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Redwood City’s Plan for Wider Roads Will Confound Its Bid to Cut Traffic

Redwood City's vision for a dense, walkable downtown would be undermined by its plans to induce more driving. Image: Redwood City
Redwood City's Downtown Core, envisioned in the city's 2011 Downtown Precise Plan as a dense, walkable commercial and residential center served by great transit. Image: Redwood City

As Redwood City plans to develop a more compact, walkable downtown, the city is ramping up efforts to encourage transit, bicycling, walking, and carpooling to avert the surge in car traffic that many residents fear would come as a result. At the same time, the city plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on infrastructure that will pump more car traffic into downtown.

Redwood's new Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Ordinance, expected to be approved by the City Council this summer, would place stricter requirements on large companies to reduce driving by their employees. But Redwood City also plans to spend big on widening roads, which would induce more car traffic.

In December, the City Council considered increasing allowable office space downtown from 500,000 square feet to 670,000 square feet while reducing space for housing and retail development, but hasn't gone through with the proposal.

Aaron Aknin, Redwood City's director of community development, said the city can accommodate this growth without increasing traffic. "In the long run there is a way to maintain or even reduce vehicle trips," he told Streetsblog. "We can minimize traffic resulting from new office projects, and we can draw on our existing employee base to reduce vehicle trips."

Under Redwood City's TDM ordinance, businesses with 50 or more employees would have to figure out a way to reduce solo driving.

Cloud computing comany Box, Inc. will lease the two-building Crossing/900 office development next to the Redwood City Caltrain Station. Image: Hunter/Storm, LLC
Cloud computing comany Box, Inc. will lease the two-building Crossing/900 office development located at the Redwood City Caltrain Station. Image: Hunter/Storm, LLC

"There are also opportunities to get data from smaller companies that could help develop a larger program," said Aknin. "With a business license, we could ask for number of employees and zip code information to see where those employees are coming from."

Meanwhile, Redwood City is going to spend $24 million to install new traffic signals and widen roads. Those funds would come from the Partnership Redwood City Community Benefits Program, which the TDM program is also a part of.

The city also plans to approve a $60 to $90 million expansion of the Highway 101/Woodside Road interchange, which would make it more dangerous to cross on foot and bike while pumping more car traffic into downtown.

The road widenings will induce demand and directly contradict the policy set out in Redwood City's General Plan [PDF] to "reduce vehicle trip generation and vehicle miles traveled."

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