News

Design contest set for new Palo Alto bike bridge

City finalizing rules for five-month competition for 'landmark' entry to the Baylands

Palo Alto officials agree that the city's new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 should be a "landmark" structure that showcases the region's spirit of innovation while at the same time providing a gentle transition into the marshy nature preserves of the Baylands.

If things go as planned, the $10 million project would be constructed by 2018, at which point south Palo Alto residents will have a new gateway into the Baylands. The bridge would be built at Adobe Creek and would replace an existing underpass, which is frequently shut down because of flooding. The city has already received about $8 million in grant funding for the bike bridge, which is one of the most expensive and ambitious components of the city's recently completed bicycle master plan.

Yet while council members are buzzing with excitement about the new structure, coming up with a suitable design for the marquee project promises to be a complex and potentially lengthy affair. After much discussion, the city is now preparing to launch a design competition featuring international, national and local firms; a five-member jury selected by the American Institute of Architects, California Council; a public hearing with the Architectural Review Board; public comments and ultimately, approval from the City Council.

The design process has already been delayed by several months because of concerns from federal regulators, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife, about construction near the Baylands, said Elizabeth Ames, project manager from the Public Works Department. Now, the city believes it has addressed the federal concerns and the competition is set to begin. According to the tentative project timeline, invitations will be sent out to design firms next month, officially kicking off the five-month contest.

Several details, however, remain to be hashed out. Earlier this month, the city's Architectural Review Board considered the design criteria that would be used in the competition and offered some criticism about the contest rules. Vice Chair Randy Popp and board member Clare Malone Prichard vehemently opposed staff's suggestion that the contest be limited to firms that have designed at least two bridges in the past decade. Limiting the field so significantly, Popp said, would be a "terrific missed opportunity."

Malone Prichard acknowledged the need to have qualified firms participate in the contest, but argued that there are better ways to achieve this goal than including the "two bridges in 10 years" provision.

"I know this is not how Public Works normally does things, but this is not a normal Public Works project," Malone Prichard said.

Indeed, the design process for the bike bridge will be radically different from the one used for other major infrastructure projects of recent years. While the construction of the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and the renovation of California Avenue used the traditional approach, in which a qualified architect wins a bid and submits a design, the new bridge will undergo a more rigorous, iterative and participatory process.

The five-member jury will come up with a "short list" of three or four finalists, each of whom will receive a $20,000 stipend to further develop the proposed concept. The four designs would be presented at a public meeting featuring the jury and the Architectural Review Board. After the meeting, the jury will deliberate and declare a winner by ranking the finalists. The council will then have the option of accepting the jury's verdict or considering other options, according to a report issued earlier this month by the Public Works Department.

"Although the preferred outcome would be for the Council to agree with the jury's determination of the design competition winner, Council will have the option of selecting any of the three designers, or of deciding that the City should move forward with a solicitation for design services independent of the design competition results," the report states.

On Tuesday night, it was the Parks and Recreation Commission's turn to weigh in on the proposed design competition. Like the architecture board, the parks commission offered feedback on the three criteria that staff proposed to use for the competition: innovation, versatility and sustainability. Several members focused on the bridge's environmentally sensitive location and said this factor should be emphasized in the design guidelines.

"We are going to be putting this project in a delicate ecosystem and we need to be mindful of that," Commissioner Abbie Knopper said.

Commissioner Deirdre Crommie argued that the word "sustainability," as used by staff, is too vague and all-encompassing and suggested that staff consider language that emphasizes preservation.

"I think of sustainability as being one kind of movement that is sometimes at odds with conservation and preservation," Crommie said, pointing to the city's recent decision to "undedicate" a parcel of parkland in Byxbee Park and make it available for a waste-to-energy facility.

Commissioner Keith Reckdahl said the bridge should not only be "beautiful" but, more importantly, functional. This means having adequate space for bicyclists to use it safely, without having to dismount near the entrance and exit. Even if it's a "landmark" structure, Reckdahl said, if it doesn't serve its purpose, it's a "waste of money."

"A beautiful project that doesn't work is not beautiful," Reckdahl said.

Pat Markevitch took a different stance from her colleagues and lobbied for "the most simple design."

"Put it in, make it safe and just get it done," Markevitch said.

