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Palo Alto could get $5 million for new bike bridge

Original post made on May 16, 2012

Palo Alto's ambitious plan to give residents and bicyclists convenient, year-round access to the Baylands took a major leap forward Wednesday morning when Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss unveiled a new proposal that would invest $5 million in a new bicycle bridge over U.S. Highway 101.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 1:31 PM

Comments (89)

Posted by hopefully soon, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

The Adobe Creek bike path was closed much of last year because of flooding. It will be closed all of this year because of Caltrans work on Hwy 101. The alternative route of San Antonio Road is a death trap for both pedestrians and bicyclists. Families in southern Palo Alto deserve a better route as soon as possible. The $100 million freeway project is being completed non-stop. Hopefully pedestrian and bicycle projects (with a tiny fraction of the cost) get the same construction priority.

BTW - didn't Facebook promise to pay for the Dumbarton trail? Is this a duplication of funding?


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

That money must have been burning a hole is someone's pocket. I'd rather that $8-10 million were spent on more traffic cops or restoring Cubberley.


Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

The money was mitigation funds from Stanford relating to their expansion in 2000. It needs to be spent on recreational trails. It can't be spent on traffic cops or Cubberly.


Posted by James, a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm

""This gets us halfway there," Rodriguez said. "

Guess who will have to pay for the other half? Pile all that debt on our current budget picture. Just another boutique project with a kick-the-can-down-the-field budgeting model. This is why we are underwater (pun intended).

Palo Alto needs to start thinking about one word: Greece!!!



Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

When one considers the long list of recreational needs, it is hard to imagine it not being near the bottom in cost-effectiveness -- not surprisingly, the City doesn't even try to produce cost-effectiveness measure.

But services for residents is irrelevant. We don't contribute enough to the politicians. The construction industry (labor and corporate) does.


Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm

And having two bike overpasses either existing or near completion within a few minute ride in either direction makes this necessary how?

The money dedicated to this Palin-esque boondoggle should be redirected towards the Bay Trail-- a project that will actually add value.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on May 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"that would invest $5 million in a new bicycle bridge over U.S. Highway 101."

This is NOT an investment, it is simply pork barrel politics taking the taxpayers money from one government pocket and putting into another government pocket.

The problem is that the politicians really doing think that they are making an investment - sick.


Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

....or, here's a great idea- Maybe Palo Alto could actually maintain their existing trails and bike lanes! I've seen people get tires caught in storm drain grates on safe biking streets-- crazy!

Palo Alto proved they no longer care about cycling and cyclists when they reconfigured Charleston to guarantee that some kid on a bike eventually gets killed there


Posted by hopefully soon, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Tea Partiers who claim that alternative routes are minutes away are naive. Maybe Lance Armstrong can sprint down to Rengstorff Ave in a couple of minutes (a 5 mile detour), but these bridges are not built for Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong can use the San Antonio Road freeway interchange and doesn't need a dedicated pedestrian/bicycle bridge.

These bridges are designed for families with pre-teen children. Rengstorff may as well be a million miles away. Families are not going to bicycle down Middlefield Road and across the no-bike-lanes San Antonio Road intersection and then some route through Mountain View to get to the another bridge.

The existing Adobe Creek Path was heavily used until it was shut down with no detour signs posted, presumably because the detours are too complex or dangerous for children. I say get this new route done this year.


Posted by Choice, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I think it is a great idea! When we are out of gas at least we can still get on our bikes and get to where we want to go.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm

"The proposed bicycle-and-pedestrian bridge is a key component of Palo Alto's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, a document aimed at making the city one of the nation's top bicycling destinations"

This is the real reason why we have to build this white elephant, while our infrastructure goes wanting--it is about the city's (and Our "leaders") ego. Palo Alto has to be the TOP city--so let's build a bike bridge over 101--then everyone will flock to Palo Alto. And remember, as Karen Holman stated, it cannot be a plain bridge--it has to be an aesthetically pleasing bridge that will cause drivers on 101 to admire it as they drive by.
But avoid downtown---people are complaining about too much traffic there.


Posted by Jared, a resident of Monroe Park
on May 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I think it's a great idea. What's better than providing another avenue of escape for the burglars that come into town?


