News

Plan to replace Newell Road Bridge moves forward

Palo Alto City Council seeks grant that would pay for design of new bridge

Palo Alto officials threw their support behind a proposal to replace the narrow Newell Road Bridge -- a project that they hope will improve flood control around the San Francisquito Creek and make the bridge safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The City Council voted Monday night to apply for a state grant that would fund about 89 percent of the design work for replacing the 100-year-old bridge connecting Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. The rest of the funding would come from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, an agency that includes officials from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, as well as water officials from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The proposal to replace the bridge met some resistance from Palo Alto residents in the flood-prone Crescent Park neighborhood, many of whom said the city should instead focus on the Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge. Others argued that the proposal to replace the narrow 40-foot bridge with a much longer and wider structure would bring more traffic to the neighborhood.

At the council meeting, several residents said the new bridge would be out of context in their neighborhood and asked city officials to think smaller. Andrew Vought, whose Edgewood Drive home is near the bridge, said that while he supports replacing the bridge he and his neighbors are concerned that building a larger bridge would create new "traffic and safety issues" and interfere with the wildlife in the San Francisquito Creek.

"I strongly urge that the proposed bridge be scaled back to within appropriate size," Vought told the council.

The council voted 8-0, with Gail Price absent, to apply for a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) grant. Council members also specified that the design of the new bridge should prioritize flood control and traffic neutrality. Councilman Larry Klein said he supports replacing the bridge but urged staff to make sure the new structure would not drive more traffic to surrounding streets.

The scope of work for the project tentatively proposes a 75-foot-long bridge with wider traffic lanes as well as sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides. Public Works officials said they proposed the larger structure largely to ensure they get enough grant money for the project. Phil Bobel, interim assistant director of Public Works, said engineers will continue to refine the design of the new bridge and make sure it accomplishes the goals of improving flood control and boosting traffic safety.

"We're not going to go forward with something that's unacceptable to our council or our other partners," said Phil Bobel, interim assistant director of Public Works.

The project is one of several that the creek Joint Powers Authority is undertaking in its quest to improve flood control around the volatile San Francisquito Creek. The authority chose to start with the Newell Road Bridge because it has been classified as "functionally obsolete" by Caltrans and is thus eligible for grant money.

East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero attended Monday's meeting and urged the council to support the regional effort to replace bridges and improve flood control. The Joint Powers Authority, he said, will have ample opportunity to address the community's issues and adjust the new bridge's design appropriately.

"This is a huge opportunity that we have as all three cities to really parlay important state money and federal money into a bridge that may cost us $2.5 million or $3 million on our own to build if we really want to deal with the flooding issues," Romero said.

The council agreed, with Larry Klein and Nancy Shepherd both saying they support the goal of improving flood control and urging staff not to pay attention to traffic impacts.

"I'm looking forward to seeing this process go forward so that we can start with the amelioration," Shepherd said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I commend the Council for its vote; I'm looking forward to completion of an updated Newell Road bridge.

Is there some means to fund renovation of the Pope/Chaucer Street bridge?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident Representation Now
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Council members represent the people - they need to listen to the people and not do what they think is right.


Like this comment
Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm

ResidentRepresentation Now-

I disagree. I think council members represent the people by doing what they think is right. I think listening to the people too much is what leads to too much politickin' (see College Terrace). If you don't like what your council member is doing, then you vote them out and put someone in who you think will do that right thing.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Darwin makes good sense here.

I don't think this is just a case that can be made by the council after listening to residents. The majority of people don't have the knowledge to recommend what may be the safest structure while also taking into account that it's a neighborhood. Safety needs to trump aesthetics and NIMBYism.

Like JA3+, I'm curious if there're current means to fund Chaucer/Pope or when it can happen. From what I learned in checking Newell St. out, nothing is available now, but it may be worthwhile to those interested to contact the JPA directly to see what they know.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Vilain
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I live right by that bridge and use it many times a week to go into downtown, bypassing University. It is a pain to go across on foot, on a bike, and in a car. How long will it take to replace it with a 75-foot??? bridge that won't restrict the creek flow that inundated the neighborhood and the freeway in 1998 and earlier? What about the increased response time from the fire house at Newell and Embarcadero?