She pointed to overpasses in San Carlos and Sunnyvale as examples. Each was able to adequately function within the constraints of Caltrain's right-of-way over Highway 101, she said. The design should also pay particular attention to how much money the bridge would cost the city, she said.

"Even if we have grant money, it still makes a statement about how we're watching our costs," Markevitch said.

The design guidelines will be finalized in the coming weeks, but city officials have already agreed to make one change to the process based on commission feedback. Ames said the city no longer plans to limit the competition to firms that have designed two bridges in the past 10 years. Now, each competing team will be required to include an engineer or an architect that has designed one bridge in the past decade, Ames said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 7:39 am

This Bike Bridge is going to rival the Mitchell Park Library in futility. 2018? The Lefkowitz underpass it replaces cost virtually nothing.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 7:56 am

I hope this much effort and money is put into the design of the new Chaucer and Newell bridges over the creek -- current design proposals look like they are taken from a Soviet-era Peoples Construction Manual.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 8:08 am

This bridge is critically needed. The existing crossing is closed 6 months every year and detour on San Antonio Road is deadly. Can the city just close San Antonio Road to cars and use that as a bicycle/pedestrian route?

The city has been talking about building a pedestrian bridge for at least 10 years. Now we have to wait 4 more years for the Palo Alto process? Can the delay be reduced if we skip this design contest and just build it? This area is going to be smelly and noisy because of proximity to the freeway, so I am dubious that tourists and nature lovers will linger there. Besides, Caltrans is probably going to require a suicide barrier of some sort, ruining any aesthetics.

I vote for just converting the existing San Antonio Road bridge to bicycle/pedestrian use. There are lots of other routes that cars can use with just a couple more minutes of driving.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 27, 2014 at 8:27 am

Or bicyclists could simply use the pedestrian bridge that is already in place, traversing 101 from the east end of Oregon Expressway to the Baylands side of the freeway. It's centrally located, and most importantly, already paid for. A small sacrifice to simply have cyclists walk or slowly ride their bikes the shirt distance over the freeway.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 8:45 am

This has been discussed for so long and still nothing has happened??????

Other places just start building a simple bridge and get on with it.

Nothing fancy, it is a bridge over a highway. Copy a design already in use in other places. Make it safe and get on with it - that's all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

The City obsesses about the design of this bridge while trashing the rest of City. This is a slap in the face of every resident who lives with the
ugliness spreading over this City every day.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MP library observer
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 27, 2014 at 8:54 am

Watching city officials manage building projects over the years give me absolute zero confidence that this project will ends well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:20 am

Whoever designs it, please don't put in the crappy gates the Oregon bike bridge has. They prevent anyone pulling a kid trailer from using the bridge.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

This bike bridge is very much needed. The underpass is closed for many months of the year, and moreover is a potential crime spot due to its isolation and darkness. A bike bridge over 101 at University would also be welcome, although this may fall under East Palo Alto's domain. While we are on the subject of bike bridges, it sure would be nice if the obstacle course which is on the West Side of the Embarcadero pedestrian bridge is cleaned up - do we really need three fences in 50 feet to slow cyclists, and not have ANY on the east side of the bridge?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:27 am

The wheelchair-blocking gates are not ADA complaint. I'm surprised that Palo Alto still has those on some pedestrian bridges and tunnels.

I agree with the previous comment that the city should convert the San Antonio bridge to bicycle/pedestrian use only until a new bridge can be built. Most traffic is heading south from Palo Alto towards Google anyway.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terabithian
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

It should be built with the scraps of dismantled Eichler homes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

The article states that this is a $10 million project with $8 million in grant money. At the very least, the contest should have as a constraint that the construction cost of the design not exceed $8 million (Future value of $10 million based on a 5% yield, 4 year time horizon).

Has anyone noticed that the city is intent on spending many millions of dollars on nice to have projects (bike bridge, California Ave redo, lobby of City Hall, etc), rather than spend any money on the public safety building?
Remember how the Blue Ribbon Infrastructure commission said it was a pressing need?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JP
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

Take the Redding, CA pedestrian bridge as design guide


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:20 am

" ... the Redding, CA pedestrian bridge as design guide "

No.

The Sundial Bridge in Redding was built in 2004 at a cost of Twenty Three Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($23,500,000). Palo Alto has significant infrastructure needs; the City needs to be prudent with all expenditures.

