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Residents split at meeting over Newell Road bridge

Original post made on Jan 9, 2013

A crowd of community members from Palo Alto and East Palo Alto jammed into the theater at the Lucie Stern Community Center to voice their opinions on the proposed replacement Newell Road bridge on Tuesday night, Jan. 8.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 12:13 AM

Comments (59)

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2013 at 6:42 am

Jaime Rodriguez, chief transportation official at the city of Palo Alto, said these options were possible but the project would lose significant state funds raised for the bridge's replacement. "

If the bridge were eliminated or changed to a bike/pedestrian bridge then the state/federal money wouldn't be needed in the first place.

Where is the CEQA study on traffic for this project?

Jaime - your responsibility is first to the residents of Palo Alto, and not increasing traffic. It's not to be gathering federal/state funds/grants for the sake of gathering money.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 7:34 am

> increasing traffic

Is there an accurate count of daily vehicle use of this bridge?

Would a new bridge that solved the problem of flooding necessarily increase the current number of vehicles using the new bridge?


Posted by Duveneck Neighborhood, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:16 am

This article is misleading, making it sound like there are equal numbers on all sides of this issue.

Buried deep in the article is one key statement:
"5,400 homes in the creek's floodplain currently pay about $6 million per year in federally mandated flood insurance. He said the comprehensive plan to reduce flood risk in the area might allow residents to avoid paying flood insurance."

The key issue that impacts many residents is flood risk and the need for flood insurance.


Posted by neighbor who was , a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:36 am

The solution is simple but the city is making it complicated.

The only issue that needs to be addressed is flooding and traffic safety. The bridge should be updated to eliminate potential flooding, period! The size of the bridge should remain the same.

Any increase in the width of the bridge, length of the bridge, alignment with Newell in EPA is irrelevant to the flooding issue and will inevitably increase traffic and jeopardize the safety of hundreds of children who bike to school daily on Newell.

Why does the city want to increase the scope of the bridge? This is a question they have never answered. It's almost like they are trying use the "flooding scare" to trick the Palo Alto citizens into supporting a "superbridge" when a "superbridge" is not necessary for reducing flooding risks.

Please, someone from the city answer why this "superbridge" was designed in the first place? Someone needs to take some responsibility for this fiasco.


Posted by Call for a balanced discussion, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

To Duveneck Neighborhood....At the meeting, there was agreement about the need to reduce flood risk and protect residents from future flooding. The important discussion takes place on the size and scale of the project. There were 5-6 options presented, all that provide the flood protection you describe.

Flood protection is the most important goal but some of the options may add significant traffic to the broader community, raise the concern of safety for school children walking and biking to school, AND change the entire character of our residential community.

Choosing the best approach is the hard work we have ahead of us.


Posted by Old Steve, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:43 am

Just a couple of thinking points: The new bridge would have to be wider because the existing one is functionally obsolete, and state and federal funds are fortunately not available to local agencies to replace obsolete facilities in kind. Removing the bridge will be expensive. If it is replaced with the new bridge, that expense can be recovered through grant funding. If it is to be replaced with a ped bridge, the cost of removing the existing bridge (the point of the project) would likely be strictly a local expense.


Posted by Upgrade and Mitigate, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:50 am

Closing the bridge would increase impacts on University Avenue and cut-through of other neighborhoods. It is doubtful that closure is even legal given that it is an inter-county transportation route. A two lane bridge is not a "super bridge" -- when I heard this I thought it must be 4 lanes or something. What the city needs to do is mitigate the upgrade, institute parking permits on Newell because of the overflow parking issue, and put in more stop signs and speed bumps etc to control traffic. To suggest closing the bridge is ridiculous -- lots of people live in the apartments across the bridge and come to Palo Alto for legitimate reasons of school, college, employment, parks, etc., and Palo Alto residents use the bridge as well as another travel route. Making the bridge a little wider is not going to change the basic usage. As we've all said to the people on Embarcadero and University, you also chose to live there, so it is a matter of mitigating impacts. As a resident I do not want access to this route removed as I use it myself to travel through town.


Posted by Native, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:05 am

People who use the bridge can find other ways into Palo Alto. I suggest blocking off the bridge to find the real effects. I doubt there will be much effect - perhaps more whining drivers that other routes take longer. But it won't cause crazy back-ups in traffic.

People drive way too fast on Newell, using it as a cut-through road for commuting.

Palo Alto City Council needs to think of its citizens of Palo Alto instead of thinking of the neighboring town's convenience. Palo Alto citizens are being adversely affected by that bridge which should have been blown up decades ago.


