The Palo Alto City Council unanimously agreed to support the philosophical concept of additional bike and pedestrian bridges across Highway 101, calling it a priority for this city.
What about improving our libraries? What about repairing our streets? What about the $200 million we are behind in infrastructure repairs in our city? What about a new police station? What about our $83 million debt on unfunded medical benefits to retirees? What about our need for more retail in Palo Alto? What about our two decaying neighborhood shopping centers – Alma Plaza and Edgewood?
To me, those are our priorities in town, not another pedestrian/bike crossing for 101. We already have an overpass just north of Oregon Expressway, and we have a bike tunnel at Adobe Creek that is open half the year.
Maybe it’s time to prioritize our priorities.
The idea of a pedestrian/bike overpass came from a colleagues’ memo written by Councilmembers Yoriko Kishimoto and Dena Mossar; both are big biking advocates. Kishimoto said she has biked over Embarcadero Road at times, which she knows is dangerous, but she was in a hurry. However, she could have biked over to the existing bike overpass near Oregon Expressway, which just a few blocks away.
Mossar said it would be more “convenient” for commuters from East Palo Alto if there were a bike overpass at Embarcadero, and Councilmember Peter Drekmeier said San Antonio Road could also use one.
Both Kishimoto and Mossar were big advocates for what started out as a less than $2 million but ended up being a $5 million-plus bike tunnel at Homer Avenue and Alma Street. Transportation Chief Joe Kott told us at the time that hundreds would use it daily. I’ve observed tunnel usage, and there’s only a couple people an hour.
As Councilmember Jack Morton suggested, the existing tunnel at Adobe Creek could have signs posted notifying when it is open – when the danger of flooding has subsided. I would guess it could be open at least eight months a year.
The council was told that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is considering the creation of an underpass at Matadero Creek, which would require an initial $100,000 from Palo Alto for a feasibility study. While the cost of a bike/pedestrian overpass – or two – was not mentioned, we do know that the city’s share of a study would be $100,000. One can easily speculate that a walkway over or under 101 would cost millions of dollars. And even if the state or someone else pays for it, it's still our tax dollars being spent.
Monday night’s unanimous vote did not involve any money. It simply was philosophical approval of the concept of additional bike pathways over 101. That’s the redeeming part about that vote. Maybe in hindsight the council will realize that we have a lot more important priorities in town that need their time and attention — and our money.