For example, there's a critical need to reach closure on the design of flood control improvements for the San Francisquito Creek; 16 years is long enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:21 am

Lets just build a bridge that is functional and meets the needs of folks pulling bike trailers. Keep the cost down and spend the rest on repairing the roads that make biking on city streets unpleasant.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:21 am

City: please pay attention to the posters who have suggestions about the gates at the west end of the Oregon/Emb bridge AND the good suggestion that construction costs must not exceed $8 million AND the suggestion to look at the Redding bridge. I also suggest adding some lighting; the Oregon/Emb bridge feels unsafe at dusk and beyond.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:26 am

Thank you Pat Markevitch - always the voice of reason! I agree we should use a simple design, and "Put it in, make it safe and just get it done"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

As a frequent (daily) cyclist through Palo Alto, including riding to/from the Baylands - a couple of thoughts:

A ride-on / ride-off design would be much safer than the bridge at Oregon Expressway, with the wheelchair / trailer / tandem / pannier blocking "safety gates" that make the whole thing much less safe and convenient.

Keep it simple. Keep it simple. Keep it simple. People will be on the bridge for about 90 seconds, especially if you design it correctly.

A great example would be the bridge over 101 at Ringwood Ave in Menlo Park:
- Simple open design
- Ride on / ride off
- Good sight lines (you can see oncoming cyclists, peds, etc)
- Appears to not require unique construction, materials, etc - basically an off the shelf design
- It gets the job done!

Project info is at Web Link

Based on the estimates + variance listed, it looks like the cost was comfortably under $8m.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:42 am

I agree with anyone who has said "just get a design and build it". Given that $8M is available now, waiting >4 yrs for a simple bridge is dysfunctional and should be embarrassing to all involved parties.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

What's wrong with the existing bridge? And please, leave the Newhall Bridge alone. It's been fine all these years. So you have to stop and proceed with caution. Too bad more roads aren't like that in Palo Alto where everyone travels at the speed of light.

If it ain't broken, don't fix it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

First things first. Fix the Baylands boardwalk and the Interpretive Center. Fix the streets, fix what is really a mess.
For people who use this bridge - where are they 'going'???? Once the bikers go over the bridge, to where? To Ming's? To buy an auto? To dodge commuter shuttles on outer Emmbarcadero? Come on!! this is NOT needed. Upgrade the bike lanes on other overpasses. But Liz Kniss loves this idea,. Maybe it will be named for her and we can remember her 'forever'.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

If the City has more money than ideas, maybe they should do an intensive study into how their bad decisions allowing these ugly monster office buildings to be built is changing the community for the worse. Remember when the last bubble burst? This one may not be going anywhere soon, but all that comes up eventually comes down...or just disappears. Palo Alto is NOT socially engaging to everyone these days. It's a financially hostile environment. Them's that have don't welcome them'S that don't. Palo Alto has become a city of check book NIMBY liberals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Where are they going? This is the primary bicycle route between southern Palo Alto and Google. Probably half or more of the trail users are commuting to work, at least during the summer when the existing trail is open. Mountain View keeps complaining about lack of access to the Google campus. Right now, the trail is only open during the summer and most people drive during the winter instead of using the more dangerous alternate routes in the dark.

Many of the rest of the trail users are visiting the many trails around the Baylands and Byxbee Park (very popular with families and bird watchers), which is easy to do on foot using this trail. If you've never done this, I highly recommend it, at least during the summer when the trail is open. I believe the signs say the trail is only open from mid-April through October.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Save the design money and look at other bridge designs that have worked. The Mary Street Bridge in Cupertino, the Stevens Creek Bridge over Hwy 85, The bridge up in San Carlos over Hwy 101 and the Menlo Park bridge. They span the basic designs, simple to gateway. The ends would have to be site specific but the basic engineering would be mosty done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hilary
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:26 pm

The EXISTING creekside causeway can be immediately and inexpensively improved to provide all year passage (a simple stem-wall that keeps the creek from overflowing onto the path will suffice). Forget the "Signature" bridge, it is an unnecessary cost and diversion of attention from other more pressing items in the City.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Winter floods come close to overtopping the banks of the Adobe/Barron confluence. I'm not sure that further constricting the channel where it passes under 101 would be wise.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

A disgraceful waste of money. The best possible design would be to show people how to best ride their bikes or walk around.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I'm having a hard time believing this. If another bike bridge is needed, particularly for folks to commute to Google, then I totally agree with MP Resident. Especially if it's needed now.

