Residents weigh in on 101 bike/pedestrian path

Keep, improve the Adobe Creek under-crossing, they say

When it comes to finding a place for an improved bike/pedestrian path that will cross U.S. Highway 101 in south Palo Alto, more than 50 residents turned out Wednesday to tell the city one thing: Leave it where it is.

Currently, bicyclists and pedestrians pass from one side of 101 to the other by way of an under-crossing along Adobe Creek. The path, however, is subject to flooding, including two episodes last winter when the path was covered by 2 feet of water, residents said.

The current crossing is also too narrow and creates conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians trying to negotiate passage, they said.

Palo Alto city officials and consultants from Alta Planning and Design hosted Wednesday's meeting to hear the public's input on five alternatives for a freeway under-crossing or over-crossing.

The year-round crossing would connect the city's residential and commercial areas to the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, East Bayshore Road, San Antonio Road businesses and the regional Bay Trail network of bike trails. The project will be located north of the San Antonio/101 interchange.

The five alternatives include: renovation of a Matadero Creek under-crossing; a West Bayshore over-crossing; an over-crossing at Loma Verde Avenue; an Adobe Creek over-crossing and renovation of the existing Adobe Creek under-crossing.

The sites are compatible with the Palo Alto Bicycle Transportation Master Plan, Alta Planning Project Manager Allan Calder said. But several had problems with existing power lines, estimated costs or the need to take private property.

Both the existing Matadero and Adobe crossings can be improved to avoid flooding, Calder said. But he pointed to some benefits of a bridge over the freeway.

"An over-crossing in Palo Alto, if elevated 20 feet over 101, would provide a view of the corridor that is spectacular. It could be iconic and a signature piece of infrastructure for the City of Palo Alto," he said.

He presented several designs of overpasses as examples of what such a crossing could look like: A bridge at Highway 101 and Matilda Avenue in Sunnyvale creates a large horseshoe over the freeway; a box bridge links Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View; a dramatic archway graces a freeway in Berkeley.

But residents overwhelmingly favored the Adobe Creek under-crossing. An over-crossing at the site was the second most-favored choice.

A crossing at Adobe Creek, whether elevated or sub-grade, seemed the most logical choice, since more than 249,000 bicyclists and pedestrians annually cross Highway 101, with 155,000 using the Adobe Creek route, Calder said.

Most people at the meeting noted they live in the Palo Verde, Midtown and Meadow Park neighborhoods.

Palo Alto City Council member Karen Holman said she was stunned by the numbers Calder provided.

"There is a huge demand. It's a wonderful opportunity to do something both creative and utilitarian," she said.

Residents said the Adobe crossing would address many of the growing population issues in south Palo Alto. A crossing there would provide access to Google, Microsoft and NASA campuses and it would be a good tie-in to a proposed Adobe Creek pathway.

Cedric de LaBeaujardiere, Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee, said an improved year-round bike/pedestrian route would create many opportunities to reduce vehicle traffic and increase bicycle usage.

It would also improve safety. Some people take San Antonio Road when the Adobe Creek underpass is closed, he said.

"It's a scary interchange. People do it once and won't do it again," he said.

Jaime Rodriguez, Palo Alto's chief transportation official, said costs for building a crossing will be worked out later and the city will take community input into the design.

Funding for the feasibility and environmental studies are secured, but there is no money to build the crossing. But having that work completed could provide incentive for federal dollars, Rodriguez said.

The City of Sunnyvale built two U-shaped crossings for a total of $8 million and the more elaborate Mary Avenue crossing cost $12 million, he said.

As to the other alternatives presented Wednesday, Calder reviewed the challenges to and opportunities with each.

The Loma Verde over-crossing would offer good bay views and ample space to accommodate ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But it might require taking private property, he said.

The West Bayshore over-crossing -- which residents resoundingly rejected -- could potentially tie-in to the proposed Matadero Creek trail and a newly constructed trail on the Sterling Canal easement. It offers limited Baylands views, and the ramp might obscure the solar arrays at the city's municipal-services center.

The existing Matadero Creek under-crossing is currently subject, to flooding and improvements would require creek-channel widening to maintain water flow. Existing skylights would also be covered by a Highway 101 auxiliary lane that's planned. It is also the northernmost location, Calder said.

An over-crossing at Adobe would pass under PG&E power lines and could require negotiations to obtain private property for a ramp structure. Costs for building the over-crossing could be higher, according to Calder.

The study will be presented in this fall to the Architectural Review Board, Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning and Transportation Commission. The City Council is expected to review the project next year. The study will be posted on the city's website within the next few days at

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Posted by commuter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

Bicycling along San Antonio Road near Hwy 101 has gotten extremely dangerous since the new Jewish community center was built. Did they narrow the street lanes or increase the speed limit or something? I don't really remember what the road design was before, but it is a death trap now. Cars speed around you with just inches to spare.

I vote for whatever new bike path they can build the quickest. The current bike path under Hwy 101 is closed 6 months of the year and forcing those bicycle commuters to use San Antonio Road instead is inviting a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

Like this comment
Posted by Sun
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

When Sun was where the JCC is, and Sun was very much where Google is, the Sun employees used the Sun parking lot as a short cut when biking to work during the months the tunnel was closed. That short cut appears to have been lost.

