News

Editorial: An 'iconic' bridge?

 

We are delighted to see the city moving forward with plans for a new pedestrian and bike bridge across Bayshore Freeway, even if the hype over the upcoming design competition is a bit over the top.

We'd certainly rather have a nice-looking bridge over 101 than an ugly one, but it feels oh-so-Palo Alto to describe as our goal an "iconic" and "landmark" bridge that is "inspired by the beauty and innovation in Palo Alto."

We have a tendency to turn something relatively simple into something very complicated, and the "global bridge design competition" approved by the City Council on Monday night does just that.

The concept of a design competition, where more than 20 "international, national and local qualified and reputable architectural/engineering design teams with bridge design and construction experience" will be invited to submit their design ideas, was approved more than a year ago by the council.

This week, the council unanimously approved spending $185,000 to hire the American Institute of Architects California Council to run the contest, which will get underway immediately. From the submitted proposals, three finalists will be chosen and provided with $20,000 stipends for preparing a conceptual design, with a "winning" design to be chosen in a public process by the City Council in December.

The bridge itself, currently estimated to cost $10 million and funded primarily from grants, is targeted to be completed by 2018. It will connect south Palo Alto with the Baylands at Adobe Creek, where there is currently an underpass that is unusable for much of the year due to flooding.

Bicycle and pedestrian connectivity with the Baylands has been an important recreation and transportation priority for many years. The only other overpass, at Oregon Expressway, does not adequately serve south Palo Alto and is not ADA compliant.

We would have preferred a more streamlined and efficient design process that had less risk of pushing costs even higher, which we fully expect will happen as designers woo city officials and the public with elaborate proposals.

As Mayor Nancy Shepherd says in a press release issued by the city Wednesday, "We want a bridge that balances engineering with art, efficiency and beauty, while recognizing the integration with our Baylands. We hope the architects and engineers submitting will be inspired by the beauty and innovation in Palo Alto when creating their designs and we look forward to seeing what they come up with."

That's music to the ears of a designer in a contest, and an invitation to not worry about cost, leaving it to the city to cut back design elements to stay within budget or accept the allure of a unique design.

Given the diverse and critical opinions of Palo Altans on the design of almost every new development in town, it will take a Herculean effort by staff and council to navigate this project through to a successful outcome.

— Palo Alto Weekly editorial board

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Comments

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 8:34 am

I bet if this bridge were in northern Palo Alto, it would get finished much more quickly. Southern Palo Alto is always neglected by the downtown bureaucracy. Also, if this were a car bridge it would get finished much more quickly since the downtown bureaucracy spends way more money way more quickly on car projects than on pedestrian projects.

Here is my proposal: convert the San Antonio bridge to pedestrian/bicycle only until the new pedestrian is built, especially during the winter when the existing undercrossing is closed. Cars have plenty of other routes to use, but pedestrians do not.

Closing a car road should put more pressure on the city to get this pedestrian bridge finished efficiently.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2014 at 8:40 am

I'm looking forward to the cost overruns and lawsuits dealing with this 'iconic' bridge. Maybe the city can hand the contract to Flintco again.


4 people like this
Posted by Personally
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2014 at 9:14 am

I don't get what's wrong with the 5 million dollar bridge mountain view recently completed. It's not ugly, it works and was completed in a timely manner


2 people like this
Posted by BikeToWork
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:17 am

The crossing at Adobe Creek has been needed for a long time. I used to commute by bike to Embarcadero Rd, East of 101. The "pedestrian" bridge at Oregon was so hard to get to, hard to use and way too steep for me (no granny gears) so I had to use the Adobe crossing or the San Antonio Road overpass.
Can we please NOT repeat the disaster of the Oregon crossing? Sunnyvale has a fantastic bridge over 280. Mountain View bridges have the terrible impossible switchbacks at the ends. (Spirals are easier than 90° turns - for all those designing bike bridges that don't actually ride bikes).
I am certain that a decent bike bridge will dramatically increase the bike commute traffic to East of 101, as well as reducing the hazards of mixing bikes and cars on freeway interchanges.


2 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:26 am

I like the Mountain View bridge since it helps bicyclists and pedestrians get over the ugly smelly highway as quickly as possible, without the twists and traps that you usually see on pedestrian bridges.