Posted by Really?, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Burn some extra calories and ride to Oregon and take the bridge there. It is in the middle of the city. Spend $5000000.00 on something else. Just another stupid investment of money in Palo Alto.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Liz Kiniss....is the 'savior' of the recreational family.....loves bicyclists, champion of the
CHILDrennnn. Where have I heard this drumbeat before??? Maybe the children can bike past the proposed $100M garbage sludge burning factory and through ten acres of undedicated parkland and get an education in 'being green'? Our streets have holes, our sidewalks are dangerous, our utility bills are going up,up and very away, and we need a bike bridge? I'll bet this picture of LIz will be on her election brochures to get back on the PA City Council.


Posted by Good idea, a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Good. Let's get it built then. Good idea.


Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm

@hopefully soon: Do you always assume anyone who opposes you is a "Tea Partier"? This liberal wonders if you are aware of the bike bridge under construction on Old Middlefield-- which will be easily accessible via the Bryant St bike corridor and a few quiet neighborhood streets-- or the existing one maybe 2 miles from Adobe Creek?

This is a pathetic case of "me too". Mtn View and Menlo Park can afford new bike bridges. Lets stamp our feet and divert monies that are meant for valuable improvements to recreation infrastructure.


Posted by keren, a resident of Hoover School
on May 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm

[Post removed due to promoting a website]


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2012 at 9:27 am

According to today's Daily News--our next mayor Greg Scharff said that the bridge was a high priority for the city. What about our crumbling infrastructure and other issues facing the city--are they not a priority. Our clueless City council, busy pandering to special interest groups.
The Deputy City Manager says that about 40,000 people a year will use the bridge. That is a little over 100 a day--is $10 million a good investment for that number???

Some people may think that this announcement by Liz "I Can't live without an elected position" Kniss is a cynical attempt to get votes for her upcoming attempt to rejoin our council (just what we need--a recycled old council member who may harbor against a certain religious groupi n the city)


Posted by Bob, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 10:04 am

If the bikers need a bathroom, they won't be able to us the proposed-closed Interpretive Center and sacking children's programs. Closing that will save about $30K. There are a few porta-potties out there. Where is the common sense in Palo Alto? Who's steering this ship?
DO THEY LIVE HERE??? It's time for the people of Palo Alto to rise up in total wrath.


Posted by Ivan, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 17, 2012 at 10:20 am

Anyone trying to walk or ride across the San Antonio overpass is risking their life. This new bike bridge is very important for building a safe neighborhood.


Posted by Jim Mark, a resident of Stanford
on May 17, 2012 at 10:34 am

How about using some of that money to mitigate the dangerous parking situation on Stanford Avenue? Now that the trail to the Dish has been opened to everyone, double parking, U-turns and other dangerous driving practices a commonplace. An alternate parking area off Old Page Mill Road would work, especially since a new walking trail in that area has been approved.


Posted by jm, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2012 at 10:42 am

Does anyone know how much money is Palo Alto will pay for this bridge?


Posted by Charlie, a resident of College Terrace
on May 17, 2012 at 10:51 am

Where is the existing bike bridge? is that at Oregon expressway, or Rengstorff as someone else noted? Oregon Expressway seems like a reasonable place to have people cross. Spending that kind of money seems out of whack -- maybe one of our new Facebook millionaires will want to endow it and name it for themselves!


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 17, 2012 at 10:58 am

This looks really cool! I like the general idea, but wonder if one of the corporate greats could sponsor it (and accelerate construction, since government redtape would be reduced, at least insofar as getting the funding together) I am fine with naming right being given. SO much $$$ is routinely given to Stanford for all sorts of things, including aesthetics, how about this for the community?!


Posted by Amazed, a resident of College Terrace
on May 17, 2012 at 11:12 am

The suggestion that this announcement by Kniss is tied to her inevitable reelection to the CC is right on the money. Too bad *they* didn't plan better so that this nice-but-not-critical bridge was built at the same time that the recent work on the Embarcadero overpass was done.


Posted by Jane, a resident of University South
on May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

Liz Kniss will do a lot to get re-elected, including getting us to change our local election schedule so that it would coincide with the end of her present term of office.


Posted by North PA, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

For the designers, please keep in mind the connections of this bridge to North Palo Alto bike routes. Great asset for Palo Alto, let's make sure it is as convenient as possible for both North and South links.