Like this comment
Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 7, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I use the existing Adobe undercrossing almost everyday when it is open. I don't think it is too narrow. The turn-styles work well for preventing head-on collisions, but they are difficult to negotiate for tandem bikes and bikes pulling trailers.

I think a tunnel that could be open year round would be completely separate from the either Adobe or Matadero Creek. A year-round tunnel would have to be water tight like the BART tunnel. Adobe Creek is just not low enough and the bottom of 101 is only 7 feet over the deck as it is. I would rather see an overhead crossing if the only option under 101 is a dark sealed tunnel.

I use the sidewalk along San Antonio in the winter when the undercrossing is closed. That is really narrow, but it is pretty safe. The worst part is getting across the 101 off ramp. It isn't dangerous, but it can be a long wait sometimes.

Like this comment
Posted by Another waste of money
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2010 at 7:23 pm

San Antonio is not any narrower today than it was when Sun was located on that site.

The JCC built a big wall close to the sidewalk which gives the illusion of a narrower street but it is exactly the same width as before.

As for building another bike path across H.101 - whose going to pay for it? I propose we put a toll gate up there and charge $5:00 to cross!!

Like this comment
Posted by Casual Cyclist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2010 at 9:49 pm

> As for building another bike path across H.101 - whose going to pay
> for it? I propose we put a toll gate up there and charge $5:00 to cross

Brilliant idea! Why do't we start by doing that for cars trying to get into and out of Palo Alto? After all, who is going to pay for all those roads...

Like this comment
Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 7, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

(The following comments were posted under a previously posted version of this article. The two discussions have been combined here.)

Posted by bike to Google, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:44 am

This bike path is the main route for people bicycling between the south Palo Alto neighborhoods and Google and other employers in that area. The current path is very popular, but it is closed 6 months of the year. Bicycling over Hwy 101 at San Antonio has gotten extremely dangerous since the new Jewish center was built. Please build a year-round bike path ASAP. Thank you.

Posted by Don't hold your breath, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:21 am

"The study will be presented in this fall to the Architectural Review Board, Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning and Transportation Commission. The City Council is expected to review the project next year."

And maybe 10 years from now something will be built--typical PA process-committees, boards and talk, talk talk.

Posted by bike to Google, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

If I had known about this meeting beforehand, I would have attended. Is there any NIMBY opposition to upgrading the bike path?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:30 am
Walter_E_Wallis is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online

Call it the Google Bikeway and I'll bet it would be ready before winter. With Google money, of course.

Posted by Richard, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:03 pm

There was no neighborhood opposition to upgrading the crossing. I think everybody in the Midtown area got a postcard in the mail telling them of the meeting. These projects take a long time because of the number of agencies and reviews involved, even outside of Palo Alto: Santa Clara Valley Water District, Caltrans, PG&E, VTA. Environmental reviews need to be done and reports need to be filed. Even if Google agreed to pay (and they did not offer to do so when I spoke to their transportation people about this a couple of years ago) it would not speed up Caltrans. The Cupertino bridge took 10 years to complete, so if we complete this upgrade within 4 years I will be very happy.

Posted by TJ, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

"The current path is very popular, but it is closed 6 months of the year."

Why can't the current pathway under H.101 be upgraded and cleaned out so it can be used during the rainy season?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm
Walter_E_Wallis is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online

The usual Caltrans delay is waiting for funding. They showed how fast they could move when money is secondary in the South after Loma Prieta and here after the collapse of the East Bay section.

Posted by Richard, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm


That is basically the plan that the residents favored. Presently the water level in the dry season is only a few inches below the existing path, so a little bit of rain causes the pathway to get covered in slimy mud. The creek channel needs to be expanded to keep the water level below the pathway. Also, the current pathway is to narrow and the overhead clearance is inadequate to meet standards. Overall a substantial amount of widening is needed and that will require moving the abutments for the freeway. Those need engineering approval by Caltrans, which can take a long time. In fact, if they are not involved in the funding of a project they have no motivation to respond in a timely manner at all.

Posted by bike to Google, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

If there is another public meeting about this, posting a sign along the bike path is probably a more effective way to notify users than mailing postcards. Assuming that the meeting occurs during the 6 months when the trail is open, of course.

Posted by qq, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I love using the Adobe Creek underpass. San Antonio is a death trap. Rengstorff and Shoreline are not much better. Can't wait for there to be a year round solution to getting to the baylands from south Palo Alto!


Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I never noticed the bike bridge over Oregon closed? Can someone expand on that? It seems functional every time I bike over it.

I agree about San Antonio ... every once in a while I bike over Embarcadero or San Antonio and I do not really like to do that.

Not to mention that the auto traffic especially on Embarcadero is really poorly designed ... but after what they did to University I do not believe Palo Alto civic planners competent to solve any of these problems.

The idiocy especially of the north bound exit from 101 to Embarcadero either way, the merging towards Edgewood, or God help you if you want to take a left at the light when you get off the freeway to the Post Office.

Posted by bike to Google, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm

The bridge north of Oregon Expressway is a 4 mile detour (twice a day) for people trying to cross Hwy 101 at San Antonio Road. Forcing people to bike those extra 8 miles during your typical winter commuting weather (i.e. dark, cold, wet) just encourages them to drive to work instead.

Did the city narrow the lanes on San Antonio Road when the new Jewish center was built? San Antonio seems much more dangerous for bicyclists now.

Posted by Alan, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I would have voted for the Adobe Creek over-pass had I been there.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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