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Water officials eye replacing Newell Road Bridge

Original post made on Jul 8, 2011

A flood-prone bridge that spans the San Francisquito Creek and connects Palo Alto and East Palo Alto could soon be replaced in an effort to boost traffic safety and flood control around the volatile creek.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 8, 2011, 9:35 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by Lividdavid, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

Why not keep the existing bridge as a bike/ped bridge and just build a new auto bridge? This should lower the costs and adverse neighborhood impact of the proposed bridge.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

It's hard to care about Crescent Park criticism in light of how badly this bridge needs to be improved. It has nothing to do w/the Pope/Chaucer bridge - separate bridges, separate issues.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

Under no circumstances do we want Newell Avenue to become another high traffic Channng over that Creek!! It's getting bad enough now. And if the bridge is 'moved', into whose present backyard would it be anchored? For years residents have advocated to remove the bridge completely or just put a pedestrian-bike bridge there.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

Which residents, Kate? I for one have been using this bridge my whole life, long before I moved to EPA. It was a crucial outlet for those feeling the flood, both on the PA side & the EPA side. This rebuild should NOT be determined just by PA residents. Newell is already a high-traffic street, and much of the traffic turns onto various side streets as well as Embarcadero. I understand not wanting Newell to become Channing, but it has to provide an outlet for cars as well as bikes & pedestrians.


Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

I wonder if all the people working on this have considered the WHOLE structure of flood control throughout the entire San Francisquito Creek. Fixing a bridge at one end to help control floods is kind of ridiculous. There should be a plan for the entire creek.


Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

The bridge has long been sub-standard; it's barely wide enough to allow a single car to pass through. Built long ago, it's time to upgrade the bridge.

In particular, it's very important to take prudent and wise steps to reduce the risk of flooding; the bridge reconstruction will likely be an important step here.

Those of us who have long lived in Crescent Park -- I've been here since early 1972 -- realize little has been done since the floods of 1998. It's time to take fiscally prudent action 'on the ground'.
_____

A side point: I believe it's unwise to convert the bridge to pedestrian or bicycle only uses; doing so would simply push vehicular traffic onto other entry points.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 11:32 am

For some reason most of our bridges seems to have been designed to "choke" the water and back it up when there is large flow. Perhaps that is the best they could do back in the 20's when I think most of them were built, but it is a recipe for problems as we have seen. The one thing we can probably predict is that weather conditions will be unpredictable and all over the place in the near future.

This is shown in this picture I took back 2 years ago under heavy rain.
Web Link

In any case this bridge is terrible anyway. It is way too narrow and God help you if you get caught on the EPA side when there is a long line of cars from Palo Alto coming ... you cannot get in ... particularly because there is no way to have a stop sign or traffic regulation.

I have to wonder if there have been pedestrian accidents as people try to go across it late at night or at the same time as poor drivers or intoxicated drivers common in this area. A person is in real danger if they are on the bridge at the same time two cars try to cross. Drivers on this bridge play chicken as well.

I know this bridge is convenient, but why not just tear it down. We can install a pedestrian bridge temporarily until better times when it can be replaced.

I don't live near there anymore, but is there really that much traffic that diverting it to Embarcadero or University would be a problem?

On thing that should happen no matter what is that lighting on this bridge is almost non-existent ... some bright lighting might help if nothing else can be done.


Posted by Fix-The-Creek, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2011 at 11:42 am

> Why not keep the existing bridge as a bike/ped bridge and
> just build a new auto bridge?

The problem on the table is: "does the current bridge have a sufficient "aperture" (opening) so that it will not clog from detritus floating in the water during near-flooding conditions, that lead to the Creek's overflowing its banks?" While the Palo Alto P/W Engineer has "gone off" on all sorts of problems, he didn't talk about the "aperture" of the current bridge, or the much larger bridge that seems to be focusing on "safety".

Everyone (except the P/W Engineer, it would seem) understand that this bridge needs to come down, because it's "aperture" is too small. The comment about doing the whole Creek as a system is quite correct, since all of the Bridges need to understand the carrying capacity of the Creek, which tends to get larger as the Creek gets closer to the Bay.

It's interesting that after decades of "looking the other way", the "Authorities" finally are interested in dealing with this poorly designed bridge.

One question not yet on the table is: "can we tear this bridge down and not rebuild it?"



Posted by Judith, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I learned an interesting thing about flood control projects = they start at the downstream end and work up. That way, increased flow has someplace to go. The flood channels downstream of the Newell bridge are already being worked on; this is a logical next step. The Chaucer bridge work will come.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

The bridge SHOULD be replaced for cars, cyclists & pedestrians. People were able to get across it during the flood of 1998, when they weren't able to cross anywhere else. It was also one of the ways emerg vehicles were able to get in & out at that time, as well as in the days right after. I also know it allowed off duty police personnel to get home.

We manage to drive it safely all the time. Doing so means that you can't hog the whole bridge, you have to obey the 4 way stop on the east side, you have to keep an eye out for pedestrians & cyclists, but mostly, you have to go slow, which dog forbid, people don't wanna have to do. Oh, yeah, it helps not to have a ginormous, gas-guzzling behemoth of a vehicle.

