Less traffic in Palo Alto? City greenlights plan to synchronize traffic signals

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Drivers who rely on University Avenue to commute between Middlefield Road and the Dumbarton Bridge in Palo Alto should soon see some major traffic improvements. (KGO-TV)

Drivers who rely on University Avenue to commute between Middlefield Road and the Dumbarton Bridge in Palo Alto should soon see some major traffic improvements.

The City of Palo Alto recently announced plans to synchronize traffic signals across more than a dozen city blocks.

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The effort to alleviate traffic will start with a traffic count. Agencies will then reprogram traffic lights to synch up for better traffic flow.

The City of Palo Alto estimates 26,000 drivers use University Avenue daily.

On Thursday afternoon, ABC7 News drove along the arterial avenue in bumper to bumper traffic.

The new multi-agency program would cut the amount of time drivers spend in traffic jams by up to 40 percent.

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"When I moved here, it was not a problem," said John Guislin, who has lived here for 20 years. "In the past five or six years, it's gotten dramatically difficult for people to get out of their driveways because traffic is just stopped in both directions in front of their homes."

Guislin lives along Middlefield Road. Fourteen traffic lights along University Avenue between Guislin's street and the Dumbarton Bridge will be part of this program change.

The city's chief communications officer, Claudia Keith, said Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and California Department of Transportation have separately had their own traffic lights synced. However, for the first time, the three agencies will be in coordination to get drivers through quickly.

The project got the green light and more than $81,000 in grant money from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The City of Palo Alto will also contribute to the traffic alleviation effort.

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However, not everyone is convinced there is a traffic problem.

"I think some of our reports of traffic are really exaggerated," Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss said during Monday night's City Council meeting.

Kniss maintained her 5 p.m. drive out of town encounters little traffic. She suggested drivers instead try alternate routes and avoid University Avenue.

"I think if you are willing to try alternate routes -- not go your normal route -- I think you'll find that the traffic is not as overwhelming as you might think," Kniss said.

However, Guislin said doing so has put more cars on residential roads that aren't equipped to handle that amount of traffic.

The city anticipates the entire project will take about a year. City leaders don't anticipate any construction disruption.
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