections were used:
    • No intersections on Sand Hill west of Santa Cruz were included in the analysis, yet there is a great deal of congestion (often stop-and-go) from Santa Cruz all the way to I280 during evening commute times.
    • The very small Oak St. intersection with Sand Hill was analyzed. This is such a minor intersection with such little traffic that it is not relevant to the big picture.
    • The Sand Hill/Pasteur intersection was not analyzed even though this is one of the most congested in the corridor.

Additionally, I280 is frequently at a crawl north and south of Sand Hill during evening commute time, clearly worse than LOS level “D” as shown in FEIR (Table 3.4-8)

With FEIR statements regarding current traffic conditions so erroneous, how can one have any confidence in traffic projections for after Hospital Expansion project completion?

  • There is currently a bottleneck at SH Road on-ramp to NB 280.  Traffic frequently backs up all the way to the Stanford shopping Center.  It will only be worse with proposed hospital expansion.  Additional traffic due to the project will no doubt cause “Significant Impact” by Menlo Park definitions (p. 3.4-31,32)
  • The Sand Hill Rd – I280 intersection is not listed as being at Level of Service E or F after project completion (p.3.4-34).  It already is at that level of service and can only get worse after project completion.  The same Table 3.4-12 shows worse conditions during morning commute than evening.  Again, that doesn’t match reality as experienced by drivers.
  • I280 traffic between Sand Hill and Woodside Rd is projected to be (Table 3.4-15) at LOS D, E, F, in 2025 without the project.  With the project, it can only become gridlocked.  It already is stop-and-go during evening commute times.
  • Total daily increase in Trips to/from the hospital will be 10,061 (Table 3.4-16)... A huge increase, much of which will be via Sand Hill and/or through the city of Menlo Park.
  • The projections show 8% of additional traffic will use Sand Hill Rd (Fig 3.4-8).  It shows 13% of additional traffic will use I280 between Sand Hill and Woodside Rd (Fig 2.4-9). These two figures are not self consistent.  Where will the 5% difference between these numbers go?  It is only logical to assume that virtually all the additional I280 traffic will travel to/from the Hospital complex via Sand Hill Rd.

Additional Comments:

  • During the construction phase: Much of the  construction truck traffic will be from the west side via Sand Hill Rd and Alpine Rd to/from I 280 (it is one of the few designated construction routes), causing both noise and traffic problems for the many years of construction.  This is by far the most direct route for trucks.
  • No significant mitigation methods are deemed necessary by the Final EIR! This is unacceptable!           



Murray Baron

(172 Sand Hill Circle)


Other Sand Hill Circle residents endorsed Murray Baron's letter:

“I definitely agree with your statement; even one fender-bender on Sand Hill in the evening hours and the delay far exceeds horrendous. Please add my name at the bottom of the statement [210 SHC]. Thanks for taking the time to compose such a succinct statement of our position as homeowners.” Renee Chevalier (210 Sand Hill Circle)

“This is nicely organized to make the key points well. My last trip from the Stanford Mall to my home during rush hour was over 25 minutes and another trip from the Rosewood to my home (less than 1 mile) was 17 minutes!!” Arlene Morris (198 Sand Hill Circle)

“I am hoping to try and get to the meeting if I finish work in time. Regardless I would like to add my name to the bottom of your statement. I have not seen any of the plans drawn up by Stanford, but it sounds as if the whole thing has been completely mismanaged. I can generally get from home to the door of my office (in the Stanford Medical Center) in 15 minutes in the morning - it takes me up to 40 minutes during rush hour traffic in the evening. It can take 10 minutes to even get on to Sand Hill Road, as the lights at the junction of Pasteur and Sand Hill are inadequate for the amount of traffic trying to leave. I dread to think what will happen with 10,000 extra cars.” Kate Stevens (244 Sand Hill Circle)

“To get from Stanford to 280 is already impossible and I avoid it always by 4 pm ... the traffic is a little better once one passes the Alameda, but clearly unacceptable even now. Getting on 280 northbound seems to me to be the real huge problem and cause of backup traffic down the line.” Charlotte Meisel (246 Sand Hill Circle)

“I would certainly like to have you add my name to your statement about the Stanford Hospital Expansion EIR. I don't have as much experience with the traffic as you, but what I do have certainly supports your points.” Richard Hake, (110 Sand Hill Circle)

“Feel free to add my signature. I agree completely with your analysis and your analysis doesn’t include 1,000 truck trips a day for hospital excavation for a year.” Bruce Adornato (240 Sand Hill Circle)

"Murray Baron has taken the lead to study the impacts of the Stanford Hospital expansion on Sand Hill Road traffic in the vicinity of our homeowners on Sand Hill Circle. As an engineering PhD and retired SRI Vice-President, he has the technical insights and breadth of experience to point out potential key problems with the FEIR. I strongly support his points about the age and current credibility of the traffic study and the need to do much more analysis of the traffic impacts all the way out Sand Hill road to (and along) I280.” Tim Robertson, President, Sand Hill
Circle Homeowner's Association (300 Sand Hill Circle).

Dave Bogart April 11, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Stanford needs to connect the rear of the hospital complex to 280 directly through the golf course entrance and out to Alpine Road near 280. This additional access will greatly relieve increased future demands from overwhelming Sand Hill Road. Obviously Stanford Golf course users will not be thrilled, but can be accommodated through careful layout and modification of existing golf course. Stanford has thousands of acres . . .


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