Commuters facing wintertime flooding at the Oregon Expressway underpass in Palo Alto could get a reprieve in future winters.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved $80,000 to fund an engineering design study to correct some of the deficiencies contributing to the problem.
The supervisors approved the study by Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., which would look at having a permanent back-up generator that would kick on automatically, a screen system to protect the pumps from debris, remote pump monitoring and control and early-warning systems for the public during floods.
Winter flooding often snarls traffic and causes some, if not all, lanes of the busy commuter arterial's underpass to close during heavy rain storms. The adjacent Alma Pump Station moves groundwater as well as stormwater into an overhead culvert to Matadero Creek. But if heavy rain is accompanied by a power outage that prevents the pump station from functioning, flooding can be severe, according to a staff report by Michael Murdter, director of the Roads and Airports Department.
The City of Palo Alto constructed the interchange at Oregon Expressway and Alma Street in the 1950s, and the roadway and interchange were incorporated into the county expressway system, according to the staff report. The Roads and Airports Department has previously tried to improve the pump station's reliability by replacing the pumps and adding a portable back-up generator at the site, according to the report.
Supervisor Joe Simitian has been working on getting the improvements approved.
"This issue was raised during one of my visits with the Palo Alto City Council and I've been following up in an effort to see if we can't at least mitigate the problem. I'll be pushing for funding in the June budget process," he said.
The Stantec contract for the engineering improvements will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2018. Funding will come from the county's fiscal year 2016 road fund account.