'Calming' traffic and those who complain
Two once-quiet streets in upper Vintage Hills have turned into more heavily traveled thoroughfares for commuters and parents driving their children to Vintage Hills Elementary School, adding thousands of cars to those streets each week and posing a headache for neighborhood residents and a dilemma for Pleasanton traffic engineers. Last week, more than 100 of those neighbors joined Joshua Pack, the city's senior transportation engineer, at a so-called "Traffic Calming" meeting in City Hall. The speakers, and there were scores of them, were calmer than the traffic they came to complain about, but not by much.
Many of them moved into their three- and four-bedroom homes or smaller apartments on Touriga and Palomino drives years ago when many Vintage Hills students walked to school and generally one of their parents stayed home. Ruby Hill, with its 850 large (and expensive) homes had yet to be built; Vintage Hills, itself, snaked up Crellin Road half a mile or so to Madeira, ending at a sheep ranch and other open space. Vintage Heights, Foxborough, Gray Fox and other newer developments that now feed into Crellin Road were still a builder's dream.
Times have changed for the Touriga/Palomino neighborhoods as they have for the rest of Pleasanton. Touriga Drive, which offers a straight, non-stop route for Ruby Hill drivers from Vineyard Avenue to Vintage Hills Elementary on Concord Drive, now carries 2,100 vehicles a day. Palomino, another straight shot for all of the commuters on Crellin Road and beyond, has a weekday average of 2,300 vehicles. As Pack told his audience, those aren't West Las Positas, Stoneridge, Valley or Bernal roadway traffic volumes, but they are higher than they've been and the volumes are likely to grow. Nearly 100 large new homes are under construction on Vineyard between Touriga and Ruby Hill, which will no doubt attract families with young children, who will also be assigned to Vintage Hills Elementary.
Several years ago, the city installed speed "humps" in five locations on Crellin, which slowed some motorists and caused others to find alternate routes to work and stores. Even so, many at the Traffic Calming meeting didn't want the speed bumps added on Touriga or Palomino. They're noisy, especially on a quite summer evening when windows are open, and a few motorists see them as a challenge as to just how fast they can drive across them. Still, Pack said traffic studies show that average speeds on Crellin, which is posted at 25 mph, have dropped from 36 to 27. He agreed, though, that they have problems. Although there are dips in the bumps to allow wide-axle fire trucks to negotiate Crellin without the jarring, the speed bumps tend to add precious seconds to the response time. Motorists and passengers with neck and spine injuries also suffer some discomfort when driving over speed bumps.
Stop signs, which some Touriga/Palomino neighbors want, also aren't the answer. To prevent cities from putting stop signs on every corner, as some have done in the past, state law now governs when stop signs can be installed. Pack doubted that most streets in Vintage Hills would qualify, adding that traffic experts have found that too many stop signs also end up being ignored. Both Palomino and Crellin already have signs stopping motorists at Touriga Drive. He also vetoed a suggestion to prevent left or right turns at certain locations. Some asked for a No Left Turn sign on Vineyard to keep the Ruby Hill traffic off Touriga. Pack said motorists would find other streets to use to reach the school building.
What do seem to be working are the flashing speed signs Pack and his department have installed in many parts of Pleasanton. A newer model, including several on Bernal and Kottinger Drive, show motorists their actual speed next to a sign with the allowable speed on it. Drive 5 mph faster then the posted speed and the speed sign starts flashing "Slow Down" in bright red letters. I drive Bernal to Palomino daily to reach my house and have noticed speeders in the 40-50 mph range on Bernal slamming on their brakes when they see the flashing sign near Palomino. Two of these radar speed signs -- one in each direction -- cost $150,000, which is why Pack, with his limited budget, isn't blanketing Pleasanton with them. But for the Touriga/Palomino neighbors, that may be the best they'll get for now.
They need to make sure they get theirs soon. Pack leaves a new job in Nevada today.