Posted by Call for a balanced discussion, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:16 am

I am not concerned about the label but I think it is important to NOT do what many always do....listen to the rhetoric without really knowing nuances:

1. If flooding is the goal, pick an option that addresses flooding. Fund that option.
2. Do not let the funding DRIVE the solution. The grant was applied for as a way of finding other sources for Newell and the money isn't even for flood control. In fact, a report from a Commission advising on flood control indicated that the Newell improvements were not that extensive. It's just that the city sought money and the money comes with constraints.
3. There is a lot of emotion around whether or not to eliminate the bridge. Let's focus on the primary issues - flooding and safety/traffic/character of the neighborhood. The East Palo Alto residents will not like what happens to their neighborhood if more traffic is routed through their streets - and the developers are already evaluating what else they can build to increase their profits - and these options could displace the EPA residents who currently reside on the EPA side of the bridge.

I say, choose the best option for the flooding solution and do the hard work to find the right source of money for the correctly scaled bridge.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:23 am

As much as many of us would like the bridge closed most of us realize that this is not a viable option. There needs to be a compromise. The only solution is keeping the bridge the same size as it is today and updating it to eliminate flooding risk. There is already speeding and traffic issues on Newell with the current bridge which endangers children biking to school. It is common sense that any increase in size would bring in more traffic.

Old Steve is incorrect. The new bridge does NOT have to be wider. The existing one is Not functionally obsolete. Probably the only reason there haven't been accidents is because of the current size of the bridge. It naturally slows down traffic.

This should not be about money. Palo Alto is required to update the bridge regardless of where the funding comes from. Our taxes will not be raised simply because the bridge needs to be updated because of flooding.

Those people who chose to live on Newell chose to live there because of the way the bridge has been for over 100 years. They didn't chose to live there assuming that the bridge would be widened and that traffic would increase. The comparison with Embaracadero and University residents is irrelevant. There was no reason for residents on or near Newell to predict that this bridge would be widened when they purchased or rented their homes.

Increasing the size of the bridge is a risk that should not be taken.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:23 am

As much as many of us would like the bridge closed most of us realize that this is not a viable option. There needs to be a compromise. The only solution is keeping the bridge the same size as it is today and updating it to eliminate flooding risk. There is already speeding and traffic issues on Newell with the current bridge which endangers children biking to school. It is common sense that any increase in size would bring in more traffic.

Old Steve is incorrect. The new bridge does NOT have to be wider. The existing one is Not functionally obsolete. Probably the only reason there haven't been accidents is because of the current size of the bridge. It naturally slows down traffic.

This should not be about money. Palo Alto is required to update the bridge regardless of where the funding comes from. Our taxes will not be raised simply because the bridge needs to be updated because of flooding.

Those people who chose to live on Newell chose to live there because of the way the bridge has been for over 100 years. They didn't chose to live there assuming that the bridge would be widened and that traffic would increase. The comparison with Embaracadero and University residents is irrelevant. There was no reason for residents on or near Newell to predict that this bridge would be widened when they purchased or rented their homes.

Increasing the size of the bridge is a risk that should not be taken.


Posted by Janelle, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

"The Bay Area is growing -- it's not separate from Palo Alto and East Palo Alto," she said. "Tearing down a bridge and separating a community is not going to solve anything. East Palo Alto has accepted a lot of burdens; maybe it's time to spread it out."

What kind of a comment is this? Palo Alto is a separate community. The Bay Area may be growing but one city does not need to take on another cities burdens. Why does East Palo Alto think that Palo Alto owes them something? They are two different cities and are not even in the same county.


Posted by Don't-Forget-The-Big-Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:53 am

> "5,400 homes in the creek's floodplain currently pay about $6
> million per year in federally mandated flood insurance. He said
> the comprehensive plan to reduce flood risk in the area might
> allow residents to avoid paying flood insurance."

> The key issue that impacts many residents is flood risk and
> the need for flood insurance.

People need to remember that after several decades of waffling, the City of Palo Alto, and the other government agencies involved with "water" have failed to produce a comprehensive set of via technical solutions to the "whole creek" flooding problem. The work to date has shown the need for a number of different partial solutions, which would work together to create a total solution.

Replacing, or removing, this bridge will not actually solve the problem of creek flooding. It can only help, at best.

Since the cost cited is so small, Palo Alto should pay offer to pay for the work, and then hope that some of the other agencies will contribute their "fair share". Worrying about State/Federal funding for this small project should not be a part of the discussion.


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:00 am

> East Palo Alto has accepted a lot of burdens

Like what? Please educate me.




Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:23 am

"Removing the bridge will be expensive."

No.

I disagree wholeheartedly here.

Removal of the bridge is the least expensive alternative (other than the 'do nothing' alternative, which has several significant, well-known drawbacks); there's no contest here.
_____

"...the 3,000 cars that cross it each day ..."

Where is the traffic study with such conclusion? Has the City published it online? If not, why?

