Bridge replacement could jam up Highway 101 this week

Lane closures, detours planned between University Avenue and Embarcadero Road

Drivers on U.S. Highway 101 can expect lane closures during the evening, night and early morning hours this week as the California Department of Transportation continues its work to replace the San Francisquito Bridge between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

The three-year project kicked off this spring and will largely be implemented between June and October of each year because of seasonal restrictions on work near the San Francisquito Creek. The $18 million effort is expected to be completed in December 2017.

The project would demolish the existing bridges over the volatile creek and replace them with larger structures that would offer more protection to the flood-prone downstream neighborhoods in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. The existing bridge spanning 101 was initially constructed in 1931 and then widened in 1957 to include roads east and west of the highway. According to Caltrans, the bridge has "deteriorated due to wear and tidal action." Structural inspections dating back to 2001 have recommended replacement of the bridge.

But while the project promises to solve one problem, it will inevitably contribute to another. The already congested stretch of 101 around University Avenue promises to get even more crowded thanks to lane closures, offramp closures and new striping configurations.

This week, the two left lanes (known in Caltrans parlance as Lanes 1 and 2) on southbound 101 will be closed between University Avenue and Embarcadero Road between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday. A similar closure will occur Thursday night. Alternate lanes on the same stretch of southbound 101 will also be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday.

Caltrans also plans to close the University offramp from southbound 101 between 10 p.m. Friday night 7 a.m. Saturday. The Embarcadero off-ramp from southbound of 101 would be closed from 9 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday. Detours will be in place for both closures, according to Caltrans.

According to Caltrans, the closures will allow crews to pave and add striping in the median. Southbound 101 will have a new striping configuration, by which traffic would be moved closer to the median barrier.

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31 people like this
Posted by paca
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:13 pm

The fact that this will take 3 years on a small section of roadway is absurd. The social and economic costs of creating a traffic nightmare without any plan for dealing with the result is a show of poor management at CALTRANS that has had a policy of accelerating the work on this type of project. A three year plan sounds like the opposite. Judging by the number of workers and the lack of an around the clock effort, the plan is to just snub the community and the commuters who are forced to travel on 101 and down University/Willow/Embarcadero. Do we have State Representatives and Senators that are in touch with our community?

11 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Nah, Caltrans has zero insight or logic into what they do.

Remember that asinine Sand Hill Road intersection project? And when it was completed they decided to widen the bridge adding additional years of inconvenience?

And forget the competency of elected officials. Look at this site's commenters: those are the people who are voting those people in.

That Winston Churchill quote rings truer than ever: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else."


31 people like this
Posted by Bad Planning
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 11:19 pm

While we are talking piss poor planning, how about the fact that we just endured a few years of the slip lane project IN THE SAME SPOT! Couldn't it have been done at the same time?

5 people like this
Posted by boondoggle
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:59 am

This mess is all caused by the $100 MILLION boondoggle merging lanes that Caltrans built in Palo Alto a couple of years ago. Why didn't the NIMBYs oppose that waste of tax dollars? More freeway lanes just encourage more people to drive their cars, causing more traffic on local streets, more parking problems, more pollution, and jamming the freeway even more when there is construction or accidents.

17 people like this
Posted by No accountability
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2015 at 10:19 am

Why the heck was this not coordinated with all of the widening and lane work that just completed last year.
There was a vast improvement with that work in lane function and road surfacing. Then Caltrans and the Flood control folks come in and grind tracks in the lanes removing paint, destroy the center divider, cause dangeraous merges and huge congestion with this ptifully planned project. Who the heck owns this overall mess?
Years ago Alma was resurfaced and was fantastic. Then the utility gods came in and dug it up end to end destrying the quality of the road surface. Again, COORDINATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY are missing.

4 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2015 at 10:47 am

It seems that nobody bothers to READ anymore. The article cleary states that the project is limited to June through October each year due to seasonal restrictions (i.e. Winter), which by my count is 5, not 12 months, so obviously it will take longer than year round work. Also, the project is unrelated to the recently completed widening project. It was unfortunately only recently approved and funded. Too bad it couldn't be coordinated with the widening project, but that's just the way things work.

9 people like this
Posted by Another resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2015 at 11:35 am

I assume that this is related to the flood control improvements which is tied to the golf course rebuild project. As I understand it, both projects were held up because the head of one of the Bay oversight agencies kept pulling a Columbo ("just one more question") every time the flood work plan was presented. This caused the City to lose its golf course contract and added 2 years to the project's timeline not to mention the havoc it wrecked on Brad Lozares' business at the golf course. If that is the case, it could not have been done with the road widening because of the actions of one bureaucrat. Welcome to Amerika!

8 people like this
Posted by stuck_on_101
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

David, you write:
"It seems that nobody bothers to READ anymore. The article cleary states that the project is limited to June through October each year due to seasonal restrictions (i.e. Winter), which by my count is 5, not 12 months, so obviously it will take longer than year round work."

We read it, and we also understand:

effort: 5 months per year for 3 years
duration: 12 months per year for 3 years
impact on commuters: 3 FULL years

It may not be related to the widening project; but this sure is a show of lack of project planning skills.

17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Why can't they work round the clock for the few months a year they are doing this. I drove by on Sunday when there was bad traffic and no work being done. Round the clock, seven days a week, and this should have been done in one year.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 7, 2015 at 3:15 pm

@Resident, I think 24/7 would require four times the number of construction workers. I don't know whether the current market is that elastic.

The project looks pretty well laid out to me.

Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 7, 2015 at 4:59 pm

The project is taking place at night. Why would you want them to close the road during the day?

5 people like this
Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2015 at 5:12 pm


New standards needed.

Any major artery in California should = round the clock labor.

8 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2015 at 7:50 pm

When the major freeway bridge in LA fell down after the earthquake they fixed it in 3 WEEKS! Isn't this a major freeway??? When the freeway interchange in Oakland was burned to crisp with the gasoline truck, they fixed it in 3 days. No one has lit a big enough fire under the appropriate body part yet on the correct person.

5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

Here is a time lapse of a 57 story building being built in 19 days in China.

Web Link

The two sections of interstate 10 that collapsed in the LA earthquake took 3 months to complete - but that's with no time to pre-plan. Three years is a joke.

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