And why, if it's needed in Mountain View, isn't Mountain View building a bike bridge? And why can't we rebuild the current bridge to accommodate bike trailers, etc? We DON'T need a monument.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I think that expediency and cost should be major considerations. If the city is going to go the contest route, the guidelines should provide very clear definition of expectations in these areas. There are many needed infrastructure projects. This one is quite urgent. For those of us who bike bay trails frequently for commuting and recreation near that location, this has been a very long time coming. We need this bridge ASAP. When the tunnel is closed (most of the year), alternate routes are very unsafe and unfriendly to bicyclists.

We don't need an iconic bridge. We need a functional bike/pedestrian bridge as soon as possible. Our budget needs a cost efficient project. That said, beautiful design doesn't have to be expensive.

I respectfully disagree with Ms. Pritchard...Experience with bridge building does matter--A LOT. Bridge design is a tricky specialty area that requires specialized engineering training. Practical experience with actual bridge construction will inform a designer's understanding of what the real construction challenges and related costs of spanning a creek and highway on marshy, windy land near a residential area are. It's a challenging project and requires an experienced hand.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Quickly, please.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm

My husband, a Palo Alto resident, bike commutes to work this way daily (he does not work for Google). I bike and hike the bay trials frequently and look forward to a safer route. The present route, when the tunnel is closed, over the San Antonio overpass, is very scary to bike.

Please get this bridge built soon!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Why the need to spend $10 million for "a gentle transition into the marshy nature preserves of the Baylands?" We need to focus bike infrastructure on commuting, not for recreational purposes. No need to make something fancy. The most important things should be that it is easily accessible by commuters (on both sides), that cyclists are not forced to dismount, and that there is proper lighting at night. Please emphasize function and cost-effectiveness over form.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Re:" ... the Redding, CA pedestrian bridge as design guide "
No.
The Sundial Bridge in Redding was built in 2004 at a cost of Twenty Three Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($23,500,000)."

Certainly Palo Alto needs a better design than the pedestrian suspension bridge at Homestead High across I280!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by cur mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Terabithian, you and I had the same thought--post and beam, redwood Eichler style. ; )

I agree- why do we need an iconic bridge? Just a simple, safe, accessible overcrossing. Maybe Google will pitch in for it. If they pay for it, it can be the Google Bridge. After all, it will connect their south PA campus with their MV complex.

And unsure we need a bridge at all--why not a boardwalk or pontoon dock for use during the rainy season? As a kid, I often rode through water up to the pedals. On purpose.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor Blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm

WHY WHY WHY WHY ????
This is just another "keeping up with the jones" Thing.
Other cities have one so we have to have one too.

How many time has the other one flooded? We are in a drought, folks.

A complete waste of Taxpayer money. Re,ember this when the Polls open.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Didn't Google buy some of the old Ford Aerospace property on the other side of this bridge. Why not build it so there's a Google Logo coming and going since it's probably the only reason why the city is building it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I totally agree with Resident
"This has been discussed for so long and still nothing has happened??????

Other places just start building a simple bridge and get on with it.

Nothing fancy, it is a bridge over a highway. Copy a design already in use in other places. Make it safe and get on with it - that's all"

I like the one over Highway 85 in Sunnyvale, it is beautiful. But you could copy any other one in the area (just not the one near Embarcadero over 101.). Just build it! Get it Done! And Done right! Safety first!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 3:26 pm

To answer your questions about Mt View access to Google: Mt View just built a bicicyle bridge/tunnel, it goes under Old Middlefield and over 101, a very nice bridge. It is between Rengstorff and the Old Middlefield/101 on-ramp. Palo Alto can just copy that bridge use the same contractor. It would save lots of time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Since Google is going to have office buildings on both sides of this bridge and I expect lots of Google bikes riding over the bridge, maybe the city can ask Google to kick in some money to accelerate the process? Maybe get the bridge done by next year instead of 4 years from now?