A detailed traffic study should prove to contain quite a bit of useful data here.

My gut feel: this bridge is relatively lightly used; I'd be very surprised if the actual counts hit 3,000 vehicles per day.

As a result, the wisdom of bridge removal makes a lot of sense.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:31 am

Re the comments to the effect "Do not let the funding DRIVE the solution."
Sorry, but we must let funding drive the solution. For 15 years, we have tried to get the money to fix flooding, without success. Now, we finally see a funding package that might work. We can't turn down the funding now that we have it.


Posted by Redirect Traffic, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

No Newel Street Bridge means more people driving on Crescent and Center...


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:46 am

Don't want a new bridge. Keep it simple, no increased traffic there. That bridge forces people to slow down, and it's rather charming. Stop messing up Palo Alto!


Posted by Vicky, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:48 am

East Palo Alto is considering building a pedestian/bike bridge crossing 101 from Newell. If the East Palo Alto pedestrian bridge is built, the current newell bridge probably has to be enlarged to avoid accidents. If the it is enlarged too much, I worry sometime down the road, some may consider adding a 101 exit here. Palo Alto should consider this issue together with the East Palo Alto Pedestrian/Bike issue.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

@JA3+ - I'd also like to see the traffic study. I question the claim that bridge removal would increase traffic nearby side streets. I think that is thrown out to generate support for a larger bridge. If the bridge were gone a lot of the current traffic would end up on bayshore, university, embarcadero, and even the 101, and you'd see fewer cars using the neighborhood as a shortcut to the Dumbarton Bridge, 101, Home Depot, etc.. The only legitimate traffic that I can see being affected is the St Albert students - and how many are using the bridge every day?


Posted by Don't-Forget-The-Big-Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:50 am

> "...the 3,000 cars that cross it each day ..."

Assuming that 90% of the total bridge traffic is between 6AM and 1200 (Midnight), 3000 cars/day would come to about 5 cars every two minutes, on average.

Can anyone who lives close to the bridge offer some insight into how many cars generally use it on a per-minute basis?


Posted by Old Steve, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

The article mentioned that the channel passing under the bridge is too narrow. That means removing the concrete bridge abutments below grade in the creek bed, including meeting all the regulatory requirements. That could easily be a $1million project of its own.

Any two lane bridge seeking transportation funds needs to be nearly 40 ft wide to allow for modern lanes, shoulders, sidewalks, etc. I have not walked Newell recently, but my memory is that it is closer to 30ft wide.

So it can remain, and be part of the flooding problem; Or it can be replaced, and largely paid for; Or it can be removed with local money and pedestrian access restored with local money. These are the rules that all communities play by in financing infrastructure.


Posted by John Galt, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:05 am

The "Palo Alto Process" involes Democratic Meetings to discuss all sides and when finally finished, sometimes several meetings to handle all the comments, the City Council goes ahead and unanamously votes to do whatever they planned in the first place. It makes everyone "feel good" about how Democraric the Leftists are until the Vote comes.
Good luck, you-all!


Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

Is anything being done for the 101 bridge over the creek? If the other bridges are fixed, the floods will just move to bridge.


Posted by traffic calming, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:26 am

"> East Palo Alto has accepted a lot of burdens

Like what? Please educate me.""

How about all the PA drivers zooming through EPA going to and from the DUmbarton Bridge
If PA wants to get rid of the bridge, then EPA should consider traffic calming measures on it's portion of University--maybe even closing University as it leaves PA.


Posted by DC, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I agree that it IS too narrow; an accident waiting to happen. I also find the visibility once across the creek problematic; one needs to be into the southbound lane of the cross street on the Bayshore side before you can see oncoming traffic. As for those who cite concern for the safety of children (or use them as an excuse for what they want), two cars passing on that bridge plus a child on a bicycle could be horrendous. I think it's time for a new bridge; just 2 regular lanes with, for children's safety, a bike/pedestrian lane. And if speed bumps can be placed on a street like Colorado Ave W of Middlefield, and most of Cowper between Oregon Expwy and East Meadow, why couldn't it be done to Newell, as already suggested? Flooding concerns/costs concerns, safety concerns, access to both sides of the creek concerns, speeding on Newell concerns all addressed in one project. Seems simple.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Traffic Calming - Most of the drivers going through EPA to the Dumbarton are East Bay residents that commute. If you have a GPS, it does NOT tell you to use University, it takes you to Willow instead. You could argue that Palo Alto accepts the burden of commuters too - there is no direct route from 101 to 280 thru Stanford, Menlo Park, Atherton or Mountain View just thru Palo Alto and Woodside.

Neighbor who was - the reason the City wants to increase the size of the bridge is to divert traffic off of University, hence the straightened out design. The design of the bridge also includes a viewing platform (???) which increases the width.