For those commenters saying to just use Oregon bridge, that is a Pedestrian bridge, not a bike bridge.

This bike bridge is a long time coming. Up and down 101 you see other bike bridges already completed by other localities: Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Carlos, Atherton, etc. etc. Palo Alto City government should have been on this years ago.



Posted by juggler, a resident of Stanford
on May 17, 2012 at 11:56 am

That is the money that was to go for recreational facilities/trails for Stanford residents instead of the 2nd foothills trail planned a long time ago. Now this politician Kneiss has siphoned it off from Stanford (county land) to Palo Alto--I hear she is running for P.A. city council, which we don't vote on, so she wants to build her resume toward Palo Alto,not Stanford. If the intent was to use it on Stanford land, then the biggest need is for putting parking facilities near the Dish trail, and trail number 1 so the present parking would not be so hazardous and those trails more accessible,


Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I'm an avid bicyclist and could use that bridge on a daily commute. Access to the Baylands every day of the year would be very nice.

Some people have mentioned the cost. Here's another way to see it.
The bridge will cost about $10M. The cost of $10M, at 3% per year, is $300K/year, or about $1000/day. The estimated usage is 40K/year, which is about 40/day.

So we, in our great wisdom, will spend $1000/40 = $25 for every person who uses the bridge. Is that crazy, or what??? What are these people thinking?


Posted by Save the MOney, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I've been riding my bike across the Oregon Expressway "pedestrian" bridge for 40 years - it works just fine if bicyclists give the same respect to pedestrians they they expect from automobile drivers - share the overpass, spend the money on one of our many other needs.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Barron Parker

Excellent point of doing the arithmetic on cost per use, but I didn't quite follow the math. My guess is that the 3%/year comes from using a lifespan of 30 years, which is typical for such a structure. However, this omits costs of maintenance. And this is cheap money because it doesn't have interest payments associated with the normal method of financing such projects (bonds) which one could argue should be considered because they apply to the more important projects that will now have to be done with via bonds rather than this "cheap money". And remember, only $5M of the cost is this cheap money. I couldn't find what maintenance for a bike bridge is, so let's just try some numbers for amortization and maintenance:

At 5% (almost certainly low), it is $500K/yr divided by 40K trips/yr = $12.50/trip.
At 10%, it is $25/trip.

Since money is a reasonable proxy for carbon footprint/GreenHouse Gases (GHG), especially since the production of cement is one of the largest generators of GHGs, at $4/gallon for gasoline, we have: at 5%, a trip on the bridge is equivalent to 3.125 gallons of gas; at 10%, 6.25 gallons. So much for such bike trips being "green".


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for the info, Doug. I was also surprised to read that only about 100 people/day would use the bridge. But remember this is Palo Alto--so bikes good, cars bad and the goal is to make the city one of the nation's top bicycling destinations.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Addendum to previous msg: Treat as rough comparison because the conversions are complex. I didn't factor taxes out of the price per gallon of gasoline. And cement is produced using natural gas, not gasoline, and it has a different cost and GHG profile.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Mountain View
on May 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I live in Mt View and am looking forward to Mt View's new underpass/overpass to get to Baylands. When living in midtown PA I used both Embarcadero and the Fabian Way/Creek underpass almost every day for bicycling recreation. I am all for more bike routes, however since MT View is building one so close to Fabian Way/Creek (2 miles) I don't think we need a PA one. We need that money for PA schools, and traffic cops.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Liz Kniss is a career politician and has lived off our tax dollars for too long. Time to stop her run.

She was behind the McDonald's no toys/meals law for the county. I guess parents don't know what is best for their children - but apparently Liz knows better than you.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside
on May 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm

We could give each man, woman, and child in Palo Alto $155 each, or we could build this bike bridge.

If I was a Palo Alto resident, I know what I would prefer...


Posted by North PA, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Save the Money - appreciate you have been riding across the pedestrian bridge for 40 years. You are right, it is "doable." But I am genuinely curious, when did they put up those rediculous baffles at either end? Like many things, they made something that probably wasn't a problem for decades into something more difficult than it needs to be.


