Santa Clara County to fix Oregon Expressway flooding problem

Board of supervisors approves $80,000 to fund engineering design study

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.

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18 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm

How about we make all the experts( politicians and engineers) that say the problem has been fixed, live at the bottom of Oregon Expressway each winter.

This is the third time since we moved here that the county says they will investigate what needs to be done to stop the flooding. Then each time it floods they say that the drains were clogged because they never clean them, the pumps failed because they never test them, etc, etc.

No matter what they do, they always have an excuse why it failed and that all they need is more money and time and they will fix it.


6 people like this
Posted by Literal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm

"Santa Clara County to improve Oregon Expressway flooding" -- how do you "improve" flooding? I mean do people really say things like "That flood we had last year was lousy but this year we're going to improve it"? Of course this is Palo Alto where we have the best of everything, so of course we should have the best flooding possible. Glad the county is going forward with improving the flooding.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Funny headline day

3 people like this
Posted by My Nguyen
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jan 13, 2016 at 2:36 pm

My Nguyen is a registered user.

@Literal, Resident ... Early April Fools joke? Just kidding. We've fixed the headline.

8 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 13, 2016 at 2:57 pm

"We've fixed the headline."

You had it right the first time. Everything the county does increases (improves) the flooding.

14 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 13, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Think how much fun we'd have if we trenched the Caltrain tracks.

7 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 13, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Marc, spoken like someone who has no experience wroking with hardware, especially machines that only work occasionally and can't be tested offline under real conditions. Of course you can expect and demand perfection, but you will never be satisfied. Complain all you want online, but it won't matter. If they spent 100 times as much they could do better, but would it be worth it?

6 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2016 at 10:10 am

@Reaility I work with hardware all the time. Including backup generators. For devices that only get used very occasionally you have to have scheduled tests. And you have to make sure the tests are carried out all the time

If you have a location prone to flooding then why does the county not come out each fall and clear the drains and test the pumps? Having the drains filled with sand and only finding out when it floods is not the way to do it.

You don't install pumps, drains, backup generators and then close the door and walk away. You have to keep coming back and checking and testing.

The equipment can be tested. You can inspect the drains and pipes. You can test the pumps, you can even bring a water truck and test the pump switches.

This is where the county fails.


21 people like this
Posted by Promises, Promises
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:34 pm

We've heard this since 1994, the sucker still floods every time it rains for more than thirty minutes. I'll believe it when I see it.

5 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2016 at 7:35 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

And you folk want to put the (electrified) trains in a trench?

And +IF+ the trains were trenched, how deep would the Expressway need to go? How many feet below the water table in that area?

This was a problem when I moed here in the 60's
The only thing that has changed is the amount of commuters that will need to find a bypass

3 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 15, 2016 at 12:11 am

Regarding putting Caltrain in a trench, I suggest it be done both north of California Avenue (and into Menlo Park under San Francisquito Creek), and south of Oregon Expy (for East Meadow and Charleston). I would suggest leaving Caltrain at grade over Oregon Expy and at the Cal Ave station.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 15, 2016 at 1:06 am

@Arthur, sounds like a roller coaster. What are you suggesting for Embarcadero and University?

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

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