Posted by Bridges, tough to know, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Leave the bridge as IT IS I believe.


Posted by traffic calming, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm

PA mom--good then PA will not be impacted when EPA closes University Avenue


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

traffic calming - Palo Alto would be impacted if EPA closed University because the commuter traffic would back up into Palo Alto. The same would happen if Palo Alto closed University - traffic would back up into EPA. I'm not saying that EPA doesn't bear a burden of commuter traffic, just that Palo Alto does too - and it is not caused by Palo Alto residents. Instead it is caused by commuters into Palo Alto and Stanford.

Bridges - the Newell bridge has to be modified or removed to prevent flooding.


Posted by Resident on Newell, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Thank you "Native":

"People drive way too fast on Newell, using it as a cut-through road for commuting."

Kids use the road and kids live ON Newell. The residential character means more kids out playing on/near the street. People drive too fast to catch the lights (including the PA Shuttle).

Work on the flooding. If you don't remove the bridge, leave it as is.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Typical Palo Alto proctology, I mean process.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

The experts & so many others keep talking about the creek flooding at Newell. When has this happened? Not Dec. 23, not in 1998, not in between, when we've had near-floods. It actually does a dang good job now, as a 102 year old codger. I like it as is.

I do understand the overall work that needs to be done, which is why it's being discussed. But it's sadly ironic that the *lack* of flooding at Newell doesn't seem to be appreciated & that those of us on both sides of the creek & further downstream are, by & large, paying the price for the increase in building UPSTREAM that has contributed to the water load down here. It's frustrating & expensive. The creek walls downstream of Newell have also done an incredible job & whoever though to put them up that high is appreciated.

Also, is it REALLY an accident waiting to happen, as someone else wrote? It's a hassle, but a hassle that makes most of us more cautious, thankfully. I'd love to know the accident stats.

I love the idea of speed bumps on Newell, as much as I find them an annoyance, they can greatly help w/speed decrease. I call Woodland's potholes "ghetto speedbumps" & am secretly thrilled when a dirtbag speeder bottoms out on them.

And speaking of dirtbags...I wonder where Equity Residential is w/all of this? What are they plotting & planning in their Mr. Charles Burnsesque manner?


Posted by Lyle, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I'm all in favor of eliminating the bridge entirely. Here are my reasons why:

Reduce traffic on Newell. Any cross-commuters can use larger streets like University, Channing, or Embarcadero.

It would eliminate one choke point that contributes to flooding.

It would eliminate the East Palo Alto residents from using Palo Alto streets for their overflow parking. Palo Alto residents and their guests have difficulty parking near their homes because of this issue. We shouldn't be a parking lot for residents from another city and county.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hmmm makes the same point that I was about to say. From recent events, it seems that the Bayshore/101 and Chaucer bridges are the bigger concern. Though I could see that if the Chaucer Bridge was fixed, it could impact the Newell Bridge with a greater flow than it receives today.

I think everyone could compromise/agree that if we can keep the bridge/traffic as it is now, while eliminating the flood risk, there would be no issues for almost all involved.


Posted by Cristina, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Maybe we should close the University and Newell Bridge to all cars! That way the thousands of drivers that commute through EPA streets can enter Palo Alto through Embarcadero! East Bay commuters that dirve to Palo Alto for work are ruining EPA streets and polluting air! Most commuters do not work in EPA. Palo Alto should pay to repair EPA streets if they're going to use us to get their employees to work! People need to wake up and see that we all have a traffic problem!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Crescent Park Dad - did you watch the water flow on Dec. 23? How quickly it rose was incredible, so I wasn't surprised that it was one of the fastest/highest flows on record.

I think one of the big problems is that the is not just flood control, but the other intention is to offset more traffic through our streets, is it not?

PA Mom, months back, only posted about that angle & was surprised when I brought up the flooding angle. Given how informed she normally is, *I* was surprised. She frequently referenced CalTrans & didn't know what the JPA was. I wonder if many people have been seeing this project through the CalTrans/traffic pov only, so now they consider flood mitigation secondary?

How were Palo Altans first made aware of the new bridge project - do you know?


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2013 at 3:27 pm

If I lived on or around Newell I would want that bridge eliminated too for traffic reasons. Those wishing to enter Palo Alto from that direction should use University. Newell is a residential street and shouldn't be a victim of heavy traffic. I would do the same thing with the eastern end of N California Ave in order to eliminate the heavy cut through traffic streaming to and from 101 and E. Palo Alto. Residential streets shouldn't be the hapless victims of traffic.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Every single person from EPA who spoke at the meeting talked about the need for the bridge. Any PA resident who does not recognize the economic, social, and political interdependence between PA and EPA is not paying attention to reality. I believe that we should seize the opportunity to use the available funding to reduce the flooding risk by updating the bridge. The design could include traffic calming measures that would keep it a low traffic area, but a two lane bridge with a sidewalk would definitely be safer than the current bridge. The environmental impact study process should allow all of us to voice our needs and concerns.

