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Tons of tires to repave Palo Alto's Alma Street

Original post made on Apr 5, 2013

About 1,000 tons of recycled tires will cover a 2-mile section of Alma Street as part of a pilot repaving project in Palo Alto. The rubber-meets-the-road project is the first of its kind in the city, said Holly Boyd, lead project engineer with the Palo Alto Public Works Department.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 5, 2013, 4:15 PM

Comments (40)

Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2013 at 4:46 pm

This may be a BIG mistake. I remember they did this in Washington State, and the road caught fire by spontaneous combustion. Toxic substances like benzene and toxic solids contaminated nearby marshes.
It smelled awful and they had a heck of a time putting it out.

This story can be found by searching the web or checking out this link.

Public Works should look into this before they get started

Web Link

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Rubberized asphalt has been used in this area before. County Roads used it to pave Page Mill the last time it was done. All the feedback they received was positive, as I recall.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm

This idea was proposed several years ago to help reduce road noise here in Palo Alto. The P/W Director of the time, Glenn Roberts, went to great ends to trash the idea--claiming that it was not cost effective, although he produced no evidence to that fact.

Well--let's see if the noise is actually reduced, and that the surface lasts longer than the material currently used. It's a shame that the P/W people have been so uninformed on so many of the areas they are tasked.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

I hope that someone measures the current sound levels coming from traffic on Alma St. This way, we can compare a "before" and "after" levels to see if it is effective.

Surely someone has thought to do this, right?

Posted by Norman, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm

"Holly Boyd, lead project engineer with the Palo Alto Public Works Department, says: "It is supposed to reduce traffic noise. It has been used by Caltrans and the City of San Jose. It is supposed to last longer and get more strength with less depth"."

What does she mean by 'supposed to'? Doesn't she know? This material is in place and there should be definitive studies done. Is this a big experiment? I guess its motivated by the glories of recycling which gives a warm and fuzzy feeling and the hell with data.

Posted by Bill, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:36 pm

um, didn't a large portion of that stretch of Alma get new curbs (curbs only) as a part of Obama's America Recovery program a few years ago? If those precious curbs are now to be torn up, what a complete waste of money.

Posted by Things Change, a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2013 at 6:33 am

Long Time Resident,

While I'll admit, that was a disturbing link, it was also from 1996. Many technological advances in this technology have happened since then. Its now a 30 year old technology used all over the country. The below web link to Cal Berkeley's TechTrasnfer is from 2002, (still ancient in terms of tech advances) and seems to show the WA incident from 1996 was far from common, in fact I can't find it happening anywhere else at any time(?). In 2002 the technology was 20 years old and used all over many states without incident. 11 years from then until now,(again without any wide spread combustion issues) has continued to prove the technology. If other roads ARE combusting I'd love to see those links, but if all you're basing your argument on is one incident from 1996, I can't get on the worry train over that. Remember, technologies improve over time. In 1996 nobody had even heard of a Smart Phone. The first one, Palm's Kyocera phone hit 5 years later in in 2001, and even that was 12 years ago. Look a them now. web link on the topic below
Web Link

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2013 at 7:54 am

I doubt that they will need to tear out the curbs. They manage to re-pave roads all over town without removing curbs, so I don't see whay Alma would be different.

Posted by Reducing-Road-Noise-Is-A-Good-Thing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2013 at 7:54 am

Here is a link to a Clemson University web-page on rubberized asphalt--

Web Link

Most people promoting this use of recycled rubber tires point out that there is at least a 3-4 db reduction in road noise--

Web Link

"With rubberized asphalt, we were getting about a three decibel reduction in noise over conventional asphalt, but over concrete you may get up to a ten decibel reduction

It's a shame that the City does not have a valid set of noise baselines for Palo Alto. Noise measurements are not hard to do, and provide people a clear understanding of whether noise mitigation efforts--like the use of rubberized asphalt--actually work, or not.

Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2013 at 11:28 am

I am for this project, but the contractor will have to pay very close attention to the product temp before putting it down. Any significant drop in temp and the material won't adhere and roll without failure. I'm hoping the project inspectors (city staff) monitors the temp very closely.

Posted by Barney, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 6, 2013 at 11:39 am

LTR: the road that caught fire used the tires as FILL, not as a component of the RAC.


Can't you generate fear with a more recent, and more accurate example?


Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Marie is a registered user.

It would be nice if they would repave the cracked driveway on city property near me which they skipped when they replaced the curb. At first it was marked to be replaced and then wasn't. The reason given was that they switched to more expensive cement, that would cure faster, meaning shorter road closures and could no longer fund the additional repairs.

My biggest concern is that just after they finish the repaving, the street will get dug up as part of either or both of two recently announced CALTRAIN projects:

1. to improve the crossings at E. Meadow and Charleston (mainly by making the red lights last longer - just what we need to smooth traffic and reduce emissions) and

2. to electrify CALTRAIN - which is scheduled to start in the next year or two.

It seems like any time Alma is repaved, a new project is started by another agency within six months to dig up the street again. Sigh.