BTW - the problem with copying other bridge designs is that they may or may not fit in the same space. For example, the new Permanente Creek bridge in Mountain View has straight approaches on both sides. The Mary Ave Bridge in Cupertino didn't need to be elevated because the highway is well below the street level. Even the Ringwood Ave bridge in Menlo Park is different since that one has ramps on the freeway sides of the frontage roads, while there may not be enough space for those types of ramps in Palo Alto.

Even I can see how previous experience with bridge design is important; why doesn't the all powerful Architectural Review Board understand this?

I say get the bridge done as soon as possible. Bridge users are not going to linger near an ugly smelly highway, so aesthetics do not matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Pat Markevitch has it right. We don't need another 'showpiece', we need a functional bridge. Can we get more people like her in city government?!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aleks Totic
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I second cheap and functional design. I'd rather spend design dollars somewhere else.

And why is the existing underpass closed so often? That gate being shut has often cut my run short, even when it was perfectly safe. My feeling is that city just closes it for the winter, regardless of rains.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm

The existing path is closed from the first storm in the fall until April 15 (approximately 5 months every year). They used to close it on October 15 rain or shine, but recent years have gotten so little rain and demand has been so high that they wait until the first storm before closing it.

Why not clean off the mud and reopen the path when there is no rain in the 7-day-forecast? That's probably mostly a budget issue. I believe there may also be tidal issues flooding the path during the winter even when there is no rain.

I use this path regularly, so I am very familiar with the closures. Unfortunately, the closures also coincide with shorter days, so commuters are forced to use more dangerous routes (like San Antonio Road) in the dark. Sometimes the city does put up "bike route" signs on San Antonio Road during the winter, but that does nothing to slow car traffic to safe levels.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Where are they going? The primary users of this bridge will be those bicycling from the Google properties on East Meadow Circle in Palo Alto to the Google campus in Mountain View. Google should pay for the bridge and the City of Palo Alto should use the $8,000,000 or $10,000,000 for something else.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I seem to remember a design contest and public vote for the Cal Ave fountain.

There is still no fountain there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brain Hurts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I am tired of listening to ideas .... lets finish the current projects.
Why does work in Palo Alto takes so long to do?
Because to many ideas and plans are getting in the way of real work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shawn Raymond
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 27, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Prior to the city approved 'underpass bridge' my friends and I would go under the highway to ride our mini bikes and small motorcycle over in both palo alto and mt.view! It's a new day, and apparently we need a bridge. OK with me! So, I hear that the cost is an issue and the cost of the underpass was low compared to the $10M bridge budget. That a low cost, but cool looking bridge might be a statement. I propose to use the 'rust style' offsite built bridges that are simple, attractive,and common, But ...use concrete for contrast.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brain Hurts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2014 at 7:01 pm

A project that needs finishing is.... flood control BEFORE we have another flood. Sigh Can someone remember how many years it has been since they SAID we needed it done?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Folks here need to understand a few things about the current underpass:
1) The creek is owned and managed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. They have graciously allowed access to the underpass, but their first priority is managing the water flow.
2) The walkway is flooded and covered with very slippery mud frequently during a typical winter. It would be a terrible waste of time and a liability risk to try to clean it up after every rain.
3) Any new project must meet modern safety and disabled accessibility standards if it is to use any grant funds. The pretty much eliminates the underpass because it would cost more to bring the width, height and slope up to standard than it would cost to build a new bridge. This was looked at, and the freeway supports would have to be moved to allow widening the path and still allowing enough water to flow. That is ridiculously expensive and just not worth it.
4) At a public meeting a few years ago most women were opposed to any kind of underpass or tunnel because of the security issue. They would much prefer a bridge.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2014 at 8:32 pm

> " $8 million in grant money "

Grant money isn't free. It comes from us taxpayers, whether it's state or federal funds. We're going to foot the entire bill of $10M (or more likely $15M+.)

> "Vice Chair Randy Popp and board member Clare Malone Prichard vehemently opposed staff's suggestion that the contest be limited to firms that have designed at least two bridges in the past decade."

The Chinese firm that built that steel parts of the Bay Bridge had never built a bridge before. And we see how well that's turned out.

> "Watching city officials manage building projects over the years give me absolute zero confidence that this project will ends well."

