Officials are bracing for potential traffic gridlock on Charleston Road Thursday, Aug. 16, as Palo Alto students head back to school amid PG&E pipeline work along the well-traveled thoroughfare.
Palo Alto police are warning drivers to avoid Charleston during school commute hours.
Bicycle lanes on Charleston between Middlefield Road and Alma Street will not be available due to the construction, according to Palo Alto Utilities Department Communications Manager Debra Katz.
Cyclists are encouraged to walk their bicycles on the sidewalk, Katz said.
Flag holders will be stationed at the vehicle entrance and exit to Hoover School, 445 East Charleston, to direct traffic, Katz said, adding that left or U-turns into the school will not be permitted.
Pedestrians and cyclists coming from neighborhoods south of Charleston will be able to cross the street at Carlson and Nelson.
Sidewalks on both sides of Charleston will be accessible, and the Waverley and Nelson pedestrian-bike paths on both sides of Hoover School will be accessible, allowing students to cut through to JLS Middle School and Fairmeadow Elementary School, Katz said.
The potential for traffic tie-ups will be the worst on the section of Charleston between Middlefield Road and Alma Street. There also are some PG&E-related traffic controls on Charleston between Alma and El Camino Real, she said.
"We're heartily trying to encourage everyone to leave a little early and give themselves an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get to school," Katz said.
"It's understood that you're going to have a little extra trouble, and we'd rather people be 10 minutes late to school than not be safe."
PG&E said earlier that Charleston work would be finished in time for school opening, but work was extended because of underground water issues and interference from a storm sewer main, Katz said.
Once it is completed, PG&E will begin digging along Miranda Avenue.
The PG&E pipeline project follows the September 2010 explosion in San Bruno of a PG&E transmission line. The blast and resulting fire killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
"Both the city's and PG&E's first priority is to get these pipelines installed correctly and safely," Katz said.
For more information, see the utilities department website.