Posted by Bob M, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Isn't it already covered by enough tire residue from texting/chatting drivers screeching to a stop at the last second because of stopped traffic in front of them?

Posted by Licken Chittle, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm

"Noise measurements are not hard to do"

That may be true, but how much do they cost? Can you imagine the howls of complaint on PA Online if the city spent money on this? I believe the other test results and I don't think Palo Alto has to do the science again.

Posted by Reducing-Road-Noise-Is-A-Good-Thing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2013 at 8:58 am

> That may be true, but how much do they cost?

Noise surveys are very inexpensive.

If we had a competent P/W Department, they could run these data collection exercises themselves at virtually no cost--other than to purchase a few instruments.

Posted by Resident adjacent to Alma, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

They did replace the curbs a few years ago and did a very bad job of informing residents of when their driveways would be blocked. When they replaced piping a few months ago they also neglected to tell us when our driveways would be blocked. I sure hope they do a better job this time. It's not fun waking up for work and realizing I can't get my car out of the driveway.

Posted by Curious Observer, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

Last week I saw a sign on Alma that said repaving would take place April 5-19 so I took the train on Friday to avoid the delays. Was this sign for a different repaving project? If signs went up last Friday it sounds like there are two different paving projects happening on Alma. Can someone clarify??

(And I agree with others, I hope after repaving Alma they don't tear it up again with more work. It's infuriating what they did to northbound Alma just past Oregon Expressway!)

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

AT&T and other similar companies have carte blanche to tear up roads to repair their hardware buried underneath and they are not required to coordinate with anyone else. I remember when Caltrans paved El Camino a few years back and AT&T dug it up within weeks, ruining a beautiful paving job. You can't blame Caltrans or Palo Alto for this, only the laws that allow it to happen.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 9:24 am

When taxpayers' money is spent on such a thing, it would be nice to make sure that the claims are validated. Surely we aren't dumb enough to believe the claims at face value simply because someone associated with the companies selling this stuff tell us it is true?

I suspect that our brilliant city leaders would have had the noise measurements taken -- by city workers -- in order to compare a "before" and "after" once the project is complete. This way, we can compare whether or not the noise reduction is valid, measure the actual reduction (if any) itself, and then determine whether or not it is worth the money for future roads.

Posted by Nooooo, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2013 at 10:23 am

Nayeli, what you are asking for is ridiculous. The city has no expertise in this area and doesn't have the equipment to do it. There are studies done by universities and state DOTs, organizations competent to do that work, and we should accept their results. It is crazy to expect every city that uses this material to conduct their own scienctific research. Furthermore, the benefits go beyond the reductions in noise. If you read the Clemson web page referenced above, maintenance costs are reduced and pavement life is increased. This asphalt costs more up front but saves money in the long run (as long as you don't have to do expensive studies to justify its use).

Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

Hooray for this project! This is what recycling should be about.

Posted by David, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 8, 2013 at 11:52 am

As occurs so often, a whole lot of people with opinions about something they know nothing about, witness the link to the Washington fire which was on rubberized fill and not road, and thus totally unrelated to this project.

Posted by Rudy Wang, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Have you driven on Foothill Expressway recently?

It was repaved with RAC in June 2000 (almost 13 years ago).

If you have not driven on it recently, give it a shot.
After almost 13 years, the surface is fresh as new!

Here is the link to the June 2, 2000 Chronicle article about Foothill's RAC repaving project:

Web Link

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm

@ Nooooo:

Then, is this the standard by which we will build/repair all of our infrastructure or make all of our decisions? A study or two make a claim about something so we are then willing to spend more without verifying that it is true? No wonder California is in debt! We throw money at any snake oil claim!

If you want to talk about "ridiculous," it is ridiculous to claim that the city cannot measure the sound level of our streets prior to this particular mixture used on the roads and then measure the sound level afterward. Even if the city cannot do it, they could have called any local school prior to the repairs to test sound levels and then compare it afterward.

We definitely need the streets repaired (and Alma St. in particular). However, we also need to test the claims and decide whether they were true or not before we use this same mixture or techniques for other street repairs. Like someone previously said, there are studies that question the benefits and efficiency of this and mention the possible side effects as well.

I am not saying that this mixture doesn't work. Quite the contary! These claims may very well may be true. However, why not verify it? If it proves to be true, we would have the evidence to base it upon the next time some of our streets are up for repair. If it really does reduce sound and lasts longer, I would point to this as the first choice that our city should make for repair.

Posted by Facts, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

The Caltrans website has lots of information on this. They have been doing studies and generating guidelines and standards for years. Got to Web Link and do a search for "rubber asphalt". You will see "Asphalt Rubber usage guide" from 2003 and 2006, "SYNTHESIS OF CALTRANS RUBBERIZED ASPHALT CONCRETE PROJECTS" from 2005, Highway Design Manual section 631 which discusses it, and many more. One report says that Caltrans is required to use a certain percentage of rubber asphalt, with the percentage increasing each year. Palo Alto certainly does not need to re-invent this wheel. There is plenty of information out there on it.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

With all due respect, I find that the noise issue is not really very relevant on a road that is alongside a very noisy train track. The trains are so noisy that a slight difference in road noise won't make an argument worth worrying about.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Marie is a registered user.


