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Palo Alto to consider design contest for 101 bike bridge

Original post made on Jun 22, 2013

Just two years ago, Palo Alto's proposed bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 was a pipe dream, one of the most expensive components of the city's new master plan for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, June 22, 2013, 1:12 PM

Comments (31)

Posted by parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Enough chit-chat. Just built whatever can be built the most quickly. Pedestrians do not care what the bridge looks like. We just want to get over it as quickly as possible to get away from the smelly noisy ugly polluted freeway. This is not like the Golden Gate Bridge where you get great views of the bay and ocean from the bridge. The main thing you will see from a freeway overpass is the freeway, which no one wants to look at. Just get the bridge built as quickly as possible so we can start using it before the old pedestrian tunnel gets flooded again.

If the tunnel does get flooded, please close off one of the car lanes on the San Antonio Road bridge and let pedestrians and bicyclists use that. There are plenty of other places where cars can cross, but those are too far for pedestrians to reach and the bike routes to get to them are dicey for kids.

Thank you.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Sounds like the same process used for the new Oakland Bay Bridge. What could go wrong?

Posted by parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2013 at 8:03 pm

The city has been talking about this bridge for 10 years now. There plenty of similar bridges over the highway already, up and down the peninsula. The engineers know what to do. It just the bureaucrats that keep stalling.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

Why does Editor repeat stories just days after the first posting?

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Just make it possible for people with bike trailers and cargo bikes to cross. We can't get through the tunnel barriers and it's annoying. Especially the Cal Ave one.

Posted by ernie, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2013 at 8:50 pm

$10M and counting. Really, how much does a safe, functional bike bridge to cross Hwy 101 cost anywhere else but Palo Alto? Oh yes, this must be a stylish architectural thing making a statement because it's a Palo Alto bike bridge.

To whom ever keeps stalling this project, NO ONE CARES what it looks like, except you! Please, get on with the project and be done with it before the next story about this project that can't seem to move forward headlines its new and improved $20M price tag!

Posted by parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Build it like the bridge over Hwy 101 in Menlo Park. Safe. Functional. Quickly built. Wide enough to avoid congestion. No dangerous traps to block trailers or wheelchairs like all the existing crossings in Palo Alto.

Posted by Waiting.., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Agree with all the commenter's

Posted by Just build it, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:35 am

Let me make sure i understand this--the building of the bridge will not start for another 2+ years??????

I realize this is palo alto, but this is ridiculous. Design contests???? Really???

Just pick a simple design and get it built. And you also do not hae to spend the entire $10 million on it. People want a usable bridge. Why does this have to be turned into the usual Palo Alto show??

I am sure at the council meeting next week, all the members will be falling over themselves to put in their two cents worth. we already know what Karen Holman wants--she has made that clear already--no simple bridge for her--only a grand design that shows off Palo Alto will do for our local historic expert.

And then of course all the local commissions and boards will get to have their say--I can imagine their nitpicking on this project.

i bet you Mountain View would have this project done in 6 months. Given our local library issue, I bet you this bridge will not be open until 2020

Posted by parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:43 am

Mountain View (Permanente Creek Trail) and Menlo Park (Ringwood Ave) did get their bridges built in 6 months. All of this happened last year while Palo Alto was still going through endless chit-chat. I agree that Palo Alto residents want the bridge done now. Just copy one of the existing proven designs and save the city's money. Get the bridge done this year before the tunnel gets flooded again next winter. I don't want to wait until my children are grown up before they can use this bridge.

Posted by hilary, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

I do not understand why the existing undercrossing can not be walled-off from the creek to provide year around passage. I use this underpass all the time and it would be a simple matter that could be done NOW and CHEAPLY.

Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

Let's hope the approaches are designed for people and not mountain goats like the existing bike bridges. They are too steep.
It doesn't have to be a grand award winning design........just useable.
I stopped riding at 85 so I won't be using it but Let's hope they do it right. If they use advisors (Bicycle Coalition?) they should include some family type riders. The experts are not always receptive to other input.

Posted by Scott McMahon, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:11 am

I'm with those who say, 'build it soon and build it safe.' Design contests are fine, but please don't repeat the mistake made with the pedestrian and bike bridge crossing 101 at Ralston in Belmont. That very fancy, curvy, artistic bridge may be lovely to look at, but is a nightmare to use. It's narrow paths and high side walls walls block pedestrians and cyclists from being able to see what is ahead as they try to negotiate it's snake like curves and roller coaster humps. It is unsafe. Please hold out for a safe, efficient bridge design!