Aside from actually being travelable during the flood, using this bridge lessens traffic on side streets & at points along Univ & Embarcadero.

I have never seen an accident at the bridge, either, even though it looks like it would invite accidents. I am sure that info is avail at both PDs, though.


Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Anon's photo tells a strong story; thanks for posting.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Well, the photo's of the Chaucer St. bridge, not the Newell St. bridge.

We certainly have had unpredictable weather that impacts the creek, moreso in the past 15 years than years previous. Also, Judith is correct about how they approach this. BTW, pedestrian-&-bike only aren't on the table, & that's a relief.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm

> "can we tear this bridge down and not rebuild it?"

Basically, right. The problem is political I think. The bridge is there, and to spend so much effort it must have been put there for a reason at some time in the past. Now the people in this area of Palo Alto want to seal themselves off from the world and it appears snooty. Crime and traffic are associated with this bridge as also a lot of stuff happens or historically happened from 101 to downtown on University too.

The strong reason I see is that there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, but mostly one-way from EPA to PA. For people who have cars or bicycles how much inconvenience and how much danger is involved in walking so far out of their way to Embarcadero or University. I think this is significant. But it would probably be cheaper to have a bus go through that area for free than to build a new bridge and then deal with the evolving traffic consequences.

The only reason I can see that Palo Altans want to use this bridge is that it goes to the 7-11, or sorry to be politically incorrect - their drug connections. ;-)

So, how many East Palo Alto residents are going where over that bridge into Palo Alto? It is a straight shot down to the park and the library, but EPA is technically a different county even.



Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Hmmm, I know, I was trying to illustrate how the "aperture" ... flow restriction ... oriface, hole, whatever you want to call it is similiar on all of these bridges.

When they put them in they have worried more about the bridge breaking or the banks washing out than preventing flooding.


Posted by Fix-The-Creek, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm

> I learned an interesting thing about flood control projects =
> they start at the downstream end and work up

That's true--if there is a plan that includes all of the bridges over the river/creek in question. In your experience, working on flood control projects, did the engineers have such a plan, or did they just start at the bottom, and work their way up-stream without a plan?

The first big flood in "recorded history" was back in 1955. It flooded all of downtown, and maybe up to Embarcadero (if the memory of some old-timers can be trusted). Since that time, the "water people" have yet to come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with all of the issues needed to make the Creek a lot safer than it is now.


Posted by Bridge builder, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Why have a bridge here at all? Just tear it down


Posted by Why?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I have been following this issue for awhile and also live on Newell. I have yet to hear any persuasive reason why we need this bridge. The city's flood management and infrastructure have improved since 1998 and this notion that the bridge provides an important emergency exit is misplaced. Just tear it down...


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

No, it's not misplaced. When it floods again, it will likely offer a safe way for residents on both sides, as well as emergency services, to have access. I don't trust the improvements made, as even solid improvements aren't enough. It was THE only way in/out in 1998. I used it to help people in PA who had emergency situations, incl 2 people ill w/cancer. I honestly don't know what would have happened if I hadn't been able to get to them & get them out. We also used that bridge to transport the Stanford volunteers who were monitoring the creek & couldn't get back to their cars.

Anon in Crescent Park, I think your comments aren't ill-intended, but they come off as awfully ignorant. There are MANY non-EPA residents who use the bridge to get to 101 at both Univ & Embarc, as well as those respective streets & to get to Menlo. People like Mark Z. can use it to get to their jobs. We have a lot of "cut through" (I hate that term) traffic on the westside from 101 going into PA, using that bridge. It's a perfect artery for those who are going around town and need to avoid 101/Univ & 101/Embarc.

EPA's westside is a high density area, & the snotty desire obvious from some here to reroute will impact traffic - traffic that you all would also get stuck in.

Yeah, Anon, PA residents use it for 7-11 ** for Three Brothers - as well as Ikea, Home Depot, etc. People in Menlo use it to get to different parts of PA. You'd know more about the drug habits of your residents than me, since I no longer live in PA.

Besides, arguing over it's viability is moot; my research indicates it's under review w/both EPA & PA officials, as it should be.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 8:08 pm

> There are MANY non-EPA residents who use the bridge to get to
> 101 at both Univ & Embarc, as well as those respective streets &
> to get to Menlo.

Thanks for phrasing that politely ... some are not so generous around here.

No, I did not intend to be ignorant, when I was in college I lived in the Tan Apartments near the 7/11, but do not have as good an idea as to what goes on there now - so mostly I was hoping someone would add information.

If what you say is true Hmmm, there may be many residents, but is having that bridge a nice thing to have, or a necessity?

Living In Crescent Part I will sometimes turn off Embarcadero when there is traffic and go down Channing or go down Woodland to Newell to Channing ... and there is rarely traffic in that direction.

That leads me to think that that removing the bridge would not add to the traffic elsewhere much, in other words I think - guessing or hypothesizing that most of the impact of removing that bridge would be to drivers that have alternative routes that are not too far out of the way, but most pedestrians crossing over from EPA. Rebuilding a whole bridge for a relatively small group in this economy is not a good idea in my opinion.