Posted by Not ADA, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm

The Oregon pedestrian bridge might be "doable" for a bicycle, but I doubt it is doable for those on other wheels - wheelchairs. The slope of Oregon I don't think complies with ADA rules and the new bridge would be designed with switchbacks to lessen the slope to really make it a bridge designed for cyclist and wheelchairs alike.


Posted by Kathy, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I can't believe the bitterness and pessimism expressed by most of the comments above. Can't we just celebrate the possibility of increasing our bike accessibility? Maybe those above commentators need to jump on a bike on a sunny day and enjoy the benefits of a nice bike ride!


Posted by Oh Well, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Oh Well....it's only $5,000,000 of taxpayers money. Always an endless source and a politicians best friend. Lets congratulate ourselves that there is always more where this came from. YEA for us!


Posted by Jenna, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm

This bridge will be perfect for burglars to escape PA more easily.
They can rob a house, then steal the homeowners bicycle on their way out the door, and ride the bike over the new beautiful bridge to get out of town. That's our "tax dollars" going to work for us.


Posted by Career Politician, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Sheperstein, a resident of Downtown North
on May 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Barron Parker: "The estimated usage is 40K/year, which is about 40/day."

Maybe we should devote these funds to courses in remedial math.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside
on May 17, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Kathy, I don't think anyone really objects too much to the idea of a bike bridge or a bike ride. It is the cost which is staggering. I doubt anyone can provide a good argument that this is the best use for 10 million dollars.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 17, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I am really neutral on this project.
Still, the cost ought to be addressed, yes, yet we must all agree it is a drop in the bucket compared to "typical" costs of government: recent revelations of TSA warehouses filled w/stuff not being used and a zillion other examples, the Pentagon dropping projects halfway through, etc.
Small, local projects have some advantage in that we can SEE what we get for the money. The graphic of this bike bridge IS attractive. Still, construction of freeways, the light rail, BART, etc., all seem way padded to me...and apparently that's just the way it is with government bureaucracy. Does anyone ride the light rail system?!


Posted by PaloAltan, a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2012 at 1:04 am

Not only does Kniss get her name in the papers a lot in preparation for her run for our city council, but she creates a big bundle of dollars for her buddies, the developers.
I wonder if her old buddy Jim Baer will cash in on this one as well. or maybe SummerHill. She did them some big favors before she left the council.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2012 at 2:02 am

Even a five million dollar grant under the current financial circumstances does not justify the city expending an additional 3-5 millions dollars on this project. It is another staggering example of frivolous and irresponsible spending on the part of our city leaders and elected officials.

In a more positive economic time, I would have no issue with the city improving the environment for cyclists and pedestrians, if and when we can afford it. But how can we even begin to justify this major expenditure on what is a desired, but certainly not an essential project? We remain mired in a financial crisis and face annual budget deficits. There are numerous vital and essential civic needs in the area of basic infrastructure and public safety that have been neglected and remain unfunded. But what do our city leaders do? They continue to spend on fluff and niche projects.

I find the city leaders' inability to say no to these niche groups and lack of responsibility astounding. On one hand they proclaim a financial crisis, while in the next turn freely spend on projects and services that we should be either reducing or eliminating altogether. If we don't have the money to cover the cost of our cornerstone civic needs, then we shouldn't be spending in these other areas, at least not until our basic responsibilities are met. They even have the audacity of floating the possibility of a bond measure and tax increase to cover these costs, despite their failure to be fiscally responsible to begin with. Enough is enough.


Posted by Build Baby Build, a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2012 at 6:32 am

If one child gets killed trying to cross at San Antonio, with all the nutzo drivers focused on nothing but getting in front of the next guy, this bridge will look like a bargain.
Build it. The funds cannot be used elsewhere and its something that will be around for decade after decade serving generation after generation.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2012 at 9:24 am

So what if someone else wants to give Palo Alto $5M only for a new Olympic swimming pool and complex in the middle of Rinconada Park but it needs $5M more to complete. Would the Council take it then vote to 'find the money' from other places and raise our utility rates to pay for the water.....while the adjacent streets need repair?...and not have enough money to pay the lifeguards?