This project is being staffed by PA staff but it is a joint project between PA and EPA. Therefore, the needs of BOTH communities must be taken into consideration when crafting a plan for the Newell bridge. I think it would have been more effective in communicating the joint nature of the project at last evening's meeting if the mayor and other officials from EPA who were present were on the stage, introduced so that all could see, and given an opportunity to speak briefly.

As for the commenter who spoke to greater flood risk at other places along the creek, the SFC Joint Powers Authority has done an extensive analysis of this issue. You can read about the various projects that are planned here -- Web Link. At the presentation last night, it was clear that the Newell bridge needs to be dealt with BEFORE Chaucer/Pope because flooding is much more likely in the areas of PA and EPA near Newell after that bridge is rebuilt if the current bridge remains. Since I am a homeowner in that area, I am especially concerned that nothing be done which would increase the flood risk above its already high level.


Posted by William, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm

For those of us who use it every day, the current Newell bridge is too narrow and very dangerous as there is no visibility when you're crossing. I have nearly been hit several times on my bike crossing that bridge and had several near misses in my car as well.

If the bridge were removed, traffic would be backed up forever at University. It would become a huge problem for anyone trying to enter Palo Alto along University. That doesn't make any sense.

I applaud the efforts to rebuild this old and dangerous bridge. The new design is hardly a "superbridge". It's wider, safer and reduces the risk of flooding for those of use who live along the banks of the creek.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I am a little confused as to why this is a school route. The EPA kids who come to PA schools are in buses. Since the creek is the county and city boundary, there should be no reason for children to ride or walk across the boundary to school.

Or, am I mistaken?


Posted by Muriel Perkins, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm

This comment is to "Palo Alto Resident." Why don't you reveal your real name? You'll disparage people, and make comments about the Newell Bridge, but you don't have the courage to use your real name. Clearly you are not a stand up kind of person, but instead, a person who hides behind the internet. You can dish it out but you can't take it.


Posted by Dog owner, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I live pretty close to the Newell bridge and I was at last night's meeting. I thought the city staff did a good job of explaining why flood mitigation is needed, and why Newell is a key point in the process. For those who weren't at the meeting, the webpage for the project is www.cityofpaloalto.org/newell. Hopefully they'll post the slide shows that they had at the meeting.

I do not see how demolishing the bridge without a replacement can be a serious option. Such an isolationist stance is unrealistic and a bit distasteful; and, practically speaking, I can't imagine that the city of EPA would ever agree to it - and remember that it is a joint project.

I am in the camp that does not want a large bridge built, because I worry about increased traffic on Newell and the risks to the cyclists, especially the kids. The current bridge is a spectacularly successful traffic calming measure. The city's own analysis shows it is not a significant accident spot - the only accidents in past several years have involved parked cars. What we need is to update the crossing to get the anti-flooding benefits that all the neighboring communities need, while at the same time ensuring that there is a similar level of traffic calming. How about a bridge with access controlled by traffic lights? We could even have a single lane bridge for cars with traffic flow controlled by lights? There are many ways to skin this particular cat. I hope the planners use their imaginations, and not just think about how much money they can throw at the issue.


Posted by Lyle, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Eliminate the bridge. There is no significant economic ties between Palo Alto and EPA. The majority of what does exist is from EPA coming our way, not the other way around. What does come our way in terms of commuters, shoppers, students, workers, etc, can just as easily use a larger thoroughfare like University or Embarcadero. Newell, being entirely a residential corridor, should not be a cut through. We need to eliminate the bridge as a reasonable traffic calming measure.

Eliminating the bridge entirely would also be less of a financial burden for the region. It would also eliminate one choke point in terms of flooding. It's cheaper to tear it down and leave it at that. The upsides far outweigh any advantage.

Lastly it would further create traffic calming on Palo Alto streets adjoining the bridge/creek area. It would essentially eliminate the multitude of cars that EPA residents park on Palo Alto streets. We have become the overflow parking lot for EPA residents. It is difficult for our residents and guests to find street parking near our homes. That is a reasonable expectation from our residents. Palo Alto streets should not be used as a parking lot for residents from a different city and county.

Please close the bridge for good.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm

@William You perfectly explain why the bridge should be removed (or at least limited to pedestrians/bicycles when you say:

"If the bridge were removed, traffic would be backed up forever at University. It would become a huge problem for anyone trying to enter Palo Alto along University."