If there is significant reason to think the bridge will flood, then either tearing it down or modifying it if possible seems like a better idea. I do like the idea of having a bridge there - removing it seems "unfriendly" to EPA and that neighborhood.

I do not think of that bridge as an artery, nor should it really be. The EPA roads, particularly Woodland are really terrible.

Arguing is not useless if you think of it as discussing. I'd like to know what the officials are thinking and what data they are using. Or officials seem to interpret data and do things their own way whatever reality says.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Woodland is bad? Have you been on Hamilton lately? Your city has zer oexcuse for its lousy roads. It's not your decision if it's an artery, nor is it mine. Yes, it's necessary - I think I spelled that out in re to the flood. The bridge was crossable in the flood there in 98. It's also important for JPA to have it for their work. This really isn't rocket surgery - I just checked out a few things & figured out why it was important, plus have some experience w/the flooding.

Part of the problem is the slant of the article - it leads people to assume that their opinions on this issue matters when our opinions don't really matter here. The article is typically PA-centric, leaving out EPA's involvement w/the process as well as the real meat of the matter.

Since I live here & cross that bridge multiple times each week, I can well speak to the traffic back & forth. Many PA residents cannot. They just have a knee jerk, NIMBY, snotty attitude. That's a large part of why we - & plenty of other EPA residents - have curtailed spending our money in your town, frankly. You come across as well-meaning & a little naive, but pretty unaware, as well. What should be done, instead of all of this opining & speculating, is demanding a more balanced story w/more info w/the whys & wherefores of redoing the bridge.

The bottom line here is that eradicating the bridge is NOT on the table, & for several excellent reasons.


Posted by laughter, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Anyone who wants to break the bridge is mindlessly,ooops i meant the opposite.


Posted by laughter, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm

ooops,should be mindly minded.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2011 at 12:03 am

> You come across as well-meaning & a little naive, but pretty unaware, as well.

Hmmm, I am really getting tired of this tone. Stick to the facts and when you get the urge to toss out the pointless insults restrain yourself.

I go across the bridge and I know the reality of the bridge. I am trying to allow for the fact that I don't know everything, and I can listen to your opinion, but you have no corner on the truth but you sound slanted on "your" bridge ... I'm trying to be objective.

First, if there is a flood we have failed, so for example if we get rid of the bridge and do not have a flood, then we do not need the bridge in a flood.

There is no guarantee that because the bridge was functional in the last flood that it would be in the future.

> What should be done, instead of all of this opining & speculating, is demanding a more balanced story w/more info w/the whys & wherefores of redoing the bridge.

Which is what I suggested as well. Meanwhile there is no harm in sharing what we know personally. If you are honest I don't think you can justify keeping that bridge if there is a danger of flooding just so you can save some time in your personal driving.


Posted by wallandbridge, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 9, 2011 at 12:10 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2011 at 7:52 am

Sorry to be blunt, but there is a reason why we don't walk down Newell towards Edgewood at night. I've had friends relieved of their wallets and purses down there.

I would be fine with taking the bridge out.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2011 at 10:28 am

> there is a reason why we don't walk down Newell towards Edgewood at night.

Yeah, that is what I was getting at, it is a political thing. I think it used to be the cases that people who worked in Palo Alto used to live in EPA and walk or bike to work. Now it is something completely different.

But tearing down the bridge is probably not going to help if a pedestrian bridge is put in its place.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Too bad, Anon - he attitude in your town is ridiculous & your town's posters started the snotty, NIMBY attitude in this thread driven once again by a one-sided, incomplete & unbalanced story.

My personal driving convenience also IS important, because it echoes that of many others - on both sides of the bridge, & MP.

You & others are also ignoring the importance of keeping the bridge for flood reasons, which are crucial. How do you know *the new bridge* will flood? We have no idea, none of us have seen the plans.

Of course *the creek* will flood again. It's flooded more in the last 15-20 years than it did prior in my lifetime and that will only increase unless improvements are made, which is the point of a new bridge. You & I can't stop those floods, but we can pay attention to the plans being made, educate ourselves about this plan so that if it floods again before other creek bridges are improved, we'll have a better sense of what to expect from this one.

It's very, very easy to forget what that flood was like, or for those who weren't here to be dismissive of it. But given how many of my friends from the PA side of the bridge came to my place & the work I did to help on the other, plus the use by emergency personnel means it was very important - & I'll state it again - which is why they want it rebuilt.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A substitute for replacing the bridge would be a jet pump to increase the flow through the existing bridge arch.


Posted by Fix-The-Creek, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm

> A substitute for replacing the bridge would be a jet pump to
> increase the flow through the existing bridge arch.

That would be of little value when the trees have clogged the small "aperture", which has happened in the past.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Trees are a surface phenomenon.


Posted by Fix-The-Creek, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2011 at 11:09 am

> Trees are a surface phenomenon.

Not when they are lodged in the "aperture", blocking other detritus, and water--that might look to "overbank" to find a way to get downstream.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

...but until they block, the jet pump will increase the capacity of the bridge.


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