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2012 at 9:35 am

I'm all for bicycle and pedestrian safety Build Baby, but your economic thinking offers a glimpse into some of the same problems occurring at city hall. You mention the funds cannot be used elsewhere, obviously referring to the grant money. That is true. However, even with the grant money, additional public funds estimated in at least the 3-5 million dollar range will be expended in order to complete the project. Considering the pattern of cost overruns in this city, I would not be surprised if the figure exceeds tha

Bottom line these are funds the city cannot afford to pay out for a desired, but certainly not essential project. We don't have the money, period. Just because there is grant money available does not make this project any more affordable.


Posted by pelt, a resident of Community Center
on May 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

they want to build a bike bridge to get to the auto dealership that is proposed? there won't be any baylands left after this administration continues hoarding tax dollars to pay their salaries


Posted by Liz Kniss is back, a resident of Community Center
on May 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Liz Kniss is on a publicity campaign. Her name is all over the place. She wants to get back on the city council. She needs to convince the people who do not remember her aggressive push for development last time she was on council.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

The article says the grant money is from a deal with Stanford, where they contributed money for "recreational improvements" in exchange for development rights.

What about using the money for the golf course redesign to help the flooding situation (as well as adding playing fields)?

Here's the article Web Link

The $5 million would cover the cost of some of the propose scenarios.

Why does Liz not want to address the flooding issues that's been around since at least 1998? Why does Liz not support physical fitness?


Posted by Just say YES, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm

This is a GREAT use for the mitigation money...and it's about time. Stanford has been sitting on the money for eleven years and now they are asking for delays on this approval. Enough already.

The Adobe Creek Bridge would provide safe, year-round access between residential Palo Alto, including Stanford, and the Bay lands nature preserve. The Dumbarton link would form the final link in the Bay Trail between Redwood City and Alviso, providing 27 miles of uninterrupted shoreline trail. Wonderful!! This is so badly needed.

My husband commutes daily from our home in south Palo Alto to his job in Sunnyvale. The frequent flooding and closure of the existing tunnel is a barrier that pushes him onto congested streets, which is especially scary in winter when he often rides in the dark and the rain. On the days when he can get to the bay trails, he LOVES this route. It is so much safer. On these days, his ride home becomes a therapeutic time to quietly connect with nature after a stressful work day. (It also amuses him to see that he is usually moving faster on his bike than the stand still peak hour traffic on 101.)

Our whole family enjoys riding bay trails, but current access is not safe for young kids when the Tunnel is closed as it is for much of the year. This would make trail access better, safer with both of these projects--and INCREASE the number of bicyclists. Hurray!!!!!

Just say YES!!!




Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, Just say YES.
I agree completely. This is a great use of the Stanford money, and it would be nice if there were more bicycle infrastructure. Too bad the dominant tone on PA Online is so negative about anything progressive. I always smile when they start ranting about the pedestrian/bike underpass at Homer. I think it's great. And this bridge will be a good addition too.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Build Baby Build: "If one child gets killed trying to cross at San Antonio..."

This argument ignores that using funds for one project means that they can't be used for another, better project. In essence, the people making this argument believe that there is unlimited funding for all such projects (and some state so explicitly, eg "Palo Altans are so rich ...")

Other recreation projects could improve the health of far more children and adults. If I were to engage in the same sort of hyperbole as BBB, I would claim that spending money on this bridge is condemning scores, possibly hundreds, to premature deaths.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm

To Just Say Yes and Brian from Evergreen, if it were just a simple matter of using the grant money then there would be little argument from anyone on this proposed project. You seem to be forgetting that the city, and yes, we tax payers, will be on the hook for the remaining 3-5 million dollars. And that's just the low end estimate. Even with the grant money, the city cannot afford this expenditure. Not when we have so many unfunded civic priorities in the area of infrastructure and public safety. It is precisely this type of frivolous and irresponsible spending that got us into this financial mess we're in. Enough is enough.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside
on May 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Just Say Yes, I don't think anyone is saying that there are no benefits provided by the bridge. Certainly there are, especially to bike riders. The question is whether the benefits justify the costs, and whether this is a wise use of limited funds.

All too often, in discussions of public infrastructure, we focus only on the benefits, and ignore the costs. That leads to many expensive mistakes.


