News

City makes emergency repairs of state-owned potholes

Caltrans overlooked dinner-plate-sized holes on Oregon Expressway

They might not be big enough to swallow a Mini Cooper, but the deteriorating conditions on westbound Oregon Expressway near U.S. Highway 101 have become such a hazard for motorists that the City of Palo Alto decided to repair them this week, even though the section of roadway is owned by the state.

Nearly a dozen dinner-plate-sized holes, some more than 2 inches deep, have forced drivers to swerve or to hit them with a tooth-jarring clatter.

The potholes, which city transportation officials said have been enlarging for a month, are the responsibility of state transportation agency Caltrans. Most of Oregon Expressway is under Santa Clara County jurisdiction, but the two-block area adjacent to the freeway is state-owned property -- hence neither the county nor the city have responsibility for fixing it.

Caltrans on Monday alleged that it had already fixed the potholes. In response to a citizen complaint filed online on Feb. 16, the agency on Feb. 22 stated the repairs were completed.

"Your concern as submitted on the Maintenance Service Request has been addressed, and your ticket has been closed," the agency wrote in an email.

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But the fixes were not apparent as drivers continued to dodge into the expanding holes earlier this week.

The worsening problem prompted City of Palo Alto Public Works officials to declare the conditions an emergency, and workers filled the potholes on Wednesday after being alerted by the Palo Alto Weekly.

"Our Public Works department has determined an emergency repair is necessary immediately on the potholes, and we will dispatch a crew as soon as possible. We expect a repair to be completed by the close of business, this afternoon," city spokeswoman Claudia Keith said in an email on Wednesday afternoon.

She assumes the city will send Caltrans an invoice for the work, she added.

The Palo Alto Public Works Department provided a photo of their crew fixing the holes Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, Caltrans spokesman Bernard Walik said on Thursday morning that the agency is also working to fix the problem after receiving calls from the city. The work should be done by the end of day on Thursday.

He said that state workers may have fixed a pothole on a different stretch of the road, thinking that was the pothole mentioned in the citizen complaint, thus the maintenance ticket was closed. It's a frequent problem, he said. Employees do patrol roadways for defects, but they don't catch everything because of the thousands of miles of roadway they must cover, he added.

Caltrans faces a bigger problem based in part on funding and in part on human behavior, he said. A spike in the number of homeless encampments and the amount of litter deposited by the general public in recent years is causing personnel to shift their time away from infrastructure repairs to addressing these other concerns. The problems are significant resource wasters, he said.

Caltrans doesn't remove the encampments, but it must wait for police to do so before the agency can clean up the site, he added.

But years of underfunding by the state is perhaps a larger problem, California Gov. Jerry Brown's office acknowledged in its 2016-2017 Governor's Budget.

"State funding has fallen dramatically below the levels needed to maintain the system. Annual maintenance and repair needs on the state's highway system are significantly more than can be funded within existing resources, with a current identified funding gap of almost $6 billion annually," the budget summary noted.

Given the shortfall, maintenance of critical structures such as bridges, emergency, safety and pavement preservation takes precedent, according to the 2015 Ten-Year State Highway Operation and Protection Program Plan. But the percentage of pavement in distressed condition, which is pavement with significant rutting, cracking and potholes, is expected to increase, the report noted.

The costs to drivers of the public are not insignificant. A recent transportation study found that Californians spend an average $762 annually on vehicle repair costs due to poorly maintained roads, according to the budget summary.

The portion of Oregon Expressway from Bryant Street to West Bayshore Road, which is owned by Santa Clara County, was the subject of a $3.5 million pedestrian-and-bicycle-improvement project that was completed in 2014. It included new traffic signals, some intersection reconfigurations, new road striping, and curb and road resurfacing. It did not include Caltrans' roughly two-block area of the expressway west of Highway 101 between Carmel Drive/West Bayshore Road and the freeway.

Michael Murdter, director of the Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department, said in an email that the project engineer on the Oregon Expressway Project did coordinate with Caltrans, but it was mainly regarding traffic control during construction, not about adding pavement work in Caltrans' jurisdiction.

The county is developing plans to upgrade its entire expressway system, which includes other parts of Oregon Expressway from Bryant Street and up Page Mill Road to Interstate Highway 280.

