Menlo Park Transportation Commissioner Raymond Mueller said Wednesday that the foundation for the Stanford Hospital Environmental Impact Report was missing critical data, especially for traffic mitigation efforts at the intersections of 280 and Sand Hill Road, and 280 and Alpine.
“The analysis with respect to those intersections is just flawed,” Mueller said.
"I don't oppose a world-class medical facility neighboring Menlo Park, quite the contrary. But I also believe we must expect and demand that our neighbors provide us with both an effective plan and adequate compensation to mitigate the increased traffic flow, so that we can protect our neighborhoods and the cultural identity of our town.”
The proposed Stanford University Medical Center expansion project, which has been given an estimated price tag of $3.5 billion, would put almost 10,000 additional cars a day on Menlo Park streets during evening rush hours and about 5,000 cars in the morning, according to a traffic impact study prepared for the city by the consulting firm TJKM.
The Menlo Park Transportation Commission voted to delay forming an official position about the impact that the project would have on traffic in Menlo Park Wednesday night, after city staff failed to include information needed to make a recommendation in their agenda.
Transportation Commissioner Charlie Bourne said he had not seen the draft of the city's response to the Draft Final EIR in advance of the meeting, which was being discussed at Palo Alto’s Transportation Commission Meeting at the same time.
“The only thing the staff provided the commission was the mayor’s July letter to Palo Alto and the Draft EIR with corresponding responses," Bourne said.
“At the agenda setting meeting, we asked staff for their comments on the Draft of the Final EIR, but they said they were working on it in order to have it ready for the March 15 City Council meeting. They didn’t even send us the letters and associated comments from the Menlo Park residents who commented on the EIR,” he added.
In advance of meetings, city staff typically meets with city commissioners to set agendas and collaborate on information distribution. City staff compiles data, which the commissions use to form a recommendation. That recommendation is presented to the City Council, which acts in a legislative capacity and makes the final decisions on official city action.
On July 27, 2010 Mayor Richard Cline responded in writing to the Draft of the Final EIR, noting that numerous items in the project proposal relied heavily on hospital visitors and employees using Go Passes and other methods of transportation, instead of their personal vehicles. Cline expressed concern that these traffic mitigation measures did not take into consideration the possibility that those methods may not exist if Caltrain becomes defunct.
“By the time the SUMC project is constructed, there may be considerable changes to transit along the Peninsula,” Cline’s letter states.
on March 3, 2011 and plans to kill services between San Jose and Gilroy, in addition to reducing weekday train service to only commute hours. It also may eliminate service at 10 stations on the Peninsula in the near future.
Right now about five percent of Stanford Hospital’s employees ride Caltrain, according to William T. Phillips, Senior Associate Vice President of Real Estate for Stanford University. The goal is to get about 15 percent of the hospital’s staff using GO passes, and an additional 20 percent using alternative transportation such as bikes.
Multiple residents made public comments about the project's feasibility that evening.
Menlo Park resident Murray Baron lives near Sand Hill and 280, and took issue with the assumptions made in the EIR, citing the after-three-o’clock traffic on Sand Hill as a significant problem.
“Twice in the past six months I needed to go to an appointment on Welsh Road in the medical complex, and had to go home at four in the afternoon," Baron said. “Three miles took me 25 minutes to drive at an average at eight miles per hour, yet the traffic analysis shows a level C on the evening commute.”
A Level C designation is based in part on a person sitting in traffic for an extra 20-30 seconds.
"That’s clearly wrong; that brings into question other conclusions in the traffic analysis, which was done in 2007,” Baron said.
Transportation Commissioner Rob Cronin said: “These attempts at mitigation by increasing capacity of intersections and so forth are just not practical. In the larger picture, our concern with increased traffic on the roads is merely a consequence of decisions made for many years to have a transportation system in which the automobile is the dominant method of transportation.”
“We must want it that way because we're a representative democracy, but I don’t see it as sustainable in the long run.”
Martin Engel, Transportation Commissioner said, “Those who produce the traffic ought to take responsibility for that.”
After hours of discussion, the Commission decided to reconvene at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18 to revisit the issue and draft a letter that outlines their recommendations to the City Council.
Atul Patel, Senior Transportation Engineer for Menlo Park, said he and city staff are reviewing the responses to the Final EIR, and would be delivering those to the Commission within 10 days.
“It’s a rather large document, hundreds of pages, that will take a while to process," Patel said.
Update 3/18/11: Article modified to clarify which version of the EIR was being discussed.