The new Menlo Park bridge (Ringwood Ave) is less inviting because it does have several blind corners and sharp turns through car traffic at both ends. I hope that Palo Alto can avoid those problems.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:28 am

P.S. I am referring to the Mountain View bridge over Hwy 101 near Rengstorff Ave. I agree that the Mountain View bridge over the train tracks is quite a bit more difficult because of the sharp blind turns at both ends. I see lots of people falling off their bikes there.


2 people like this
Posted by Bike commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:42 am

I often use the adobe creek underpass to get to work, I am looking forward to a bridge being built soon that can be used all year. The Mountain View bike path just south of Rengstorff looks nice, is very functional, and something like that would work great here.

Let's not get carried away on a design for something that REALLY just needs to take us from point A to point B.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

"Over the top", indeed. And not just the design contest cost. $10 million for a bike bridge is a bit over the top, too. Some people (are you listening, Liz Kniss?) love to spend other people's money and she's at it again. I can think of far better uses for some of that $10 million, such as downtown parking, helping the homeless, etc.


1 person likes this
Posted by BarronParker
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:58 am

I bike across 101 to work every day, and in the summer and early fall occasionally use the Adobe Creek underpass, which is closed for half the year, allegedly because of "flooding".

But in fact, it is very rare that the water gets up to the level of the path under the freeway. If the path were raised 12 inches, it would be extremely rare, perhaps a few days each year at most. The underpass could be used year-round, and we could save the $10-20 million on this Fancier-Than-Yours bridge.

And if we really want a bridge as well, the Don Burnett bike/ped bridge over 280 in Sunnyvale is a good model for aesthetics, safety and cost.


1 person likes this
Posted by Just build it
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

This has quickly become an "ego" project for our city council. Obviously the council will not be happy unless the bridge , when built, causes them to swoon. Design contests, landmark, iconic--all should raise flags, together with the fact that this ws proposed last year and will not be finished until 2018!!!
Just build a simple, useful bridge and get over your colossal ego trips-Gregx2, Nancy, Liz, Karen, Marc, Pat, Gail and Larry


1 person likes this
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

@anonymous..you are exactly right. It'll cost much more than projected. The contractor will take twice as long to build it than estimated and it'll probably be an eyesore. Just the fact that the city council approved $185,000.00 to run a contest to design it is nuts. @Bike Commuter..you are right as well. Take us from point A to B without the "Iconic." This city council and manager just can't seem to not want to spend grant money.


5 people like this
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

muttiallen is a registered user.

Please, please just build a simple, straight bridge that will get from one side of 101 to the other. Function over form! Let those who care what stuff looks like and don't care about price drive across 101 in their Tesla or Mercedes


Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 12, 2014 at 12:53 pm

This money would be better spent designing a grade separation at any of the crossings of Caltrain.

When Caltrain starts running 10 trains an hour watch how the traffic will tie up.


Like this comment
Posted by Matt Austern
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I still find it mindboggling that this is targeted at 2018. How is it possible to take four years to build a bike bridge, and how can the people who approved that schedule think it's acceptable? The city plans say that a bike connection from the southern part of the city is high priority, but a high priority project isn't scheduled for four years in the future.

I don't know how much of the delay is coming from the "iconic" and "landmark" goals, but I'm sure they don't help. I'd far rather have an ugly and utilitarian bridge in 2015 than a beautiful landmark in 2020.


Like this comment
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

The ego and grandiosity, the sense of self importance, are jaw dropping. Voting to spend $185 thousand to someone to run the contest, plus another $20 thousand to each competitor. Because they can't find a good bike bridge design that works well that measures up to Palo Alto's standards?

Also, from what I remember, funded approximately two-thirds by grants with Palo Alto picking up the difference. Approximately $3 million from Stanford as per the agreement, and a third from VTA.

And who will be picking up the cost overruns? Why Palo Alto of course.



1 person likes this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Re: "The bridge itself, currently estimated to cost $10 million and funded primarily from grants, is targeted to be completed by 2018. It will connect south Palo Alto with the Baylands at Adobe Creek, where there is currently an underpass that is unusable for much of the year due to flooding."

