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A few weeks ago, new safety features were added to the intersection of Ravenswood Avenue and Alma Street. City government officials decided to add a partition to separate eastbound and westbound traffic on Ravenswood Avenue, as well as a barrier to prevent eastbound Ravenswood Avenue traffic from turning right onto Alma Street. Although this partition may seem like a minor detail, it has already caused issues in Menlo Park, and is currently under review.

The barriers were added to Ravenswood Avenue on June 2 for a six-month trial period to see if they were an efficient long term solution. The city council included this partition in an effort to decrease the chance of cars getting stuck on the tracks, in the wake of multiple accidents on the train tracks, one of which was fatal. The idea was that the partition would prevent cars coming down Alma Street from Burgess from turning left onto Ravenswood Avenue. This in turn would decrease the risk of a car getting blocked on the tracks by a left turner.

Despite the plan to test the new barriers for six months, citizens have already taken problems to the city council, and the barrier blocking right turns onto Alma Street is to be removed by September 15. In addition, the entire project is likely to be reviewed by the Menlo Park City Council in the coming weeks.

One of the main concerns voiced by Menlo Park citizens is that the barriers cause a traffic problem at the intersection of Ravenswood Avenue and Alma Street. Pedestrians on the crosswalk, un-synced light cycles at Middlefield Road, Laurel Street, and El Camino, and the increased amount of traffic coming from M-A, contribute to lengthy traffic delays, especially in the eastbound direction. A city review of the trial revealed that the citizen’s views were entirely well-founded. According to The Almanac, a comparison of traffic trends pre- and post-barrier found that the addition of both barriers actually resulted in an increase in congestion and cars stuck on the tracks.

Another common complaint is the difficulty of getting to Burgess facilities when driving eastbound down Ravenswood Avenue. For example, to get to the Menlo Park Library from El Camino, one would have to drive down Ravenswood Avenue until Laurel Street, then drive around all of Burgess Park to get to the Library. This process is far more time consuming and complex than simply turning left onto Alma Street.

The plethora of complaints from citizens, as well as real-world statistics to back up these claims, have put considerable pressure on the city. In addition to removing the barriers, the city council plans to discuss further changes within the month.

The general question still remains; how can we decrease the amount of cars stuck on tracks and increase road safety at Ravenswood Avenue and Alma Street? When interviewed, Ahmad Sheikholeslami, Chief Business and Operations Officer of the Menlo Park City School District, who works with MPCSD transportation, revealed that a larger, holistic review and revamping of traffic systems near the system may be required to fully address the issue.

Ravenswood Avenue and Alma Street remain difficult to address in terms of traffic, and only time will tell if we can find a viable and solvent solution.

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