Posted by Marianne Mueller, a resident of Professorville
on May 18, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Lots of thoughtful comments. If Stanford chipped in the second $5M, or if the second $5M wasn't a big deal, then ... sure. We desperately need the bridge. So here's a challenge, what's a good way for the City to use the mitigation money from Stanford? Seems the money has been gathering dust.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm

The money was not given to Palo Alto by Stanford. It was originally offered to San Mateo County, but when residents there could not agree on a project Stanford gave the money to Santa Clara County. Of all the projects in the county, this one (and the Bay Trail completion) were selected as the best ways to spend this money. If Palo Alto turns it down it will get spent somewhere else in the county, not in Palo Alto.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

If they really want to waste the money why not use the $5 million to build the bridge half way across the freeway.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Completing a 27 mile link of the Bay trail is an awesome idea for spending the Stanford $. Thank You, Liz!

I haven't seen a list of competing recreational options for the $5M for the bridge to enable any comparison of return on investment, but I think it's important to point out a flaw in the calculations posted by others.

The unit on "40,000" is _bicyclists_ -- not trips. If each of those bicyclists makes a round trip across the bridge each month, then we're at a million trips per year or about $0.50 per trip factoring in the lifetime of the bridge and maintenance costs.

Many of those bicyclists commute multiple times per week, so the real cost per trip is probably much lower -- especially as ridership increases in the coming years as the community becomes more bicycle-friendly.

In my opinion, that's an excellent return on investment. For less than the cost of a postage stamp, we can send a whole bicyclist safely across the freeway!


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Any benefit this bridge would provide is desired but not essential. The city is in the midst of a financial crisis. We must find a way to cope with a multi-million dollar annual budget deficit, It doesn't matter how much grant money we receive if it still involves the city having to pay out additional millions to complete this project. We cannot afford to spend millions in public funds to build a bike bridge when we seemingly have no way to pay for vital and essential civic needs in public safety and infrastructure. Anyone who doesn't see this is perpetuating this cycle of irresponsible spending.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2012 at 12:20 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Steve: Do you have a reference that "bicyclists" is _unique_ bicyclists?

Because most counts of traffic cannot identify individuals, "vehicles", "bicyclists", "train riders",... conventionally means trips, that is, "non-unique" is implicit/understood. If individual usage has been identified or projected, the convention is to prepend "unique" or similar term to indicate this unusual situation.

Recognize that the population of Palo Alto is 65K (64,403 in 2010 Census), so 40K unique bicyclists is equivalent to 62% of that population.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 19, 2012 at 7:28 am

Didn't any of those opposed to the bike bridge read the Mr. Roadshow column about bike/ped facilities being underfunded?

Web Link

He says that 12% of trips in San Jose are made by biking or walking (I don't have numbers for Palo Alto but they must be similar or higher) but that only 1.6% of transportation money is spent on bike and ped projects. Everyone pays sales taxes that go to pay for these projects, but bicyclists and pedestrians don't get their fair share of the facilities. And when a high-priority bike/ped project is proposed, many people complain that it is wasteful, unnecessary and frivolous! Give me a break. Mr Roadshow also says that every dollar invested in bike and ped improvements saves $3.40 in health care expenses. Get your head out of your asphalt and support building a low-cost (relative to highways), low-maintenance (compared to roads) and healthy project that is considered a high priority in the county.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2012 at 8:21 am

If the $5 Million is for Stanford "Recreational" use, I can think of plenty of better ways to spend it.

1. You used to be able to split off the Dish Run to a trail that went under 280 and brought you to Felt Lake. How about restoring this trail?

2. How about safer parking at the two ends of the Dish Pavement?


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2012 at 9:19 am

South of Midtown Donald, when you discuss a "fair share of the facilities" please consider the essential aspects of civic improvements that remain unfunded. Unless of course you consider another bond measure and tax increase as a viable solution to this problem.

Our city is sorely overdue of vital and essential needs in infrastructure and public safety, but yet our city leaders and elected officials continue to spend irresponsibly. This is not the time for us to be discussing bike bridges, a want but certainly not a need. This is the time to set some financial priorities, make sacrifices, hold off spending on these desired projects, pay for our cornerstone civic needs, and balance the budget.