Posted by MJ, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:14 am

There is an overpass now by Oregon Expressway and I believe figuring out the egress on the East side would be a better use of funds. I subscribe to; how can you do more for less.

Improving this overpass vs. doing a completely new one would appear to make more sense for multiple reasons.

1: Oregon crossover is not in a remote location which would improve the safety factor. Where the new one is proposed is too isolated.

2: The Oregon expressway location is in the middle of the Palo Alto population curve and excess able to more people.

3: The Oregon expressway overpass is already part of the landscape. Almost anything at the new location will be a potential eyesore.

4: Back to the cost factor, why not be a little frugal and spend any excess funds on better surveillance of the crossing to improve the security and comfort of use.

5: The area where the new crossing is proposed is on the banks of a troubled stream and as you say - prone to flooding. There is little room for the ramping required. Why choose such a troubled spot. The only reason it is used today is that it is short and under the highway. IT was just there - not a preference. It is also where I observe a significant amount of transient use as well.

I encourage all to look at it with the right perspective, decide, and get it done like a good business would. Let the architects volunteer their designs with the payback being that they get to put their name on it in grand fashion. Has our city lost it's creativity ? Designs are one thing - paying for the engineering of it another.

Someone else mentioned the talk for years etc. You have to ask yourself is this just politics or is there really a desire to improve the community ?

Posted by parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

The pedestrian bridge north of Oregon Expressway is insufficient because:
1. it is too far away from southern Palo Alto (miles of extra distance), especially when many users are heading south towards the Mountain View shoreline area (Shoreline Park, Google, etc)

2. crossing Oregon Expressway is unsafe for children and none of the routes from southern Palo Alto to Oregon Expressway are separated from car traffic

3. the Oregon Expressway bridge is not ADA-compliant. The western side is too steep, too narrow, and has dangerous traps that block wheelchairs and trailers.

Complaining that a pedestrian bridge over a freeway is an eyesore is silly. The freeway is already a monstrous eyesore. A bridge is not going to make it any uglier.

Posted by John, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:48 am

Get on with it and do it cheaply. I'm a taxpayer in all those communities, so I pay for it no matter where the money comes from.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm

The poster named Parent has mentioned 2 successful bridge projects (Menlo Park and Mtn View). If these are widely accepted as successful, perhaps Palo Alto can save lots of time AND some money by repurposing one of those designs. Why not save a chunk of the "Another $1 million for design work"?

Posted by The Liz Kniss bridge, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

I am with Parent.
Skip the Palo Alto Process and build a solid, Safe bridge.
Re-purposing an existing design make $ense (Unless you are a high paid design firm).
I have biked both the Underpass and the Over-crossing... Things could be better.

Posted by Just build it, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Note this Weekly article from 2011:
Web Link

The headline:
"Plan for bike bridge over 101 speeds up"

Speed up in Palo Alto??? And now we are talking about not starting until 2015!!!

Note the comments from Holman in that article:

""A bridge going over 101 to the Baylands — that structure is going to be how a lot of people see Palo Alto," Holman said. "It's going to be how people identify Palo Alto.""
Cars zooming along 101 will be noticing a bridge?? Could be dangerous.

"If the city doesn't get sufficient funding for a "really stellar design," Holman said, it should consider a "good utilitarian design" rather than settle for an "underfunded artistic endeavor.""
It should be a simple, usuable structure. Holman has delusions of grandeur.

""It's been a long time coming and people have been more than patient with this," Holman said Monday. "We'll still need more patience going forward, but we're making a big step this evening.""
Sounds like a justification for the "Palo Alto process".

No excuse for not building a cheap, useful bridge in a short amount of time, without a repeat of the library mess.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm

How much do you want to bet that this will turn into a long drawn out soap opera-- this is palo alto, so nothing can be done in an expedient manner.
Plus, i think that automobile drivers need to get some concessions/ perks if we allow this bridge to be built. Perhaps a rewidening of arestadero road to 4 lanes. That idea has been shown to be a disaster and many neighborhoods would applaud the return to the normal configuration.

