Facebook doles out millions to appease cities' traffic concerns

November 8, 2012 8:02:43 PM PST
Facebook is doling out millions of dollars to appease neighboring cities' concerns about increased traffic with the expansion of its Menlo Park campus. The number of employees is expected to more than triple from the current head count of 2,500.

Facebook is sitting on an estimated $11 - $12 billion. So it is sharing some of that money with some of the neighbors to appease them over traffic, which might be considered part of the cost of doing business. This story was developed by our media partner, California Watch -- a nonprofit project of the Center For Investigative Journalism.

Facebook's own analysis indicated by expanding its campus and adding 6,600 employees, traffic would increase by nearly 15,000 trips a day. That didn't sit well with neighboring cities. With the potential for litigation, Facebook agreed to pay them to mitigate the impact. East Palo Alto, for example, has received $650,000 from Facebook. The lion's share -- a half million dollars -- will be earmarked for traffic congestion along University Avenue and $150,000 will go towards bike paths.

"Things like sensor loops so bicycles can make the turns at intersections. We'll be doing improvements for pedestrians' safety. So those are the kinds of things that really help and $150,000 will go a long way," said John Doughty, the East Palo Alto community development director.

Another $150,000 will go toward developing affordable housing. That is not an issue for the town of Atherton. Its concern is how its narrow streets, lined with mansions, may be used as shortcuts for Facebook employees and visitors.

"Some are coming from Atherton, but many are coming from Redwood City or might be coming from other parts of Menlo Park or the unincorporated areas of San Mateo," said Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer.

Atherton, with a per-capita income of $107,000, is getting $350,000 from Facebook, but hasn't decided yet decided how to use it. One potential bottleneck could be the intersection of Marsh and Middlefield roads.

As seen from SKY7HD, Facebook's new hometown of Menlo Park is getting the most money -- $1.1 million for traffic improvements. It's believed that Facebook will encourage carpooling, the use of shuttle buses and staggered work hours to alleviate congestion. But Facebook turned down our request for an interview to elaborate. Long-time residents seem resigned that traffic will get worse.

"It's going to be more traffic, yes, no matter what. And money's not going to solve it all," said Howard Jones, the Esquire Barber shop owner.

Facebook's campus expansion will happen across Willow Road. Construction will begin some time next year with completion and more traffic coming in 2015.


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