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City makes emergency repairs of state-owned potholes

Caltrans overlooked dinner-plate-sized holes on Oregon Expressway

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 26, 2016, 7:53 am

They might not be big enough to swallow a Mini Cooper, but the deteriorating conditions on westbound Oregon Expressway near U.S. Highway 101 have become such a hazard for motorists that the City of Palo Alto decided to repair them this week, even though the section of roadway is owned by the state.

Nearly a dozen dinner-plate-sized holes, some more than 2 inches deep, have forced drivers to swerve or to hit them with a tooth-jarring clatter.

The potholes, which city transportation officials said have been enlarging for a month, are the responsibility of state transportation agency Caltrans. Most of Oregon Expressway is under Santa Clara County jurisdiction, but the two-block area adjacent to the freeway is state-owned property -- hence neither the county nor the city have responsibility for fixing it.

Caltrans on Monday alleged that it had already fixed the potholes. In response to a citizen complaint filed online on Feb. 16, the agency on Feb. 22 stated the repairs were completed.

"Your concern as submitted on the Maintenance Service Request has been addressed, and your ticket has been closed," the agency wrote in an email.

But the fixes were not apparent as drivers continued to dodge into the expanding holes earlier this week.

The worsening problem prompted City of Palo Alto Public Works officials to declare the conditions an emergency, and workers filled the potholes on Wednesday after being alerted by the Palo Alto Weekly.

"Our Public Works department has determined an emergency repair is necessary immediately on the potholes, and we will dispatch a crew as soon as possible. We expect a repair to be completed by the close of business, this afternoon," city spokeswoman Claudia Keith said in an email on Wednesday afternoon.

She assumes the city will send Caltrans an invoice for the work, she added.

The Palo Alto Public Works Department provided a photo of their crew fixing the holes Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Caltrans spokesman Bernard Walik said on Thursday morning that the agency is also working to fix the problem after receiving calls from the city. The work should be done by the end of day on Thursday.

He said that state workers may have fixed a pothole on a different stretch of the road, thinking that was the pothole mentioned in the citizen complaint, thus the maintenance ticket was closed. It's a frequent problem, he said. Employees do patrol roadways for defects, but they don't catch everything because of the thousands of miles of roadway they must cover, he added.

Caltrans faces a bigger problem based in part on funding and in part on human behavior, he said. A spike in the number of homeless encampments and the amount of litter deposited by the general public in recent years is causing personnel to shift their time away from infrastructure repairs to addressing these other concerns. The problems are significant resource wasters, he said.

Caltrans doesn't remove the encampments, but it must wait for police to do so before the agency can clean up the site, he added.

But years of underfunding by the state is perhaps a larger problem, California Gov. Jerry Brown's office acknowledged in its 2016-2017 Governor's Budget.

"State funding has fallen dramatically below the levels needed to maintain the system. Annual maintenance and repair needs on the state's highway system are significantly more than can be funded within existing resources, with a current identified funding gap of almost $6 billion annually," the budget summary noted.

Given the shortfall, maintenance of critical structures such as bridges, emergency, safety and pavement preservation takes precedent, according to the 2015 Ten-Year State Highway Operation and Protection Program Plan. But the percentage of pavement in distressed condition, which is pavement with significant rutting, cracking and potholes, is expected to increase, the report noted.

The costs to drivers of the public are not insignificant. A recent transportation study found that Californians spend an average $762 annually on vehicle repair costs due to poorly maintained roads, according to the budget summary.

The portion of Oregon Expressway from Bryant Street to West Bayshore Road, which is owned by Santa Clara County, was the subject of a $3.5 million pedestrian-and-bicycle-improvement project that was completed in 2014. It included new traffic signals, some intersection reconfigurations, new road striping, and curb and road resurfacing. It did not include Caltrans' roughly two-block area of the expressway west of Highway 101 between Carmel Drive/West Bayshore Road and the freeway.

Michael Murdter, director of the Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department, said in an email that the project engineer on the Oregon Expressway Project did coordinate with Caltrans, but it was mainly regarding traffic control during construction, not about adding pavement work in Caltrans' jurisdiction.

The county is developing plans to upgrade its entire expressway system, which includes other parts of Oregon Expressway from Bryant Street and up Page Mill Road to Interstate Highway 280.