Posted by parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Love how the reckless drivers say that pedestrians should sacrifice their safety on some routes to gain it on others. How about this trade: give pedestrians this $5 million safety bridge in exchange for the $100 million highway widening project being built right now underneath the bridge (that pedestrians paid for with their sales taxes but are banned from using).

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Of course, we need a signature span. Jerry Brown was the driving force behind the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, so what can't we have one?

Just what we need. More people to foul the Baylands.

Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I can describe my design verbally. Start with a road. Elevate it, and make it pass above 101. Include stairs or something at each end.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@Hilary, who asked, "why not wall off the existing underpass from the creek?" The Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC) on our own deliberations on the need for a year-round crossing at this location, did consider several alternatives in this vein. Unfortunately, none were feasible. The underpass is part of the creek channel and both are under the jurisdiction of the Santa Clara Water District. If the underpass were walled off, it would reduce the creek channel and would cause flooding at high flow rates. Other options to have the path get flooded and then cleaned are not cheap either and require expensive annual maintenance, eventually adding up to the price of an overpass. An alternate bore underpass was also a no-go: expensive and CalTrans doesn't want people tunneling under existing freeways.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@others who say, "just reuse an existing design..." Yes, that would be great, but every location is different, and this location has a lot of constraints including the frontage roads to be crossed, the creeks merging on the west, private properties, the Baylands, and some high-voltage power lines. Taken all together it means we can't just reuse a solution from somewhere else.

@Floyd who says the existing bridges are too steep... Yes, they are: they are not ADA compliant. All new structures (even curb cuts) need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which sets fairly low ramp slopes and maximum runs before you need a flat area to recuperate or pause your wheelchair or whatever. All in all, ADA ramps are longer and so designs need to figure out how to route the ramp around all the obstacles I mentioned above.

Posted by Just build it, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

Well, Cedric, sounds almost like the proposed location for the bridge is not a good one, given all the obstacles that you have listed. So the question is--is this another Palo Alto thing, where a proposed location for something is not a really good one and was chosen because of special interest groups?

As for reusing an existing design, that can still work. The basic bridge--the part that will cross over 101, should be very simple and can be copied from pother structures. Let's face it, most bikers will not stop to gaze at 101 traffic and drivers should not be distracted by the structure--so a simple path crossing the highway is what is called for. As for the end parts those can be changed to accomedate the needs of the area. But first it sounds like we need to see if that area is condusive to locating a bridge that is ADA compatible.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@'Just build it': Actually, a thorough analysis was conducted to choose this location. First there were meetings with residents which confirmed a strong community preference for a year-round crossing of 101 in this part of town. The consultants who were working on the master bike/ped plan update then analyzed where a 101 crossing could be built, and my recollection is that their first pass came up with about 12 alternative locations between the existing Oregon bridge and San Antonio. Then they narrowed the list down by examining site constraints or other aspects making them less desirable. Then they analyzed population densities etc to determine how much annual use each location would likely garner, and had community meetings to get further input from residents. In the end, the location was chosen which would generate the most use of the facility, serve the most residents, and pleased the most community member meeting participants.

So, yes, this site has constraints, but each potential crossing site has its own set of constraints, and this site is still the best.

By the way, the members of the bike community that I hear chime in on this are most interested in something that can be built soon and inexpensively, while still being highly functional for the users. For instance, bikes should be able to safely pass pedestrians, and people should be able to get through with a bike trailer or a wheelchair.

Posted by Just build it, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

I agree, Cedric, it should be built soon and inexpensively and functional. But since this is Palo Alto and people want it to be "how people identify Palo Alto", then we may be in for th elong haul!!!!

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Let's get it done. The initial plan was decided in late 2011 . It is now mid 2013 and they are talKing about not starting for 2+ years to build it. Why? Because of the council and committees and boards and the games they like to play.
You know tht Christmas song about " visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads" -- I wonder what visions are dancing in the heads of our council. Are they that out of touch with reality? Or is it all an ego thing? Ms Holman is clearly out of her league.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm

A bridge is insignificant if it works. It only becomes a spectacle if the things going wrong make it so.

We aren't in Venice or crossing the Golden Gate. We are crossing a highway. The bridge design is unimportant as long as it works.

I think we want a bridge that works well, in which case it will be practically invisible so design isn't important.

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