I will be part of this planning process. You can count on it.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm

> I think council members represent the people by doing what they think is right. I think listening to the people too much is what leads to too much politickin'

Huh .... the politickin is going to happen either way, so it might as well be done in public in the light and not decided behind closed doors by a small insular group of locally connected operatives. We have seen poor decisions piled on poor decisions the way you suggest, it is time to start doing what the people say ... and first it is time to give information to the people.

Personally at this time if any change is made it ought to be to remove the bridge completely. I live very close to this bridge and I see very few cars or traffic over it that could not get to their locations out either other side University or Embarcadero.

Ask people all over the rest of Palo Alto if they want to pay for the few people who use this bridge. I think not.


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

Is this article accurate in stating Larry Klein's and Nancy Shepard's intent?

"The council agreed, with Larry Klein and Nancy Shepherd both saying they support the goal of improving flood control and urging staff not to pay attention to traffic impacts."

Get a handle on geography...how can they not be concerned about traffic?! Newell is a main bike artery to Jordan Middle and Palo Alto High Schools!

Happy the council is concerned about flooding, but most of the flooding came from the Pope/Chaucer street bridge. I would be happier if there were concurrent plans to address the flooding at Newell and Chaucer. Funding also exists for addressing the Middlefield flood issues, but nothing as yet for the biggest culprit in between--Chaucer!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

>> Get a handle on geography...how can they not be concerned about traffic?! Newell is a main bike artery to Jordan Middle and Palo Alto High Schools!

I was not aware that people from San Mateo county can cross the border into Santa Clara county and go to Palo Alto schools? Is that correct.

What is the need for this bridge?

Bottom line, what exactly is the need / purpose for this bridge?

Then. is that need big enough to justify what is going to be a huge
expense to replace it in an economy that is terrible when we have
revenue problems and everyone is screaming about austerity.

I do not know, maybe there is some important reason this bridge
needs to exist. The only reason i can see that would be compelling
for the cost would be the emergency vehicle argument. If that is
the case, it needs to be put out there and explained clearly, and
why?

I do not think there is a problem with the Fire Department though
because there is a firestation on Newell ... or are there two, and
they can just as easily go around Embarcadero and get to this area
of EPA if they had to.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

Ask people all over the rest of Palo Alto if they want to pay for the few people who use this bridge. I think not.


Like this comment
Posted by Informed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

I think (and hope) it was a typo of the Palo ALto staff writer in which the article stated that Klein and Shepherd urged staff "not to pay attention to traffic impacts" - Palo ALto Online staff - can you clarify please?!


Like this comment
Posted by A non
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2011 at 11:19 am

It makes sense that this bridge is the one up for renewell.


Like this comment
Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm

In the interest of "Traffic Calming" and the greater-good-of-the-group-as-a-whole, we should close this deadly saftey hazard. Make it a pedestrian and bike only bridge!
QED
No rebuilding costs (no money anyway), Traffic is Calmed, Bikes Rule!!


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

"I live very close to this bridge and I see very few cars or traffic over it that could not get to their locations out either other side University or Embarcadero."

It's unwise to remove the Newell Road and push the traffic out to University or Embarcadero.

Similar -- but admittedly not equivalent -- efforts by Palo Alto Public Works have resulted in out-sized impacts. Traffic 'calming' is one example: while motorists avoid streets with such 'calming' improvements, they quickly speed off to 'non-calmed' streets. The impact is significant on some of such 'non-calmed' streets in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I think that they are making a mistake with a new bridge. As it is, the bridge isn't used so commonly because of the size - If it is made wider, it will just make Newell a more common thruway. I am glad I don't live over there and have to deal with all the new traffic that will be coming through. (mark my words: there will be MORE traffic!)


Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I am amazed that in these financially difficult times we have money to replace a bridge that has been there for 100 years. It does not need to be replaced and should not be replaced. We continue to spend money as if there were an endless supply. Too bad no one has ever had to meet a budget...like families have to!!


Like this comment
Posted by DaveV
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Isn't the main issue one of dealing with flood hazards aggrevated by these bridges? If that is the case, is this the right bridge?
If that is the driving force, then the use of these funds, which appear to come from various sources, may be warranted.
If the bridge is unsafe, then the spending might be warranted.
If this is aainly for ameliorating the impacts of the small amount of traffic in the area, then the expenditure does not seem reasonable.


Like this comment
Posted by DaveV
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Correcting a typo in the last line:
If this is mainly for ameliorating the impacts of the small amount of traffic in the area, then the expenditure does not seem reasonable.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

DaveV, you might want to read the original article about this bridge, the funding for a new one & its eligibility. I obtained additional info from my city council members.

This doesn't have to do w/traffic per se; the primary importance is flood control. There is a grant available for the majority of the cost.

Many of the PA residents posting aren't paying attention to the reasons or priority that this bridge be redone. That is in part, imo, the fault of the reporting - there isn't enough good info in either story reported here.

An earlier poster here stated she'd learned that flood abatement work from downstream up is correct, according to my additional research. There is also a rebuild planned for the Highway 101/creek crossing. You can find info here: Web Link
You can also obtain more info by contacting the JPA directly.

A lot of the work already done on the creek east of 101, where it divided EPA & PA has made a tremendous difference. It's important to understand all of what they're doing, as well as the individual pieces, in order to put it all into perspective. Please don't let the NIMBYness & traffic fears distract you from understanding the overall project.


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm

In response to Hmmm--I spoke to a member of the JPA on Monday night who said the funding was for the design and environmental study for the Newell Bridge. CalTran is providing $320,000 and JPA will provide $40,000. I do not know who will pay for the building of a new structure.


Like this comment
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2011 at 8:30 am

Given that the bridge now has basically one lane, I have always assumed that it is not viewed as having a significant role in normal traffic flow towards and away from 101 (something that could change were it widened). So it seems reasonable to think that the bridge is considered important for emergency services vehicles (fire, police, ambulances). Is this the case?


Like this comment
Posted by NashNewellBridges
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2011 at 11:04 am

It is used by police and fire vehicles.

It is two way, but there's not a lot of extra give. I safely drive it as a two way frequently; much of it depends on the size of your vehicle, your driving skill and the size of any vehicle coming toward you on the bridge. Since getting to it isn't obvious for those on 101 unless they know about it already, I doubt it'll become a main thoroughfare if widened.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I am hearing a lot of noise here - don't mean that in a bad way towards anyone, just in the sense that there is really not a clear definition of the importance and urgency of replacing this bridge, versus leaving it alone or just tearing it down.

We talk about traffic but it seems plain to be that there is not significant traffic on this bridge, because there is no real important destinations on the other side of it for the people of Palo Alto, and for the people of EPA that live in the other side there is no reason to go over that bridge rather than University or Embarcadero which is where they are likely to end up anyway.

For flood control it is obviously the Chaucer bridge that needs the attention, and it needs it urgently. So, compared to that situation why is this even showing up on the radar screen?

I have a feeling that this is a source of money and political favors to keep someone busy and connected in these times, and that has to be paid for by who ... the city, the state, the feds?

The two way nature of the bridge is only when both drivers are polite and courteous, which is not most often the case. I have sat on the EPA side of this bridge while a long string of jerks come from the Palo Alto side just keep driving through in the middle of the lanes preventing me from crossing until they are all through ... while they smile because they are getting away with something.

The one reason i can see for this bridge is emergency vehicles, and if that is the case just keep it for emergency vehicles and foot traffic and leave it the way it is.

Finally, what was the part this bridge played in the last flood? I know this area flooded a little bit anyway, but was it because of this bridge? I lived over off of Greer between Embarcadero and Oregon at the time and heard that all the water that we go over there had run off from the creek in "downtown" Palo Alto.