Comments

driver
Midtown
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:43 am
driver, Midtown
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:43 am
14 people like this

If you slow down and don't tailgate the car in front of you, these potholes are not a big problem.


HUTCH 7.62
Portola Valley
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:23 am
HUTCH 7.62, Portola Valley
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:23 am
24 people like this

Gotta love the 3rd world infrastructure in Palo Alto. Gotta wonder where all those Taxes you pay to the City and county go.


Reader
another community
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:54 am
Reader, another community
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:54 am
6 people like this

@driver:

They are hard to see at night.

In broad daylight under sunny skies and ideal driving conditions, they are avoidable but that is not reality.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:54 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:54 am
16 people like this

These potholes should have been fixed when Oregon was resurfaced. I don't care whose responsibility it is. It sounds like a kids playground argument, stop behaving like little kids and get them fixed.


Brian
another community
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:21 am
Brian, another community
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:21 am
19 people like this

It's still a significant problem even if drivers slow down and don't tailgate. Drivers are swerving to avoid driving over the potholes, and this can create a hazard for the drivers in the adjacent lane.


mutti
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:40 am
mutti, Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:40 am
26 people like this

Thank You Palo Alto! It's so nice to see someone in government seeing a job that needs to be done and doing it -- even when it isn't their direct responsibility.


Dan
South of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:43 am
Dan, South of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:43 am
10 people like this

"..state workers may have fixed a pothole on a different stretch of the road..." What? They don't have the GPS coordinates of the pothole? That's trivial in this day of smartphones. When you take a picture of the pothole, the lat/long is encoded in the image. That's not a plausible excuse.


Daily Commuter
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:47 am
Daily Commuter, Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 26, 2016 at 11:47 am
9 people like this

Thank you Palo Alto for the fix, this is my daily commute to/from work.. To avoid the potholes from 101 westbound on Oregon Expy, I was driving on the right hand side of the lane (which put my wheels between the holes). It was getting very dangerous as the potholes were getting bigger and deeper. I had to instruct my son with a learners permit how to avoid.


biking mom
Evergreen Park
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm
biking mom, Evergreen Park
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm
17 people like this

We bike to school leaving from the Cal ave area and sometimes weave through the Evergreen neighborhood to get to Stanford Ave. My daughter and son both sit in the cargo bike and they are always complaining about how bumpy the road is...especially along Ash between College and Stanford. Park BLVD between Cal Ave. and Peer park is also very bumpy. How do we get all of this fixed?....And don't even get me started on Bryant St....um the so called Bike boulevard. Shouldn't be a smoother ride for bikers who can feel the road much more than car drivers?


carpooler
Evergreen Park
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:02 pm
carpooler, Evergreen Park
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:02 pm
11 people like this

I've never really noticed...but maybe because I'm not driving a Tesla, BMW or Mercedes like everyone else and I just don't car what happens to my crappy Honda minivan;)


driver
Midtown
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm
driver, Midtown
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm
19 people like this

@biking mom - you can report hazards to bicyclists via the city website: Web Link


Paly Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2016 at 1:12 pm
Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2016 at 1:12 pm
17 people like this

Car damage from potholes is real. We hit a big one once going the speed limit on 880 - the jarring cracked a spark plug, which started arcing and ruined our engine. Big expense. I'm glad the city fixed this.


Bumpity bump
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm
Bumpity bump, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm
11 people like this

The short stretch of road leading to the freeway ramps was resurfaced after the ramps were rebuilt as part of widening 101. Well, almost. Three of the four lanes (two eastbound, one westbound) were done and they are in fine shape. The fourth lane (right lane, westbound) is the one with the potholes. Why it wasn't done when the other three were is a mystery, though there may have been a good reason at the time.

That one lane segment grew some big potholes a number of years previously (I wrote to the Mercury-News's Mr. Roadshow at the time). Perhaps the roadbed needs work. In any event, it's great to see the city doing the right thing.


David
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 5:12 pm
David, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 5:12 pm
9 people like this

The potholes in this section of Oregon Expwy and Hwy 101 will be back before too long. The traffic load, constant wet subsurface, and pneumatic compression from vehicle breaking and pounding from unbalanced truck tires will break up the asphalt soon. I give it less than 6-months.