Posted by Bikes2work, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on May 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

Those are good stats about health Donald. In 2009 my cholesterol was over 200. It is now down to 161, and all I changed was to start biking regularly. My diet is the same.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

For the time being, there are plenty of things we can do for our health that doesn't involve a multi-million expenditure that we can't afford. We have to spend a little time concerning ourselves with the economic health of our city.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Donald and Bikes2work:

You are both making the well-known logical fallacy of equating _expenditure_ to proportionate increase in _usage_. This has already been implicitly addressed in Alfonso's suggestion to build the bridge halfway across 101. Surely you don't believe that a half-bridge would have half the bicycle usage of a full bridge?

Remember that the slogan "If you build it, they will come" was a fantasy within a movie (an encapsulating fantasy).


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside
on May 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

How much would this bridge cost if it was built with non-union pay scales?


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Whatever the cost for a project like this, even on the lowest bid, is a figure the city cannot afford under the current financial circumstances. With annual budget deficits and inability to fund our essential civic needs, we shouldn't even be talking about this, at least right now.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm

> "For those commenters saying to just use Oregon bridge, that is a Pedestrian bridge, not a bike bridge."

Not so. There are signs saying WALK YOUR BIKES -- which no one ever does, preferring to mow down pedestrians.

> "Can't we just celebrate the possibility of increasing our bike accessibility? Maybe those above commentators need to jump on a bike on a sunny day and enjoy the benefits of a nice bike ride!"

The benefits are not free. Check the math, thanks to Doug Moran. (And where would we be without his logical mind?)

$10M is just the beginning!

Last November, staff estimated "… the cost of the overcrossing to be between $5.4 million and $9.4 million, depending on the design." Web Link

Now the starting point is $10M. And I have no doubt that number will keep climbing over the next two years (!) of planning. (Got to keep those planners busy.)

But we have to outdo Portland: Palo Alto challenges Portland on biking excellence
Web Link

As Gary Fazzino said (re the Homer bike tunnel), "It so often happens that council members and city staff hear the siren song of matching dollars and private support for projects and, because of that fact, move otherwise unimportant or unnecessary projects to the top of the list." Web Link


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

You're absolutely right Midtown Pat. Despite the many benefits and recreational advantages that the bike bridge would offer, these are still wants and not needs. Bottom line, we cannot afford to spend multi-millions on a non-essential project. We have far too many financial priorities to address before we even begin to discuss an expenditure like this.

Our city leaders and elected officials seem to enjoy catering to the instant gratification and special interest crowd, afraid to say no and always looking to jump on a band wagon. That is not leadership or smart governing. I realize that paving roads, repairing sidewalks, upgrading sewage and drainage, and funding a public safety building isn't as eye catching as a bike bridge or park upgrade, but someone in a leadership role has to exhibit some common sense here. We are in a financial crisis. We are still facing annual budget deficits. They continue to spend on feel good and fluff projects. And their only solution to the infrastructure and public safety issues, why another tax increase of course. Unreal. Somebody at city hall needs to get a clue.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2012 at 7:42 am

This project can be built without costing the city millions of dollars. The small percentage of transportation funds that are available for bike/ped projects can be used. These are usually disbursed in the form of grants that require at least 10% of the project be paid for with local funds. The Stanford money can be used for that "local match".


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2012 at 8:30 am

In order to complete this project the estimated cost to local government by all accounts is in the 3-5 million dollar range. With that being the starting part, when have you ever known Palo Alto to complete a project at or under the estimated budget costs. Just look at the Mitchell Park Library and Homer Tunnel for reference.

The grant money in this case, as generous as it might be, will only go so far. Likely in the range of half the total price tag. But you know what? Just because the grant money is there doesn't make this project an affordable. We cannot afford the remainder of the cost, especially for an item that is not currently essential to our civic needs. We have far too many priority matters to attend to along with a budget deficit that is not going to go away anytime soon.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

This money will NOT come from Palo Alto's funds, as Richard pointed out and as stated in the article. The money will come from the puny 2% of transportation money that federal and state governments have decided to spend on bike and ped projects. Let the bicyclists spend their pittance in peace, for heaven's sake. It can't be used for anything else in Palo Alto, so it has nothing to do with Palo Alto spending priorities. These priorities have already been set at the federal and state level. If you don't like spending 2% on non-motorized transportation then write to your lawmakers and tell them that you want this unfair situation made even more inequitable.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on May 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"This money will NOT come from Palo Alto's funds"

