Belmont seeks traffic fix after road is narrowed for new bike lanes
- Published Monday, March 9, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal
Road sparks two city controversy
By Michelle Durand
While Belmont officials hope to figure out a fix for traffic snarls on Alameda de las Pulgas, those in neighboring San Carlos are cautiously optimistic the recently removed traffic lane will be replaced -- if nothing else.
"There is no way of knowing yet if the ideas they're working on will be an improvement," said San Carlos City Manager Mark Weiss. "I would hope at least they can get it back to where it was and if the plan is an improvement beyond that, great."
Complaints began after Belmont's Department of Public Works re-striped the road, eliminating one lane to make room for bicyclists. The change, a year in the making, left some drivers fuming, particularly as their commutes to drop off students at two nearby schools increased.
The road was already clogged between student's parents and those using Alameda de las Pulgas to connect to either of the highways. Now everybody is using one lane and opponents of the change say drive times are greater.
Belmont officials said last week they are looking at ways to fix, if not restore, the lane configuration and expect to have a better handle on options at both the March 24 City Council meeting and an earlier meeting of the city's infrastructure subcommittee.
The city needs to work quickly, said Belmont Councilman Warren Lieberman.
When school lets out in June for both Tierra Linda Elementary or Carlmont High schools, traffic will ease up so the city will be hard-pressed to test out any fixes, he said.
"If we can't figure out something that will address the traffic problem by June, in my mind, it's appropriate to reconsider reverting back to the second lane before September," Lieberman said.
Lieberman, a member of the infrastructure committee, said some short-term possibilities will be a left-turn lane and use of police to direct traffic.
Lieberman called beginning the fall school year without a fix "not acceptable."
Belmont doesn't want to automatically return to the way things were because it couldn't be done before June anyway, he said.
Meanwhile, the city of San Carlos -- affected by the change but with no authority over the altered area -- is scheduled Monday night to hear an update from Weiss on where things stand.
San Carlos drivers have been quite vocal in their opposition to the change which reduced the northbound lanes from the San Carlos border to the Carlmont Shopping Center.
San Carlos City Hall received dozens of e-mail complaints about the traffic conditions which it sent along to Belmont. While San Carlos has no say, Lieberman said it is imperative the two cities and school district work together. SamTrans may also play a role by moving a stop, he said.
All players, though, add challenges such as getting the school to alter start times or SamTrans to consider changes.
"Things will not magically change on the March 24 meeting but we should have an indication of a timeline and options," Lieberman said.
Weiss said there isn't a strong record of success working with Belmont staff on the matter but is hopeful the end result will prove beneficial to both cities. He also hopes the city of Belmont is being forthcoming about its intent with the road change.
"If the object is to enhance traffic flow that's one thing. But if what they want is to discourage traffic in that corridor, that becomes problematic," he said.
Info box: The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, March 9 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: michelle@... or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.
[BATN: See also:
Belmont may remove new bike lane to re-widen road near school
Belmont rejects push to re-widen road, remove new bike lanes
Letter: Belmont HS students challenged to weigh in on bike lane
Belmont officials theatened over road narrowed for bike lanes
New Belmont bike lane enrages San Carlos parent-chauffeurs
Belmont admits mistakes after narrowing road to add bike lanes
San Carlos parent-chauffeurs whine after bike lane narrows road
Belmont narrows road to add bike lanes; parent-chauffeurs scream
San Carlos may narrow road near Carlmont High School