Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 19, 2011

News Digest

PG&E begins Palo Alto pipeline project

The PG&E project to test gas pipelines in Palo Alto began with staging and excavation last Thursday (Aug. 11) and will continue through late September, according to the City of Palo Alto Utilities department.

Gas line segments T-29 and T-30 will be vented of unused gas in order to conduct hydrostatic pressure-testing.

People in north Palo Alto and Menlo Park can expect to smell gas on Friday (Aug. 19) when venting for pipeline segment T-29 will begin. T-29 stretches from Alma Street to Middlefield Road, with dig sites located at 2573 Alma, 3672 Middlefield and 3860 Middlefield. On Thursday (Aug. 25), hydrostatic testing of T-29 begins. Noise and a slight smell may be noticeable near Oregon Expressway and Alma Street.

Residents of south Palo Alto may notice a smell on Monday (Aug. 29) when segment T-30 will be vented. T-30 starts at the intersection of Alma and Page Mill Road and continues up Page Mill to Foothill Expressway. Dig sites are located at 650 Page Mill, 925 Page Mill, the corner of Page Mill and Hanover Street and 500 feet north of the intersection of Page Mill and Foothill. Hydrostatic testing of T-30 will begin Sept 5.

Hydrostatic testing subjects pipes to water pressure 150 percent greater than the pressure allowed under normal gas use.

Tests will "validate a safe operating pressure for the pipeline" and ideally "reveal weaknesses that could lead to defects and leaks," PG&E officials said last month. Weakened pipes will be repaired or replaced, the city stated.

Local STAR test results show mixed progress

Palo Alto students continued to score well while East Palo Alto students showed mixed improvement on California's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exams in English, mathematics, science and history.

The results, released Aug. 15, showed "steady" across-the-board improvement for California's 4.7 million schoolchildren, with 54 percent scoring "proficient or above" in English and 50 percent scoring proficient or above in math — the highest percentage since the program's inception in 2003.

Palo Alto students far exceeded state averages, with majorities scoring "advanced" in many subject categories. But consistently, at least 5 percent of Palo Alto students were "below basic" or "far below basic" in many of those same subjects.

School-by-school results are available at star.cde.ca.gov, the California Department of Education website.

"There's not that much change in the results. I guess I'm a little disappointed because you always want to see improvement, but with the gains we made last year this isn't surprising," Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

Students in East Palo Alto's Ravenswood City School District showed mixed gains in some categories, including mathematics.

For example, 63 percent of fourth-graders scored "proficient" or "advanced" in math in 2011, compared to 40 percent in 2010. And only 16 percent of this year's fourth-graders were "below basic" or "far below basic" in math in 2011, compared to 31 percent in 2010.

Texting-while-driving bill gets legislature's OK

The fines for texting on or holding a cell phone while driving in California could get much steeper if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill the California State Legislature passed Monday (Aug. 15).

Under Senate Bill 28, by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the cost of a first offense would rise from roughly $189 to approximately $309 — amounts vary slightly by county — when penalties and fees are included. The actual first-offense fine would be $50, up from the current $20. Subsequent offenses would cost $100, up from $50, and add a "point" to the driver's record.

For the first time, the law would apply to cyclists as well, though they would pay only $20 for a first offense and $50 thereafter, with no added fees and no point added to their driving records.

Simitian is the author of three previous distracted-driving laws. He said Monday that while the current hands-free phone laws are working, a stronger law would increase compliance and decrease the number of accidents, according to a press statement from his office.

Data from the California Highway Patrol showed a drop of 40-50 percent in the number of distracted-driving accidents caused by use of hand-held cell phones after the law went into effect in 2008.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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