Wrong, even after the $5 million of taxpayers funds that Palo Alto would get from the County and any taxpayer funds that Palo Alto might get from any Federal or State transportation funds (California only has a $16 billion deficit) Palo Alto will be on the hook for both matching funds and overruns - which could well total in the millions.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Absolutely right Mr. Carpenter, with the low end estimates being in the 3-5 million range. Anyone who thinks that Palo Alto is getting a low cost ride on this project is either completely uninformed or delusional.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Peter Carpenter, you are absolutely wrong. The money from the county is NOT taxpayer money, it is Stanford money and can be used for the matching funds in any grant application. As stated in the article, the city is looking for sources of funding for the other half of the project, i.e. they are not planning on using city funds. They will be looking for grants and sources like the Bicycle Expenditure Program funds that have already been collected by the state and which the state is commited to spend on bike/ped projects regardless of any shortfalls elsewhere. This project will NOT adversely affect any other Palo Alto infrastructure projects or priorities.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on May 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Palo Alto will be on the hook for both matching funds and overruns - which could well total in the millions.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm

And bridge maintenance will be added to all the other unfunded infrastructure maintenance.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm

You're way off base South of Midtown Donald, and Mr. Carpenter is dead on accurate. In fact, the estimated overruns are projected to be in the 3-5 million dollar range, and that's on the low end. When has this city ever completed a project without significant overruns? All you need to do is consider the Mitchell Park Library project and the Homer Tunnel to name just two.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2012 at 6:20 am

Maintenance for bike bridges would indeed be paid for by the city, but those costs are nearly zero. As for "estimated overruns" of millions of dollars, that is nonsense. If you can estimate an overrun in advance then it isn't an overrun! Furthermore, if your project is funded by a grant and, in the middle of the project you need more money, you go back to the granting agency and you don't pay it out of the general fund. I know this because I was chair of the VTA Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee that votes on granting additional funds to projects like this that have cost overruns. I have also seen projects come in under the estimated cost and have turned grant money back in.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2012 at 8:37 am

Precisely the kind of financial thinking that got us into this financial mess to begin with. The city will be left on the hook for millions. You may choose to wish to return to the grant well of never ending funds as you seem to suggest. I and others will keep it real and tell it like it is.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The plot thickens! It turns out that Stanford, which has to be consulted on the proposed expenditure of the Stanford funds provided to the County, was NOT so consulted so Kniss' proposed gift of $5million for this bridge has no validity.

Nice try - giving away money that you are not authorized to give.

Without this $5 million the proposed bridge becomes a total pipe dream.


Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I don't see the need to spend so much money on a bike bridge to a place that not many people go to and there is already sufficient access to. For the most part, the underpass is open during the non-rainy season, Oregon goes to the Baylands and is only a couple of miles away, and there is the Mountain View bike path to the south. Couldn't they make San Antonio more bicycle/pedestrian friendly instead? Don't get me wrong; I support biking, but I don't see how this plan would pass a cost/benefit analysis.


Posted by Justino, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

Today, I will hop on my bike, ride a bit North and take the Oregon Expressway overpass bike and ped bridge to get to Baylands. It's a bit more riding, but, heck, I enjoy biking and the exercise - I'm not on a restricted mileage diet. It does seem that spending FIVE MILLION dollars on a new bridge is not a high priority. Why not a pre-fab bridge? Who'd like to create a bike bridge that can be assembled in a matter of a day - at a cost of a fraction of the proposed deluxe bridge? There's the engineering challenge. And, we're in Silicon Valley, home of innovation. Yet, the government still operates on the old notions of how cities should work. Where's the innovation? Oh, next step? We'll paint the city green (literally) with hundreds of gallons of green paint for bike paths to make our city more bike friendly.


Posted by close the gates, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 13, 2013 at 11:19 am

Sorrym Justino, this is Palo Alto--so no prefab bridge for us. We have to spend $10 million+ for a bridge that everyone will ooh and aah over. Money is no object.
The bridge will have to pass the Holman excitation test--if Karen does not get excited every time she sees the bridge, then it is not aesthetically pleasing.


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