Public works officials are recommending changes on Holly Street and Brittan Avenue aimed at easing traffic before new development makes it worse — and are proposing that the developers pay for those changes.
Rush-hour traffic on Holly Street between El Camino Real and U.S. Highway 101 is bad enough now, according to locals who use the thoroughfare daily. But with new eastside projects such as the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s new medical center and hospital and new retail plans at the former Breuner’s site, an additional 900 to 1,000 cars would clog major intersections at the morning and evening commutes, said Gary Black, a consultant with Hexagon Transportation.
At Brittan Avenue, the fix is relatively simple: adding a turn lane should ease the flow, according to the environmental review Hexagon prepared for the PAMF project. On Holly Street, however, a 300-foot stretch would need to be widened — and the Holly/Highway 101 interchange would need to be redone.
"I am recommending that the City Council consider these for capital improvement projects in June," Public Works Director Parviz Mokhtari said. He’s also recommending that the council require any new developers to pay their fair share for those improvements — a price tag he has not yet estimated. It hasn’t been determined if the PAMF developers will be paying for the improvements; they have offered to pay for traffic mitigation.
Widening Holly Street will mean that residents in 10 homes on either side of the street will lose a 5-foot-wide strip of landscaping in front of their homes, and will lose street parking in front of their homes, Mokhtari said.
Traffic was foremost in residents’ minds Monday night, when the Planning Commission approved the environmental review for the PAMF project, recommending the City Council certify the document on March 26.
"Holly Street traffic is marginal at best now," resident Saundra Weeks said. "Can you imagine what it will be like if we build the hospital?"
Some, such as resident Bonnie McClure, saw the PAMF proposal for the medical center and hospital as an opportunity to locate funding for roadway improvements the city needs now.
Once the environmental documents are adopted, the city must then decide whether the potential impacts outweigh the potential benefits of allowing projects like PAMF to go forward. The City Council voted in February to pursue economic stimulation, particularly on the east side, as a way of offsetting rising public services costs.