Too bad they can't spend $10 million on a new Chaucer Ave. bridge, which makes the whole neighborhood unsuable when there are floods.


3 people like this
Posted by Just build it
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Note this story from 2011:

Web Link

Note the title:
"Plan for bike bridge over 101 speeds up"

And here we are 3 years later and.....

And note the comments from a certain out-of-touch council member:

"Council members also supported Councilwoman Karen Holman's suggestion to explore holding a design contest for the new structure.
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."
"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.""

As I said this is an ego trip for some council members and the above story and quotations prove sit.

Just build a simple bridge. Cars speeding by on 101 will not care what kind of bridge it is.


2 people like this
Posted by Don Law
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Don Law is a registered user.

Skip the contest please. Just build a simple bridge already.


Like this comment
Posted by Sorry I missed this meeting.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I hope the project input included a limit on construction cost.

Sorry I missed this meeting. I am excited about getting this bridge built. Every member of my family will use the proposed bridge a LOT for work commutes and recreation.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2014 at 7:03 pm

This emphasis on design/aesthetics for this bridge is totally inconsistent with everything else this City Council and staff does. Just drive around Palo Alto. As such this is a total farce and an insult to all of us - rubbing salt in the wound. Give me a break.


2 people like this
Posted by ben
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Our wildly out of touch city leaders and staff behind this fiasco should justify why on earth we need to squander millions on an ego stroking bridge, and have to wait until 2018 for it to open. Do we need an "Iconic bike bridge", no.

I'm pretty sure that City Hall Bike Bridge Boosters have no idea what an iconic structure is. Here is an example! The Empire State building is an iconic structure, 103 floors of iconic landmark, and it was completed in on year and 45 days. It might have taken 45 years and one day had Palo Alto been in charge of that project! This gateway bike bridge has been in the works for several years already, with absolutely nothing to show for it, and we'll have too wait 4 more years for it to be built?

Truly pathetic.


Like this comment
Posted by Cycle Wannabe
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:54 pm

A unique artistic bridge? Are they forgetting it goes over that abominable eyesore that is 101? Please. This is city government gone wrong. Stop wasting time and money and put up a functional, simple bridge. If you put your minds to it you could have it done by the end of 2015.


Like this comment
Posted by Barron Park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:59 pm

This bridge "contest" is another example of how our current city leadership is out of touch with it's citizens. They all need to be removed.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2014 at 8:27 am

SteveU is a registered user.

There was a time that they just put a big Log across a stream (there are still some of those in Seattle) and called it a bridge.

Safe, Solid.
Just 'Get it done' (and hold the ego trip)

(Bike, Pedestrian) Transit facilities NOW, not years away.


Like this comment
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2014 at 10:58 am

> This has quickly become an "ego" project for our city council.

What might satisfy the council egos is to copy the famous Charles Bridge in Prague and replace the statues of saints with statues of council members. Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow Knows.........
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2014 at 11:51 am

Absolutely agree with the above comments. The Council needs to stop trying to prove its supposed superiority to other major utilitarian cities and just get on with doing what is functional and efficient.

Otherwise we will end up with another Mitchell Park Library building - and project process..........


1 person likes this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

If Palo Alto wants iconic, it can learn from – Kansas City! Compare its library building to the Mitchell Park disaster: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow Knows..........
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:18 pm

@ History Buff -

LOL! In Palo Alto that concept would have resulted in a debate over the political correctness of the books to be selected, and an ARB review of the color of the book bindings..........


Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm

History buffs-- saints in Palo Alto are interchangeable with city council members.
The shadow knows-- how true.

I have a feeling this singling to turn into another overpriced, drawn out fiasco. Not sure why we cannot have a bridge in place by next year.


Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Given how much longer it took to finally finish the "iconic" eastern span of the Bay Bridge after Loma Prieta, be prepared for a 2030 opening party. All it takes is a bunch of politicians to muck thing up.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2014 at 8:50 am

Now that I know that this bike bridge design contest was Karen Holman's idea I certainly won't be voting for her.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm

To "Resident" and anyone else who thinks as he/she does. GET OVER THE 'NORTH VS. SOUTH' feud. It's over long ago. It's really OVER. We're a city, ONE city. There is no 'war', only the manufactured one by soreheads over WHAT?


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

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