Elizabeth Ames was also the senior engineer in charge of the Homer Bike Tunnel, and called it a "total success." Not everyone agreed:

"... former Mayor Gary Fazzino said that the Homer Tunnel was only one of the city's three largest mistakes during his recent 12-year term on the Palo Alto City Council." Web Link

Editorial: New tunnel gaffe requires safety review
"... city needs to reconsider bike lane for safety at troubled Homer Tunnel

"... as has been pointed out in several recent articles ... the $5.4-million tunnel is more than a year behind schedule -- and it rivals the eastern span of the Bay Bridge for being over-budget, percentage-wise. Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:05 pm

@ History Buff

"Grant money isn't free. It comes from us taxpayers, whether it's state or federal funds. We're going to foot the entire bill of $10M (or more likely $15M+.")

City Council and City Staff treat this grant money like it is free.
I think " Use it or lose it" in regards to grant money should be banned.
It sure is easy spending someone else's money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A guy named Hans
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2014 at 12:41 am

How about we build 2 functlional five million dollar pedestrian bridges. 1 would be the already approved bridge to no where. The 2nd would serve a safe passage over the 101 between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. I suggest somewhere between Embarcadero and University Ave. The second bridge can actually be beneficial to a larger community not just a specific neighborhood in southern Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sanity
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 28, 2014 at 6:32 am

Let's all agree that this is not the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Arc D'Triumph, or Golden Gate. It is NOT going to be a Landmark project, no matter how much money or stupidity we dump on it.

That kind of delusional thinking got us the design fiasco that is now Mitchell Park Library. Can we please just follow the law? I believe that law allows something like 5% on projects for artistic contribution.

So we ought to spec out the cost of the cheapest, simplest and safe bridge possible. Call that your baseline cost. Any submission in this ridiculous contest which exceeds this target cost by 5% is disqualified.

Any submission which adds unknown costs due to complexity that prevent simple estimates of cost is disqualified.

There you go: 5% for aesthetics, and if it is too complex to estimate - it is gone.

That simple rule will give you a nice bridge, and save cost, and avoid the Mitchell Park fiascos that result from "Landmark" thinking that is ruining Palo Alto.

P.s. Go Pat! You rock!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Keep Trying
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2014 at 6:59 am

Palo Alto should just lean across the border to Mtn. View and look at their paper. If you can't get things done yourself, look to the smarter kid sitting next to you to see how they did it.


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 29, 2014 at 3:39 am

@Keep Trying
It's not as if Mountain View's bike trail is perfect. The Steven's Creek Trail costed $30+ million and I have not found it to be a very pleasant ride. Too many turnarounds for bridges (I guess to flatten the approach while still meeting height requirements), narrow lanes, and poor visibility (without proper lighting) are major problems. But I agree that there's no reason to reinvent the bridge.


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Posted by Keep Trying
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2014 at 5:46 am

Justin, with such specific trail needs you brought up it is no wonder nobody in PA can get anything done. Sounds like you need a road, not a trail.

Beyond the SC trail, one might notice the other new bridges besides just the trail. There is also another one going in over 85 near MV High school.
MV got it done multiple times before PA could even come close to a planning phase.
I hope the new bridge has wide enough lanes for you...if PA can ever get this single thing done ;)


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Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2014 at 10:41 am

I agree that Mountain View has a much better "get it done" attitude than Palo Alto regarding pedestrian safety projects. Our city would be wise to learn from their process.


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Posted by Jon Botelho
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2014 at 8:58 pm

I'll wager that the ARB will pick the flashiest bridge design, or the team that says 'green' the most. Once selected, said team will struggle to build their conceptual design within budget. Construction will be delayed as additional funding is sought. Public Works staff will be blamed for everything by senior management and be thrown under the bus.


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Posted by Stan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 31, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Employees in city hall involved with this project clearly could not care less about helping facilitate a quick, practical, and in-budget solution here. Bloat, delays, and the ever predictable cost over-run all in the name of 'Palo Alto deserves the best bloat we can't afford' are all they know what to do! How in the world does this city function where this sort of waste is the norm?


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Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2014 at 11:58 pm

The City should instead focus their efforts on building a highly-functional and cost/schedule efficient pedestrian bridge. Funds saved could then be used for more pressing infrastructure projects.


City Council is sending the wrong message to this city's populace when infrastructure needs are so great and then it instead commissions a grand monument that leads to nowhere and which will serve such a small segment of the city's population.


