Menlo Park officials make changes to intersection following deadly train collision

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KTVU) - City transportation officials have made changes at one of Menlo Park's busiest intersections.

It's an effort to improve safety in the wake of a fatal train collision earlier this year.

Temporary turn restrictions have been installed this week at Ravenwood and Alma, near the Caltrain rail crossing.

Drivers can no longer turn from Ravenswood Avenue onto southbound Alma Street or cross a median barrier that's been installed on Ravenswood.

Residents called for changes at the Ravenswood rail crossing after a train slammed into an SUV in February, killing a woman behind the wheel.

Some called the intersection a dangerous one, as cars would frequently get "boxed in" by traffic, especially when pedestrians were crossing the crosswalks.

"The intent is really to prevent queueing on the railroad tracks... and in theory preventing any collisions with the train," said Jesse Quirion, Director of Public Works, Menlo Park.

The changes may mean detours of up to a mile for some.

"We recognize that does mean there are some inconveniences to access to some of the city facilities. However, we'd ask that everyone understand that is for the better good of all of the bicyclists, pedestrians and the drivers," said Quirion.

So far, residents have had mixed reactions.

"It's a little challenging because if you want to make a turn, and I've seen some cars by habit want to turn in there and all of a sudden they stop and block traffic and that kind of defeats the purpose, and cars back up on the train tracks," said Lars Osterberg, a Menlo Park resident.

"It's nice to see they're trying to address the problem," said Maura Tarnoff, another Menlo Park resident. "I'll be interested to see how that works out, but I still think whether you're coming this direction or that direction you can still get stuck."

Some drivers have been illegally going around the new barriers. Police have begun issuing warnings and tickets.

Quirion said the turn restrictions would be in place for a 6-month trial period, after which city workers will study the data and decide whether to make the restrictions permanent or remove them.

He said the city is also continuing to pursue other possible solutions to improve safety, including grade separation, but many of the other options would take years to implement.