That's the point, traffic going to Stanford and downtown should go down University (or Embarcadero), not Newell. A bigger easier to use bridge will bring more traffic cutting through.


Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm

iSez is a registered user.

This is ridiculous. People want to keep the bridge so drivers can conveniently speed through a residential neighborhood and save time? Let them go around to the main thoroughfares like the rest of us! The Embarcadero Rd. entrance to 101 is so close to Newell Rd. that drivers are just trying to save time by cutting through Newell Rd. These selfish drivers should just start 5 minutes earlier.


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

bru is a registered user.

>> "5,400 homes in the creek's floodplain currently pay about $6 million per year in federally mandated flood insurance. He said the comprehensive plan to reduce flood risk in the area might allow residents to avoid paying flood insurance."

This is the really critical information - think about it ...

... with this bridge a lot of people have to pay a lot of money and may face being flooded if the bridge stays - so for the sake of our people the bridge needs to come out.

Now, after it comes out, the question is whether or what to replace it with.

First, get it out then reconsider. Maybe when it is out for a while people change their minds and either will or will not care when they can look clearly out how much it is going to cost.

Take this bridge out, it's a petty little bridge that only serves a very few people, and the only reason it's even being considered to be rebuilt is probably that Palo Alto is trying to be sensitive to those who live on that side of the creek in East Palo Alto. If the bridge was not there now, and it never would have been put there if the builders had known the problems it was going to cause, no one would want to build the bridge from scratch ... so this should just be dropped, or a small pedestrian and bike overpass should replace it.

If the lack of a bridge does give Emergency Vehicles a harder time getting over to that area, then that problem is worth fixing, and fix that problem instead of using it as an excuse to build a bad bridge. No one uses this bridge that cannot use some other route just about as easy.


Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:53 pm

rick is a registered user.

@bru, is the word "might" pertinent in the line you quote as critical information? Call me a skeptic but I take "might allow residents to avoid paying flood insurance" the same as "I might win the lottery."


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2013 at 2:19 am

bru is a registered user.

> Call me a skeptic but I take "might allow residents to avoid paying flood insurance" the same as "I might win the lottery."

I would never ask anyone not to be a skeptic about anything, but if it's true, and it is a good chance it is since the water backs up because of the bridges then is just sensible to make that change since it needs to be made anyone and is the first step in every path. Tear down the bridge and re-assess after a time - is what I was suggesting, that's all. Having it down may save it needing to be rebuilt if that's not what people really need, but in the meantime why make flooding more likely.


Posted by WH Smith, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm

WH Smith is a registered user.

First of all I must take offense the poster who called the Woodland Rd potholes as "ghetto speed bumps". Rude, denigrating and insensitive. We are neighbors.

It appears that many posters were not at the meeting on the 8th. Or they were not listening. Please check the web sites noted for information.

The Newell Rd bridge has been declared inadequte and unsafe by CalTrans. It needs to be repaired (or removed - more on that in a bit) and they will pay for it to be replaced if it is done to adequately accommodate vehicles, pedestrians and bikes. They will not pay to have it totally removed or to be come a ped and bike bridge. We would have to pay for that out of the limited funds that have been found. If we do that it takes funds away from fixing Chaucer and East and West Bayshore bridges other maintenance on the creek system. Doing nothing (leaving existing bridge in place) at Newell Rd is not an option (even if we could with CalTrans requirements) for the hydrology of the creek to function well for a 100 year flood scenario. The 100 year flood scenario/fix throughout the whole Palo Alto/Menlo Park/East Palo Alto corridor is what will get everyone off the hook for Federal Flood Insurance requirments. Removing the bridge totally and replacing with nothing will also cost us all money taken away from the project as a whole. These points should be the primary focus of the project as a whole with Newell Rd bridge issues included.

Removing the bridge (whether or not it is replaced with a bike/ped bridge) also brings the traffic (secondary) issues into the limelight. Of course I use this bridge every day to go and come from my residence. I would prefer to live in my old neighborhood of College Terrace because it would keep me closer to my job and my 12 year neighbor friends but alas, the rents in Palo Alto forced me to seek residence elsewhere. If you don't want us "cheap" renters coming into town on your streets provide more below going rent rates and we will keep the traffic down. All that being said, I am now two blocks from my brother who lives in Cresent Park. This is very nice! And for cheaper rent! All about trade offs.

If the Newell Rd bridge is removed or changed to non-vehicular traffic (a huge mistake for joint community services and relationships) here is what I would do. In order to get to work and home again every day (and this is what I will do when the bridge is down for reconstruction) I will go down Woodland which is very tight and dangerous for peds, bikes and kids getting to school (and yes, kids do walk and bike to school from EPA every day across the bridge) to University at the light, I will go left on to University (a residential street just like all the other streets in Palo Alto) and then left again at whatever street is handy, Center, Crescent etc, to get to either Newell again or to Middlefield and down Middlefield to Mountain View where I work. All residential. Face it. The only trully non-residential streets in Palo Alto are El Camino, Page Mill, and some of Alma.