City staff report apparently states that this pedestrian/bicycle bridge could represent the "identity of Palo Alto". This is utter hogwash and nonsense. This sounds just like the developer of the office building at Lytton/Alma who asserted that his project would become the "Gateway to Palo Alto" - that project is now complete and it is NOT a "gateway" in any sense of the word. Neither the Lytton/Alma building nor any pedestrian/bicycle bridge across 101 are going to become the "identity of Palo Alto" and City Council should not drink this Kool-Aid. Remember the "color of Palo Alto" exercise in dumb judgement? City staff sound like they are recommending new clothes for their Emperor with their jibberish talk of innovation, versatility and interconnectedness. The city staff report instead represents the pinnacle of dumb.


There is a relatively new pedestrian/bicycle bridge over 280 in Cupertino near 85/280. It has tall towers and suspension cables - perhaps what city staff envisions. Nevertheless, I don't think the bridge has become the "identity of Cupertino" nor the identity of anything else - it is still just a pedestrian bike bridge. Here is why. The bridge over 280 spans a very wide expanse of freeway traffic lanes (same as 101 at Adobe Creek where the bridge will need to span at least 14 lanes of roadways). The surrounding setting at 280/85 is non-iconic (same as 101 at Adobe Creek). The magnitude/scale/impact of the bridge at 280/85 is small in relationship to its surroundings (same as 101 at Adobe Creek). There is no canyon to look into, no river to cross, no mountains to gaze out towards or anything significant to view as one drives in their car under the bridge at 280/85 nor is there anything significant to view at Highway 101 at Adobe Creek (4 feet high concrete barrier walls obscure virtually all views of the bay lands - which, in all honesty, are not that spectacular to begin with). The setting at Highway 101 and Adobe Creek is NOT Yosemite Valley nor the the entrance to the San Francisco Bay, so let's not try to treat it similarly.

Levi Stadium does not have the setting that AT&T does. AT&T has an iconic setting because of the views of the bay and passing ships. In spite of the billion dollars expended at Levi, it's design will never be regarded as iconic because it lacks the setting.


I hear the argument that the bridge will be paid for using some federal funds. Receipt of federal funding is not a license to embark upon a path of frivolity on how the money is spent.


There is apparently some level of demand for a pedestrian/bicycle connector over Highway 101. I suggest that City Council verify that the need is truly there and the demand is truly significant - don't rely solely on city staff. But keep in mind, this is effectively a bridge to nowhere. After it has been built, we are not going to see new hordes of people crossing the bridge headed to the bay lands, although there may a steady number of bicyclists commuting to Mountain View's North Shoreline area (Google and Intuit employees). No significant destinations exist of the other side of 101 that will attract a huge number of bridge users. Can Council truly justify authorizing an extra magnitude of expenditures on such a low intensity use and a use that is fairly low in priority on the City's infrastructure needs list? Face it, the reason this project is being built is because the City is spending someone else's money (federal funds).


The pertinent facts regarding this bridge project:

A) Relatively low intensity of use.
B) Spanning 14 lanes of roadway.
C) Bridge is mostly viewed by freeway users.
D) Needs to be functional for pedestrians and bicyclists.
E) Must be equipped with barriers to prevent objects being thrown onto freeway.
F) Requires long ramps on either end for ADA compliance.
G) Requires design consideration to minimize graffiti potential.
H) Not an iconic setting.


City Council should go look at pedestrian/bicycle bridges that have been recently constructed in the area. Find one that was cost efficient and then hire the same design team to essentially copy that design for your Highway 101 at Adobe Creek bridge. There is nothing about the circumstances at Highway 101 and Adobe Creek that cries for pedestrian/bicycle bridge design to be reinvented.


The citizens of Palo Alto deserve a boondoggle-free project that is both designed and constructed in an efficient manner. We don't need a green roof or yellow pickets nor even the "color of Palo Alto" on this project. We need a complete and functional design without a City/contractor fiasco. We don't need a design competition where we pay the AIA $185,000 of tax payer money. There is a time and place for everything, but this is not the project to have a design competition nor does it make any sense to strive for iconic design. Palo Alto does not deserve to be known for its foolishness in erecting some grandiose, non-sensical monument that defies all practicality and logic. City Council should use common sense and reject city staff's recommendation.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 11, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I would love to see something like this so innovative, Bike bridge in Eindhoven .

Web Link


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