So true! I just hope my driveway is not blocked for too many days. Sigh.

Posted by Alice G, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by J.T.Colton, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Once again the engineers at Public Works are wrong when they state that this method is the first of its kind and has not been used in Palo Alto. The County of Santa Clara used the same road paving material on Page Mill Rd. and were flooded with complaints after the material failed within 6 months of placement. The material failed, according to the County, because of heavy traffic use. So much for low bid contracts and materials. Perhaps logic would suggest testing new materials and methods prior to using them on major throughfares, but what the heck, the city has enough money to repave Alma again if this method fails.

Posted by Alice G, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

- a claim, without documentation, that directly refutes the links above: " The County of Santa Clara used the same road paving material on Page Mill Rd. and were flooded with complaints after the material failed within 6 months of placement."

- a specious statement given the links above: "Perhaps logic would suggest testing new materials and methods prior to using them"

Do you deny the studies linked above, or just too lazy to read them?

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

This is a terrific project. Congrats Palo Alto.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm

@ Alice:

First of all, I am a woman. I know that my name may not be familiar to you, but it is growing in popularity among Hispanics. It means "I love you" in an indigenous Zapotec tongue.

Secondly, a study or two doesn't necessarily mean that this project is using the EXACT mixture used on Alma (or in a previous Palo Alto project). In addition, a few studies doesn't mean that there isn't evidence that says otherwise or that there might be other issues.

Besides, we aren't talking about other studies. We are talking about THIS project and the opportunity to document what the noise level is BEFORE and AFTER this project is completed. This information could be used for internal purposes or for other communities considering this same thing. It wouldn't hurt to know an what different (if any) was made by using this mixture over the previous makeup of Alma Street.

It is about accountability and documenting just what we are getting with this project. It may turn out that the sound levels are decreased by considerable levels! That would be a great added benefit since the roads needed to be fixed anyway. It would just be nice to see this quantified for future consideration.

Posted by Yessss, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Nayeli makes an anti-science argument couched as a request for science: no measurements made outside of Palo Alto can apply inside Palo Alto because we are somehow different than the rest of the universe. Of course you can make that argument within also, so no measurements made on Alma would apply to University, etc. Can you imagine the waste that would result if we had to do all of our own health studies, generate our own standards for air and water cleanliness, etc? Why can't we accept work that other people have done elsewhere?

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Please note that they are not paving the road in order to reduce noise. If that were the case I would want a lot more justification, too. They are paving a road that needs it, and they are using a material that has proven benefits in terms of maintenance. The sound reduction is a bonus. Let's accept it and move on.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I am simply saying that it would be expedient to actually MEASURE the sound levels before and after the road work is completed.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

If that is "against science," then you need to read the article again. "It is supposed to reduce traffic noise." If so, by how much?

If it is truly as effective in Palo Alto as it is elsewhere (and there are current studies being conducted about how effective this is in multiple climates), then I am all for doing this ALL OVER TOWN.

Why does every bit of citizen consideration about such things have to come down to some grand conspiracy where those who are a bit more cautious about things in this city are either considered "NIMBYism" or "against science?" If this is new technology, then let's do our part to test and verify the claims...or to boast by how much the noise level has been reduced.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 9:00 pm

@ Donald: Exactly! I would like to use the noise reduction as a reason to use this same type of pavement mixture for roads elsewhere in Palo Alto. If it is slightly more expensive, the fact that it reduces road noise by a certain amount would give me another reason to think that the extra cost is justified.

Posted by Reducing-Road-Noise-Is-A-Good-Thing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

Part of the reason for suggesting that the road noise on Alma be measured before, and after, has been clearly explained by a couple posters. But there is also the larger issue of noise in Palo Alto, in general, which the City has ignored for years.

Airplanes from the regional airports impose noise on us, as do the planes from the Palo Alto Airport. The Bill Graham Performance Center in Mountain View creates problems for people in parts of Palo Alto. There is Caltrain, plus all of the vehicles on our roads. Neighors complain about noise around retail centers, and night clubs.

The City has failed to do anything about these complaints. Given how easy noise surveys are--the suggestion about measuring any road noise reductions on this Alma resurfacing project must be seen as part of a large effort to identify, and characterize, noise sources in Palo Alto to set the stage for future mitigation efforts.

Posted by J.T. Colton, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm

To poster "Alice G." (doesn't, want her real name reveiled" As a former engineer for Santa Clara County Roads and Airport perhaps some of those posting suppporting info for your claims in random non-specific internet links is somehow comforting to you, however, the internet is a wonderful illusion. Gratification is only a click away on the internet. Good luck in your endeavors online.

Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Didn't PG&E tear up Alma to replace the gas lines? Why wouldn't they be paying for the repaving?

Posted by member, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

"Grinding of existing pavement begins Wednesday, April 10, and paving is scheduled for April 11 through 13, and April 15."

This would seem to indicate they should be done, but most that stretch of road is still torn up and only partially paved. Are there any indications that they are planning on finishing the job they started?

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