If the Chaucer St. bridge was fixed does that necessarily mean that in an equivalent flood that the water would back up behind this bridge?

Why are there not any answers to the big picture here?




Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm to Concerned
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I am not sure if you or I have the incorrect info on funding. The info I received was that grant funding would also be for the majority of the construction, not just the plans for it. Do you think that the JPA has mixed/unclear info, or the news does or our city officials - or all of them?


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Anon, there was a LOT of flooding in this area & Crescent Park, mostly from the Univ Ave & W. Bayshore bridges, from Oregon north to Univ, both in EPA & PA, as well as MP. I helped friends & coworkers in PA, as well as EPA residents. Many of the latter here on the west side literally waded through water to get up & over the freeway to the REd Cross area. We had a couple houses we used as safety points for people, incl mine. We handed out protein bars, fresh water, & items for children. Luckily, I paired up w/a flood expert friend/neighbor and she was able to educate me very quickly about things flood-related. Some people fled, some people stayed. My coworkers all had flooded homes & I was able to get them to another unflooded home - all of their cars flooded, so they were unable to use them. It was exhausting, difficult work. The fire depts & cops from all over were helping in various ways, including taking people out by boat. You know it's a real flood when you see boats going down your street & your boss wakes up because his bed has flooded.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

What I heard was that the flooding in the last flood was from downtown and from the University overpass which I think was closed for a while.

I remember reading there was some minor flooding along Woodland too.

The thing is it has been over ten years and almost nothing has been done to prevent this again ... and I think this bridge is the least of any of it.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

You're info's incomplete. There was flooding enough on Woodland for people to use boats. There was incredible flooding on W. Bayshore since Woodland slopes down slighty & there's a sound wall on W. Bayshore, so very little area for water to run off or get soaked into. It was a nightmare for many residents. Crescent Park had problems, as did St. Francis area, 101, Middlefield, Oregon Expwy & Embarcadero, especially for those with homes at ground level or slightly at a down angle away from the street. It was a high tide & a new moon during that storm.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

Bravo - Norman Beamer - thanks for the inclusion of some simple easy to understand data! To wit:

0 - The overall capacity of the natural flow of the creek is about 6000 cfs.

1 - The capacity of the Chaucer bridge is 4900 cubic feet per second

2 - University is 6800.

3 - Middlefield is 6700.

4 - Newell is 6500 cfs.

5 - Chaucer bridge is 4900 cubic feet per second

So, my conclusion would be that we should be able to design our creek so that we are safe for anything under 6000 cfs. Over 6000 cfs. we would have to modify the creek to handle 6500 cfs. before we had greater problems, and next it would be the Newell bridge at 6500.

The greatest flow we have seen in the last 100 years has been 1988 at 7300 cfs, so we have a long term problems that demands a complete rethinking of the problem.

The stumbling blocks for that, in order, are: Chaucer St. Bridge. So, it seems Palo Alto should prioritize our efforts at Chaucer St - PERIOD.

Why is that so hard to understand, or is there more information that changes things? What changes are planned, if any, to increase the creek's capacity to handle more flow? What are the effects of what happens upstream and downstream in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto respectively?

So, what is the urgency about doing Newell Rd? Why is this not just a boondoggle spending or money for the sake of grabbing money?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

"Hmmm", according to Norman Beamer's posted information that he said was picked from the Palo Alto website no matter what we do the Creek's carrying capacity is only 6000cfs, so that in a 100 year flood like '98 we are going to have problems somewhere with a 7300 cfs flood no matter what.

Chaucer St. is the major choke point, but the other's Newell, University and Middlefield are close to the same at around 6500-6800cfs.

With out a clear long-term plan the urgent thing to do would be to handle Chaucer St first and fast so that it can handle equal of greater volume than 7300cps, and then work on updating the creek and the other bridges.

13 years later, where is a public, well-defined logical plan, based on numbers with estimated costs and schedule for the Palo Alto creek, OR what is holding up such and effort?


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