Traffic

Post image for Menlo Park resident says goodbye to trees many locals may have taken for granted

You may have seen something sad happening at the Willow Road/101 interchange: All the oaks and redwoods are being cut down. As of Saturday morning (June 17), three of the four cloverleaf loops have been clear-cut.

Well, not quite, there is still one tree standing in the northern loop – it might be a different species, but there is no obvious reason why it has been spared. As of this writing, the western loop is still untouched (below right) and gives you one more chance to exit southbound 101 through a small but healthy urban forest.

This clear-cutting has taken me completely by surprise. I somehow assumed that the redwoods would endure the tumult of construction of a new “safer” interchange and still be there when it was done. On the chance that I missed a public debate about whether any trees need be sacrificed, and if so, which ones, I searched online, finding only a May 3 press release “Tree Removal Scheduled…”

CalTrans’ 2013 “Initial Study with Negative Declaration” of environmental impact states “…the proposed project would have no significant effect on visual/aesthetics, geology/soils, air quality, noise, water quality, natural communities and animal species.”

I suppose this is true if you think a field of stumps has the same “visual/aesthetic” value as a grove of living trees. Will replacing redwoods large enough to be considered heritage trees in any other part of Menlo Park with the miniaturized shrubs currently in fashion as highway landscaping create a better visual entrance to the city?

A declaration of “no effect on … animal species” seems to mean the hawks I have seen resting in the treetops are not significant. Nor are the pedestrians, who for the last few decades have had a bit of shade from summer sun on either side of the overpass. I expect homeless people have slept overnight under these trees from time to time; they are not significant enough for us humans to give them shelter, and it is to the trees’ credit that they made up for the lack.

How is it that trees are not part of the “natural community?” These trees, like all others, have been absorbing CO2 their whole lives, not to mention dampening traffic noise and filtering diesel soot from the air before it reaches the lungs of my neighbors in the Willows.

I guess the rationale is that these are non-“natural” landscape trees, and therefore considered disposable by highway planners. CalTrans, in its wisdom, has decreed that, like public employees on short-term contracts, these trees can be terminated at will. If CalTrans had better reasons than just to clear parking space for their construction equipment, maybe they could explain their thinking to the public. Please.

As I passed through the interchange this past week, I saw stacks of redwood trunks cut into sawmill-size lengths. I hope that at least their value as timber (if not as living trees) was recognized and the State of California recoups the value of the lumber. And just maybe uses this un-budgeted income to replant redwoods that in only a half-century or so will restore this little scrap of forest.

I confess that I have given these trees little thought in all the time I have lived in Menlo Park. Apparently, nobody else gave them any thought, either. Strong arguments have been made about whether the new interchange will be safer than the old, and whether it will make any difference to our congested traffic. Nobody has said a word for the trees, as far as I can tell. Where is the Lorax when you need him?

While there are still a few trees standing, you might say “goodbye” the next time you loop around the cloverleaf at 101 and Willow on your way home. I plan to.

Eric Sabelman, author of this post, has been a Menlo Park resident since 1979. We profiled him on InMenlo in 2011.

{ 8 comments }

Ravenswood railroad crossing community meeting set for Wednesday, June 7

Thumbnail image for Ravenswood railroad crossing community meeting set for Wednesday, June 7

This is the third community meeting on the Ravenswood Avenue Railroad Crossing Study. It will be held at Arrillaga Recreation Center (700 Alma St.) on June 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Review the proposed alternatives Hear about construction impacts and shoofly designs Weigh in on track elevation and connectivity issues voice your feedback and […]

Click to read more →

Trying out the new sidewalk from Arbor to Olive on Santa Cruz Avenue

Thumbnail image for Trying out the new sidewalk from Arbor to Olive on Santa Cruz Avenue

The 6-foot sidewalk on the south side of Santa Cruz Avenue is open for business. Alongside is a bike path, clearly separated, making for a total area of about 10 feet. Also new is a turning lane between the east and west bound traffic lanes. Construction has begun on the sidewalk on the north side of […]

Click to read more →

Community meeting on Willow neighborhood traffic set for May 17

Thumbnail image for Community meeting on Willow neighborhood traffic set for May 17

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 6:00 pm the City will host a discussion regarding the traffic impact in the Willows neighborhood. It will be held at the Laurel School Upper Campus Library, 275 Elliott Drive. City staff will be in attendance to give an update on the construction of the Willow/101 interchange project and upcoming study […]

Click to read more →

San Mateo Bike Bridge proves to be a busy spot on Bike to Work Day in Menlo Park

Thumbnail image for San Mateo Bike Bridge proves to be a busy spot on Bike to Work Day in Menlo Park

Folks biking to work by crossing San Francisquito Creek via the bike bridge in Menlo Park were greeted this morning by volunteers staffing an Energizer station, one that’s been in that location every year of the annual event celebrating pedal power. It’s a popular spot noted for smiling volunteers who hand out bananas and  treat bags. The woman pictured […]

Click to read more →

Glenwood Avenue closed at railroad tracks from 8:00 pm on April 21 to 4:00 am on April 24

Thumbnail image for Glenwood Avenue closed at railroad tracks from 8:00 pm on April 21 to 4:00 am on April 24

The railroad grade crossing at Glenwood Avenue in Menlo Park will be closed over one weekend for track maintenance work. The closure will be from Friday, April 21, at 8:00 pm until Monday, April 24, at 4:00 am. Vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic will not be able to cross the tracks  During the closure, Caltrain […]

Click to read more →

Serious vehicle accident closes Sand Hill Road Easter morning

Thumbnail image for Serious vehicle accident closes Sand Hill Road Easter morning

A vehicle slammed into a tree with a victim trapped inside the car just east of the entrance to the Stanford Linear Accelerator located at 2450 Sandhill Road in Menlo Park around 4:30 this morning. Menlo Engine 4 arrived on the scene at 4:35 am and reported that the motor compartment was on fire and a male […]

Click to read more →

2017 Communter Challenge runs from April 1 to May 31

Thumbnail image for 2017 Communter Challenge runs from April 1 to May 31

Between April 1st and May 31st, people who join the the 2017 Commuter Challenge and commute to, from or through San Mateo County using a transportation mode other than driving solo in a car will be eligible to win weekly prizes and one of five grand prizes. Organized by Commute.org, the goal of the challenge is to […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Park parent Jen Wolosin launches initiative to make school routes safer for kids

Thumbnail image for Menlo Park parent Jen Wolosin launches initiative to make school routes safer for kids

When Jen Wolosin moved from San Mateo  to Menlo Park four years ago, one of the things she was practically excited about was how close her new home was to Laurel School where her daughter would be attending. Then she encountered Coleman Avenue. “I got one of those tandem bikes with the child-size bike in […]

Click to read more →

New traffic/automobile laws to be mindful of in 2017

Thumbnail image for New traffic/automobile laws to be mindful of in 2017

The Atherton Police Department reminds people that a number of new state laws went into effect on January 1. Among them: Hands Free While Driving Californians are no longer allowed to use a handheld wireless phone or wireless electronic device while driving, unless the device is mounted on the vehicle windshield or dashboard in a way […]

Click to read more →

Extra traffic enforcement in Atherton and Menlo Park on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thumbnail image for Extra traffic enforcement in Atherton and Menlo Park on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, twenty-four traffic officers from various law enforcement agencies throughout San Mateo County will be participating in the San Mateo County Saturation Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP). The STEP program is a collaborative effort to increase traffic safety and awareness in known trouble spots throughout San Mateo County. Tomorrow’s deployment will occur […]

Click to read more →