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A car waits at a stop sign on Clark Avenue before making a right-hand turn onto El Camino Real in Mountain View on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. The Mountain View City Council on Tuesday voted to ask Caltrans to restrict left-hand turns from Clark Avenue onto El Camino Real. City staff has indicated that Caltrans would honor the request. (Kirstina Sangsahachart/ Daily News)

Heeding calls from residents concerned about traffic impacts, the Mountain View City Council decided this week to restrict left-turn movements from Clark Avenue onto El Camino Real once Caltrans finishes installing a new signal at the historically dangerous intersection.

The roughly $1.3 million project is the result of numerous collisions at the T-shaped junction, according to Caltrans, which has jurisdiction over El Camino Real. Of the 27 collisions recorded there between Oct. 21, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2006, 18 could have been prevented with a signal.

However, Clark Avenue residents fear a signal that allows motorists to make protected left turns onto El Camino Real will lead to more traffic in the surrounding Gemello neighborhood, jeopardizing the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Left turns are currently allowed onto El Camino Real but traffic on the thoroughfare usually forces motorists to turn right and then make a U-turn at Escuela Avenue if they need to head west.

A sympathetic city council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to ask Caltrans to restrict the turning movement now instead of waiting to see whether it actually increases traffic in the neighborhood. Caltrans has indicated it would honor such a request, according to city staff.

"I think it's better to prohibit that left-turn movement from the get-go rather than trying to backtrack," said Council Member Mike Kasperzak.

"I do believe (a signal) will siphon traffic from many areas," Council Member Jac Siegel said in agreement, "and I think it's something that isn't needed."


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But Mayor John Inks and Vice Mayor Chris Clark said they preferred to make a decision based on data.

"I have problems restricting that movement based on fear itself," Clark said. "There's no reason why we can't use the baselines we've developed, look at this over a four- to six-month period, and if we're having a significant impact, then I'll be the first person to stand up and say let's change it."

Clark and Inks ultimately voted in favor of the restriction, leaving Council Member John Inks to cast the lone dissenting vote. McAlister did not offer any explanation for his decision.

Half a dozen residents called on the city council Tuesday to restrict left turns onto El Camino Real.

"I do know that the people in Gemello prefer biking and walking to more cars going through the neighborhood," said Terry Barton.

In addition to agreeing to ask Caltrans for the left-turn restriction, the city council approved making a secondary request for two crosswalks across El Camino Real on both sides of Clark Avenue. Under the current project, there would only be one crosswalk on the east side.

Council members expressed frustration that their power over the state project was limited. Caltrans rebuffed the city's request last year for more time to study the need for a signal.

"I'm really disappointed that the state didn't see the light of day on this one and decided to go ahead," said Kasperzak, who sent a letter to Caltrans as mayor in 2012. "This isn't the city's decision."

Construction on the signal is expected to start this week and end in September, according to Caltrans.

Email Jason Green at jgreen@dailynewsgroup.com; follow him at twitter.com/jgreendailynews.