In a late night Council meeting on April 18, Menlo Park City Council decided not to delay the implementation of the Oak Grove bike boulevard pilot project that was approved first in May and then in December. Thank you to all of the Menlo Park City Council Members for their leadership on this matter and their attention to detail in ensuring a safe route for students and finding circulation compromises in this area with competing uses. This also wouldn’t have moved forward without the dedication of the Menlo Park Bicycle and Transportation Commissions and a new volunteer group, Parents for Safe Routes.
This project includes buffered bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue from Rebecca Lane to Crane Street and on University Drive, as well as sharrows on Crane Street and Live Oak Avenue. The East-West bike route will connect downtown and multiple schools in the city, including Menlo-Atherton High School, across El Camino Real and the Caltrain tracks. This project requires parking removal on Oak Grove Ave. and University Dr.
At a City Council meeting at the end of March, Council considered metrics to evaluate the one-year pilot project. Several people spoke at public comment during that meeting to express their concerns about the project, particularly its impact on on-street parking around Nativity Church and School and in downtown areas. Council worried that there wasn’t enough outreach and asked staff to come back with options for moving forward.
At the April 18 City Council meeting, the staff report outlined three options:
- Option 1: Explore Design Changes, One Phase. Follows what would be standard City process to incorporate the requested additional outreach, consider changes to the plans through the Complete Streets Commission and City Council, before finalizing plans, advertising and constructing the project. Construction would be anticipated to be completed by October in this option.
- Option 2: No Further Design Changes, One Phase. Summarizes the original project schedule with no additional revisions to the current plans, and advertising the current plansm which are ready to go out to bid. Construction would be anticipated to be completed in August under this option.
- Option 3: Explore Design Changes east of El Camino, Two Phases. Represents an effort to construct the project in two phases, split geographically at El Camino Real. This would allow construction to occur west of El Camino Real in the summer, concurrent with additional outreach east of El Camino Real. Construction east of El Camino Real would be anticipated to occur in the fall.
SVBC, working with the Menlo Park Bicycle Commission and Parents for Safe Routes, rallied members and partners to contact City Council and speak at public comment in support of Option 2, which would allow the pilot to move forward without delay and have a project on the ground before the start of the next school year. Since this is a pilot, modifications can be made during and after the project if it has issues. Any delay would also impact other transportation projects in the city by taking up staff resources and capacity that would otherwise be invested on other projects.
With at least 100 emails (66 in favor and 10 in opposition) received prior to the meeting and 35 public comments, the Council had a wealth of feedback from the community. Through the comments and discussion there were several valuable recommendations that made it into the final resolution by members of the public and City Council members.
The final resolution was put forth by Mayor Keith for the approval of Option 2 to move forward as planned with the following caveats:
- Allow Nativity Church to use on-street parking on Saturdays and Sundays for church services until the City of Menlo Park builds a sidewalk between the church and the school so that there can be shared parking.
- Allow Nativity Church up to 15 days per year (to be negotiated between staff and the Church) during which they can access on-street parking for special events with coordination with the city.
- Work with Nativity School to address the drop-off/pick-up congestion so that the need for on-street parking is reduced. (Added by Councilmember Ohtaki.)
- Work with Menlo-Atherton High School to address students parking on side streets and attempt to utilize a parking lot across the street that is empty on school days (owned by SRI and leased to the Church of Christ Scientist). (Proposed by Councilmember Cline.)
- Work with Greenheart Land Company so that construction vehicles accessing the construction site of Station 1300 are restricted from using Oak Grove Avenue during school commute hours (approximately 7:30-9 am and 3-4:30 pm). (Proposed by Councilmember Mueller.)
- Direct staff to scope a project adding a speed feedback sign to Oak Grove Ave.
There is one thing that is still uncertain. Station 1300, which will be at the corner of Oak Grove Avenue and El Camino Real and adjacent to Caltrain, originally had planned for parking on the north side of Oak Grove Avenue between El Camino Real and Caltrain. Since then they’ve encountered utility issues so they will likely not have parking on the north side, though this does need final confirmation. Since parking on the south side of Oak Grove Avenue, between Caltrain and El Camino Real, will be eliminated for this project, it is likely that there will be no parking on Oak Grove from El Camino Real to Rebecca Lane, creating a much safer environment for people biking.
The consultant will begin data collection and study of the time-sensitive metrics in May. Construction is scheduled for July with the facility to be open in August before school starts.