We need to be creative in our communities with traffic calming. Coming to the meeting the other night at Lucie Stern someone in a BMW SUV almost ran me down in the parking lot trying to get to somewhere! We have many ways to do this. Speed bumps, traffic circles, smart lights like the one at Newell and Channing that cycle when a car is at the intersection or the crossing buttons have been pushed. And a parking permit system in the area around Newell Rd is an option but get in line with all the other requests about non-residents parking in Palo Alto - another issue all of our communities need to deal with. In College Terrace we worked very hard to get additional traffic calming features - two circles on Yale and speed bumps on College and California. (As well as a parking permit system to keep Stanford employees and students on campus and employees from El Camino and Face Book employees (when they were on California)from blanketing the streets.) It helped a great deal. Some people still have trouble on where to turn at a circle and turn into traffic rather than go around the circle but the more we have of these things in town the more everyone will get used to them. Or would these things slow all you folks in Crescent Park down when you use Newell Rd and the bridge to cut through to get to 101 and back again? Think about it folks - remove the bridge and you will have more cut through traffic on other streets. As was said at the meeting - the traffic won't go away, it will just get re-routed and maybe to streets that are quieter now but won't be for long. And you will in turn, put at risk the funding for the Creek drainage/flood system as a whole. Let's all work together.


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm

bru is a registered user.

> The Newell Rd bridge has been declared inadequte and unsafe by CalTrans. It needs to be repaired (or removed - more on that in a bit) and they will pay for it to be replaced if it is done to adequately accommodate vehicles, pedestrians and bikes. They will not pay to have it totally removed or to be come a ped and bike bridge.

OK, so the bridge must come out for flood control.
So, the question is, do we spend the right amount of money and remove it,
or do we follow the PERVERSE incentives of CALTrans and make the whole state pay more for something that is not necessary ... and then we wonder why we have financial problems?

I maintain the right thing to do is to first remove the bridge. If we decide we need the bridge later, then CALTrans should pay for it. If not, then this is something worth fighting about to try to put realistic incentives in place for infrastructure ... this is kind of like the bridge to nowhere ... that is what perverse incentives gets us, and not only that but make everyone cynical and corrupt when things do not work right.

WH Smith ... I don't really understand if you live in Mountain View why you would take University and not go on Embarcadero either to 101 or down Middlefield ... or even take Louis? I fail to see how getting injected into the backstreets of Palo Alto from EPA by taking this bridge makes any route to anywhere except just over the bridge (ie. like your brother's house) easier? And I'd wager not many people have family on both sides of that bridge.

You have a point about the kids coming from school ... but a pedestrian bridge would fix that - AND, I am not positive about this but I have not heard of any accidents where children or anyone else has been hit around University and Woodland ... AND I do know that the current bridge is very dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists ... though still I do not recall any accidents on that bridge.


Posted by Rs, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Rs is a registered user.

Even cheaper, just block ithe bridge, so cars can't cross it. The remaining bridge could still service bikes and people. That sould satisfy caltrans. As for the flooding, I doubt removing that bridge will make a real difference and I am one of the people that risks losing when we flood.


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm

bru is a registered user.

Rs, the bridge cannot stay because the hole underneath it is too small for the amount of water that needs to get through in a big storm. The Newell bridge has to come out.


Posted by WH Smith, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm

WH Smith is a registered user.

Bru - may I suggest that you read postings more closely. I live in East Palo Alto, work in Mtn View and spend a great deal of time in Palo Alto - relatives, friends, shopping, food shopping, eating out, pumping money into Palo Alto. And my many many years of living in Palo Alto (on and off since 1973)keep it in my mind as my home along with East Palo Alto where I live. I take umbrage at your comment about the "bridge to nowhere" - it is a bridge between two communities who share a great deal. Families raising children, running businesses, working in each other's businesses......people in both communities share common goals and lives.

CalTrans, whatever you think of governmental entities, is in place with our pooled money to build highways and bridges and maintain them for our agreed upon use and safety. This bridge falls under their umbrella. They want it to be safe. Our job as voters and taxpayers is to work together to come to agreement around what each community needs and wants regarding this bridge, to make sure the money to fix the whole system is secured (removing the bridge only, with no CalTrans approved replacement, takes money away from the goal of 100 year flood fixes for the system) and NOT removing the existing bridge is NOT an option if the whole system is going to be successful. As was said at the meeting, stop being selfish. Democracy works when we compromise, work together for the good of all and find a solution that works. What are you all so afraid of? Perhaps all of this energy could be put into finding workable ways to find solutions for the traffic problems that you think removing the bridge will solve. Or are there other issues that concern you?


