City Council Traffic

Bruins “pork” funds Foothill Expressway Improvements

Foothill Expressway Improvements Los Altos
A big fix is coming to these North Los Altos you like the plan so far?
Written by lalahpolitico

Let’s celebrate. The the City and the County VTA are planning a massive redo of the awful El Monte – Foothill intersection. By 2019 several groups of commuters should be enjoying the Foothill Expressway improvements. Kudos to City Council member and County VTA President Jeannie Bruins who really “brought home the bacon” from the 2016  transportation bond, Measure B, to the benefit of all Los Altans.

Who Especially Benefits

Covington school parents who drive kids to school will once again be able to make the Left Turn from Covington onto El Monte heading westbound…because the single through-traffic lane on El Monte will be expanded to TWO lanes…like it used to be ten years ago.

Pedestrians crossing this El Monte intersection will appreciate the removal of the “porkchop” islands. They will be replaced with squared-off crosswalks — much safer, less scary than crossing those constantly “free running” vehicle right-turn lanes which the “porkchops” permit.

Foothill commuters will appreciate extra lanes which will be added to Foothill Expressway throughout the downtown area…extra lanes which should reduce the chronic backups on Foothill as it crosses El Monte and San Antonio.

Downtown University – Orange residents can hope for less cut- through traffic trying to skirt the Foothill Expressway backups.

Some of the Traffic Issues

These include vehicle backups on Covington Road near the school, backups in both direction on Foothill, backups in both direction on ElMonte.  If you drive, bike or walk regularly though there, you know… Oh, and it feels really unsafe if you are a pedestrian or biker, because of the concrete islands – the porkchops — which permit constant, free-running right turns.  With islands, there is no requirement for a car to stop on red; It’s just a yield…sort of.

Foothill Expressway Improvements Los Altos

Pedestrian relief: Porkshops to be replaced with squared off crosswalks. No more having to duck the non-stop vehicle right turns.

Genesis of the  El Monte – Foothill Project

Jeannie Bruins at City Council Chambers

Jeannie Bruins at City Council Chambers

The City of Los Altos did the design work for Foothill Expressway improvements – over $400,000 worth over a year ago. Council Member Jeannie Bruins  – who is the County VTA board president – campaigned hard for the 2016 County bond Measure B last fall.  She had been working to get our Los Altos projects among the first in line for funding…if Measure B passed.

And now here we are with the Bruins Bacon — yes, political pork.  She and our County Supervisor – Joe Simitian — had been active in making sure that North County area could get a fair share of the transportation funds. This remedies the outcome of the prior County transportation bond — virtually all the funds from that one went for South County projects.

The June 29 Workshop

On June 29, 2017, the County presented its plan for Foothill Expressway improvements – with 3 alternatives – at a workshop in Los Altos. Lalahpolitico has selected some highlights from the County presentation, so you can understand the plan and see what’s coming.  It looks like an improvement  for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. But if you see something that could be better….for gosh sakes, say something…to the VTA.

Foothill Expressway Improvements Los Altos

All the alternatives meet the goals of adding all kinds of lanes. The plan alternatives vary in how they design the intersections…mainly how many porkchops to remove and how many lanes to add… Source: County VTA



Looking at the Maps…
North at top, South bottom, East right, West left

All the images below for Foothill Expressway improvements are compass oriented … North at the top, South at the bottom, East to the right, West to the left.   The side by side images are… LEFT one  is the EL MONTE intersection, RIGHT one is the SAN ANTONIO intersection

Alternative 1 – No porkchops

Foothill Expressway improvements Los Altos
Zero pork chop islands means no free-running right turns for vehicles.   Is this a potential slow down for vehicles making a right?  Not really a biggie because lanes are added. Yes, when driving, I guess one will have to Stop on a red before making a right turn. Or maybe the traffic lights will have a “right ONLY when a green arrow” is on? Plus pedestrian sensors will be embedded in the crosswalks…and we can hope linked to smart traffic light signaling that is pedestrian aware–able to be longer wait…or a shorter wait.

Alternative 2 – Lanes to reduce
University – Orange cut-through traffic


Foothill Expressway improvements Los Altos

At ElMonte The 2 right turn lanes will reduce Univerity-Orange cut through traffis. At San Antonio, the three lanes will contribute to reducing University – Orange cut through traffic.

This plan for Foothill Expressway improvements removes 3 of the 4 porkchop islands at ElMonte.  On Foothill south it has 2 right-turn lanes onto ElMonte west — this would be good for discouraging cut-through traffic in the University-Orange neighborhood. The diversion of this cut-through traffic is further aided by starting a third southbound lane on Foothill just north of the San Antonio intersection.

Alternative 3 – All of the above

This plan for Foothill Expressway improvements includes all of the elements for Plan 1 and Plan 2 – removal of 4 porkchop islands AND all the extra lanes.

This plan for Foothill Expressway improvements combines all the features. No porkchops.  All the extra lanes.  Changes will require narrowing the medians and some tree/shrub removal. [Are there actually trees in the median along here?  Lalahpolitico never noticed them.]

Lalahpolitico: It sure looks like Alternative 3 is the winner.

Wait! There’s more Bruins Bacon – South Los Altos

South Los Altos should not feel left out.  There is a project to improve the 280 – Homestead area.  It’s Tier 1 so that should mean it is likely to get funded.  Has it been designed/planned by the City or County?  Unknown to Lalahpolitico.

Los Altos Foothill Expressway Improvements

There are goodies the The Measure B transportation bond for South Los Altos too. Improvements to 280 exits and to Homestead Road.


Foothill Expressway Improvements Project –
Keep the Public Eye on Future Plan Revisions

With any luck the County’s construction of the intersection improvements could start the summer of 2018. That’s good, because Covington School will be out of session. And I guess the Los Altos School District will not be adding a 10th school to that site as soon as summer 2018?! If they were, which they aren’t, there would be construction traffic contention.


It looks like the County is planning one or more public workshops for fall 2017 about the Foothill Expressway improvements. We’ll keep an eye on them…to insure there are no unpleasant surprise changes moving from the conceptual plan to actual plan.


You may want to download the County files about the Foothill Expressway improvements — so you can control the screen size — rather than just view them in your browser. The browser view was too large on my browser…your experience may vary.  I recall I had to “trust” a sharepoint plug-in in my browser.

Full County June 29, 2017 Presentation Slides

Alternative 1 drawing

Alternative 2 drawing

Alternative 3 drawing

County Foothill project page

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.

Leave a Comment