Last month, the city’s traffic team met with people living in the Junipero and Independence neighborhoods to share the plan to make it painful for motorists to get off off Bernal Avenue or Sunol Boulevard and cut through on the residential streets.
The plan, developed by city traffic engineer Mike Tassano, calls for four sets of speed bumps on the two streets plus two new crosswalks with the lighted features serving the neighborhood park. If the City Council approves at its first September meeting, then Tassano hopes the first round of measures can be added on to existing street projects so installation should be relatively quick.
The plan required two-thirds of the neighborhood to support the installation of the bumps. Unlike some streets where the traffic calming has been installed—think Crellin Road at the top of Vintage Hills where it’s neighbors driving too fast by neighbors.
The Junipero-Independence is true cut-through traffic—likely commuters—although I will confess taking Independence to Junipero to avoid the First Street/Bernal intersection. It’s not quite as bad as the situation was on Riddell further south. There southbound commuters were taking a left turn off the jammed Sunol Boulevard to Riddell Street, then turning right onto Happy Valley, right back onto Sunol to have a left turn onto the I-680 south ramp during the jammed morning commute.
The city, with overwhelming support from the neighborhood, established new signage that eliminated that option.
For the Junipero/Independence solution to work well, Tassano is proposing a major capital improvement that the city has in its two-year plan. One of the current issues is that left-turn lane coming down the hill on Bernal backs up into the through-lane. It also doesn’t clear in one light cycle, which invites the left onto Independence back up the hill. There is more traffic that the intersection has the capacity to move through.
The project will add a second left-turn lane by moving the entire intersection south. That will require cutting into the hill on the southside of Bernal and building a retaining wall. The plan also calls for cleaning up the asphalt sidewalk and improving bicycle lanes.
Incidentally, the entire downtown area, including this intersection, is exempted from the city’s standard of service levels that apply everywhere else. Tassano expects those standards for downtown to be refined when the specific plan is updated. He points out that you would never want to “improve” St. Mary and Main Street with a stop light when the stop signs work just fine.
For the intersection of thoroughfares Sunol/Bernal/First street, it’s an entirely different matter.
The big fix will not occur until 2018 assuming council approval. The design work will be done over the fall and winter with the bid process set for late spring and then a summer start when the funds become available in July 2018.
Remember the flap about Owens Drive and the reduction to one lane where the new apartment complex is nearing completion last winter. When the City Council accepted the recommendation for a two-stage crossing by Tassano, the problem went away.
There were about 200 crossings to the Iron Horse Trail and by offsetting the crosswalks and requiring pedestrians to cross in two stages, the traffic back-ups have been eliminated.
The council requested a follow-up report in the fall and Tassano has commissioned an engineering firm to provide that report. In the meantime, the lack of complaints to the council speaks for the improvements. In addition to Owens being narrowed in the eastbound direction (it already had been narrowed with the taxi lane in the westbound direction at the BART station), a new apartment complex on Gibraltar also took one travel lane.
I have not heard any complaints about that one. The reality is that street capacity in Hacienda Business Park was over-designed so there are rarely issues about traffic within the business park. The traffic engineers working with Joe Callahan wanted to ensure an efficient environment for workers and companies.