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

bru is a registered user.

> I take umbrage at your comment about the "bridge to nowhere" - it is a bridge between two communities who share a great deal.

WH Smith ... I can understand you might be sensitive on this account, but what I mean by this is that you are the exception if you use this bridge, and you cannot expect the state to pay on the order of millions of dollars for a bridge for the sake of symbolism ... or maybe you can, maybe that is exactly what will happen, but I just stated that the way the incentives are we are motivated to let the state spend more money in an era when we should be a little thoughtful about spending money. I just think we ought to think about it, and see what it's like not having the bridge there for a while to see if we need it. I went across this bridge today as a matter of fact. I often use the bridge to avoid Embarcadero traffic on the way to Crescent Park. Why should I have a bridge just to make my life easier, because it is not that useful to others? I could just as well have taken Embarcadero.

Let me ask you the big question though ... do you think if there was not already a bridge there that there would be any call or public support for building one out of the blue just to serve you and a few others in East Palo Alto that have alternate routes to use that do not take you out of the way?

> As was said at the meeting, stop being selfish.

And, WH Smith, this is just a rude comment. I could just as well attack you personally and say you are being selfish for wanting a personal bridge for you and few others, but I understand the process and I have every right to express my opinion of this. Don't make more to this than there is. In the 80's I used to live in the Tan Apartments and I had relatives on the other side of the bridge too, so I used to be in that minority so I think I have the right to my opinion, and the right to not have to face nonsensical charges of being selfish. Cut it out!

> Or are there other issues that concern you?

Oh and I can be as sensitive as you ... this seems like a veiled accusation of classism or racism. Stick to the points and allow others to express their opinions and democracy will work out.


Posted by Rs, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Rs is a registered user.

"Rs, the bridge cannot stay because the hole underneath it is too small for the amount of water that needs to get through in a big storm. The Newell bridge has to come out."

It is only one of many choke points. Eliminate this one and we still flood. Cement the creek, it would be much more effective than eliminating bridges.


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

bru is a registered user.

Rs ... have you ever gone down and looked at the creek ? Did you see the Chaucer St. Bridge a few weeks ago? Water backs up behind the bridge openings that are too small, cementing the creek is not a solution unless it also modifies all the bridges that have this problem ... with all the new development in the hills I cannot help but think the natural absorption of the ground is lessened and we will see more and more water running down from the hills through Palo Alto.

Can you point to any analysis about cementing the creek and its effect on flooding? Personally cementing the creek if it is not absolutely necessary would really make the city look ugly. True, trees could be planted and would grow eventually, but it will look less natural.

To me, I think the number one problem is the possibility of a flood. I used to rent over in Metro Circle off of Greer when this happened over a decade ago and a lot of people around that area got flooded, and it still is not fixed. I am tired of hearing the City and others talk ... DO SOMETHING! If the problem is the bridges, get rid of them and then build them back right if they are needed and do it right - i.e. overbuild it so we do not have to worry if rainfall patterns change and we get more rain.

The city is just asking for another flood, and there is no reason for it.



Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2013 at 1:01 am

rick is a registered user.

Why is the continued existence of a bridge necessary at Newell? Because without it there would be an access gap of 1.2 miles between University and Embarcadero. Current users would be impacted by a lengthy permanent detour.

I live near a different 1.2 mile barrier, the railroad tracks with no crossing between Oregon and Meadow. Many years ago we could cross by foot or bicycle at El Verano, and until recently at El Dorado. (I feel like the last of the wild west cowboys when nobody cared about trespassing on the tracks as long as you didn't damage anything.) The barrier between Midtown and El Camino is now sealed and we just have to put up with the inconvenience of going around. Nobody built us a bridge.

My point is to ask why a creek crossing at Newell is more important than a track crossing at, say, Loma Verde? If you are powered by gasoline, a half mile either way doesn't take much effort, but otherwise it can be quite a chore.

I see flooding as a reason to remove the bridge. Not a reason to build a new one, even if someone else (me) is paying for it. If anything, replacing it with a less water constricting bike/ped bridge would be much cheaper.


Posted by Rs, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

Rs is a registered user.

"Rs ... have you ever gone down and looked at the creek ?"

Yes, I looked at it during the storm. Actually I own and maintain large creeks, so I do actually know something about this. These creeks are not maintained for storms. They will never be because PA does not maintain its infrastructure. So you can have a pretty creek, or a functional creek. Choose, but ripping this bridge out is not going to fix the problems I see. For example did you notice there are trees growing in the creek? Maybe those should be addressed, they are more of an issue than the bridge.


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