Portola Valley study outlines city’s emergency escape routes | New

What would the evacuation of Portola Valley residents look like in a major emergency? That’s the question city consultants hoped to answer in a new traffic study.

The report, a draft of which city council approved on Aug. 10, found several strategies to reduce out-of-town commute times. Options include wildfire video surveillance cameras or drones to detect wildfires early and constructing an escape route on the shoulder of the east side of Westridge and Alpine roads through Ladera. They also inspected the stables to assess the number of horses and trailers in the Portola Valley and the surrounding community.

Emergency evacuation is a priority for some residents who held their own ad hoc evacuation drill last summer after city officials said such a drill wasn’t worth it. San Mateo City and County officials say such small-scale events aren’t helpful, preferring to use modeling instead.

Once completed, the study will be incorporated into the update of the city’s security element, which runs in tandem with its housing element.

Fehr & Peers, which conducted the 10-month study, conducted a similar study in Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California. The company is currently working on another evacuation study in Marin County.

The study describes three evacuation scenarios. Each is based on worst-case scenario conditions to understand how long an evacuation might take: an evacuation order at 6:00 a.m.; all residents of the affected area (Portola Valley, Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde, Ladera, Farm Road, Old La Honda and Old Alpine) are at home and should evacuate; and 1.9 trips per household.

Consultant Bob Grandy said early morning evacuations are common for fires that start overnight and most residents will be home by 6 a.m.

The study also includes 396 city employees, 100 horse-trailer trips (the equivalent of 300 passenger car trips), and the fact that 85% of residents in the affected areas listed above are expected to start their journey in the hour following the evacuation order.

The three scenarios and their conclusions were as follows:

• All routes are open. In this scenario, 90% of residents should have evacuated between 1:15 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., with 100% having evacuated between 3:00 a.m. and 3:15 a.m.

• The Alpine and Arastradero roads are closed. In this scenario, 90% of residents are expected to take between 2:45 and 3:45 a.m. to evacuate, with 100% having evacuated between 3:30 and 4:45 a.m.

• Portola, Woodside, Whiskey Hill and Sand Hill roads are closed. In this scenario, approximately 90% of the inhabitants should take between 2h and 2h45 to evacuate, 100% between 3h15 and 3h30.

The consultants plan to work with schools in the city to gather more information for the study at the request of the city council.

Some residents said they wanted to see a more comprehensive evacuation study.

Rita Comes, president of Portola Valley Neighbors United, a group focused on fire and earthquake safety, affordable housing and natural habitat,” questioned the time of the 6 a.m. evacuation order. She also said that the study should incorporate other risks such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks. , landslides and more, not just the threat of wildfires.

“Not much movement in town at this time except (for) all the construction trucks coming into town from other places,” she said in a memo to the city. “We don’t need an easy ‘evacuation study’ to tick a box, we need a survival plan so people can feel they can get out and protect their families. No plan will do anything but the proposed plan that residents pay for should reflect how we actually live day to day in our beautiful city.”

She also lists several outstanding questions that remained with her after reading the study, such as the impact of adding 253 housing units over the next eight years, as the city is mandated by the state, to plan an evacuation. .

Resident Dave Cardinal suggested the city explore an escape route via Webb Ranch, which is owned by Stanford University.

“If they (the Webb Ranch area residents) had a backdoor, that would be amazing,” he said at the Aug. 10 meeting.

Kristi Corley suggested at the meeting that Monday would be a bad day to take car traffic reports since the city’s busiest features – the Alpine Inn and the Alpine Hills Tennis and Swimming Club – are closed. Monday.

Victor Schachter said training residents to control traffic during an evacuation would be a good idea, although he noted that police were skeptical of the approach.

The consultants suggested realigning portions of the Alpine Road and redesigning the Alpine Road trail in some places.

The city could explore escape routes on land owned by Stanford University north of the Portola Valley, such as the Upper Los Trancos Road and the Upper Alps Road.

The city could also install vehicle monitoring devices and message signs to monitor evacuation progress and notify drivers of any changes in evacuation routes or plans due to a change in the fire. or incident.

The city’s security component is expected to be presented to city council for final review in late fall 2022, according to the city’s website.

See the study here.

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