Michael
University South
on Feb 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm
Michael, University South
on Feb 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm
8 people like this

"and the amount of litter deposited by the general public in recent years is causing personnel to shift their time away from infrastructure repairs to addressing these other concerns. The problems are significant resource wasters, he said."

Litter was not a problem prior to the tech boom in recent years. Apparently techies moving in brought their bad habits with them.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 7:01 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2016 at 7:01 pm
4 people like this

From the number of garbage trucks that are I see leak litter on our streets and highways, I suspect that much of the litter is from these garbage trucks that are filled by automatic arms rather than people filling the trucks as they used to.


Resident
Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:03 pm
Resident, Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:03 pm
8 people like this

When taking the off ramp from southbound 101 onto westbound Oregon there is a bush that needs to be cut.The bush ubstructs the view of merging traffic. Furthermore, clean it up! It looks like the bordercrossing into Tijauna.







Hutch 7.62
Portola Valley
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:54 pm
Hutch 7.62, Portola Valley
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:54 pm
9 people like this

SAm no wants to talk about the Elephant in the room.... So glad I left for greener pastures and better roads. Wake up Palo Alto


Samuel L.
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Samuel L., Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:10 pm
8 people like this

Too many people, not enough resources (time/money/people) to keep up. Why do we keep trying to cram more people into the city? Same plan PAUSD practices. Stack 'em on top of each other, there's still room.

At some point, when the ant farm gets too crowded, the ants begin to eat each other.


Bob
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:29 pm
Bob, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:29 pm
10 people like this

Another VERY big problem is El Camino Real northbound and souttbound from Embarcadero to Stanford Shopping Center. This is a teeth-chipping lip-biting hold-the-steering-wheel-tight bad driving experience. I've lived here for years, and this section of El Camino is/ has been very, very bad. In fact I swear that some of those bad areas have been there for at least forty years.

And when will the traffic nightmare on Embarcadero get solved? A backup from Waverley to Town and Country is not unusual. A total shutdown of Embarcadero from El Camino to the Paly crossing is standard. Our taxes are spending megabucks for employees in the City Transportation Department, and things get worse, not better.


HRM
Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2016 at 8:30 am
HRM, Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2016 at 8:30 am
8 people like this

Park Boulevard is a nightmare for potholes. On a bike it is dreadful trying to avoid potholes and bumps and in a car you feel like you are driving on a dirt road. I have lived here for 14 years and it has just gotten progressively worse over the course of this time particularly near the Frys. What give Palo Alto?


It's Everywhere
Charleston Meadows
on Feb 27, 2016 at 9:41 am
It's Everywhere, Charleston Meadows
on Feb 27, 2016 at 9:41 am
8 people like this

What about the huge pothole on Arastadero/Charleston after crossing El Camino, in the left lane headed towards Alma? It is deep and runs across the entire lane.
It's been there for months.


rainbow38
Mountain View
on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:03 am
rainbow38, Mountain View
on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:03 am
3 people like this

The Palo Alto stretch of El Camino is a disgrace. Rough road and many patched areas that lack lane lines. Driving this stretch at night in the rain is a challenge with cars drifting into the wrong lane. Lane lines should be replaced within a week or two of the patching.


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:40 am
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:40 am
5 people like this

As part of its September 2015 El Camino Real relinquishment study, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) reported that:

4.58 miles of El Camino pavement in Palo Alto were in distressed condition
191 curb ramps on El Camino in Palo Alto required replacement

See study here: Web Link


musical
Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2016 at 1:33 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2016 at 1:33 am
2 people like this

But there's only 4.2 miles of El Camino in Palo Alto. Must be really distressed.

Couldn't find the reference. That web page is a mess.


resident
Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2016 at 8:56 am
resident, Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2016 at 8:56 am
2 people like this

When you see and feel these potholes, remember that--presently--the City is in the midst of a tax/revenue bonanza.

Insist to the city counsel that the revenue bonanza goes to the infrastructure, not to city workers who are already clamoring for more pay and benefits that will burden the City long after the bonanza ends.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2016 at 7:20 pm
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2016 at 7:20 pm
Like this comment

Amazing that this is finally fixed. It was dangerous hole and had been there over a month.
I attempted to get this repaired.
First I submitted a request to the city of palo alto. The reply was this is not our problem talk to Santa Clara county. Nice to see my palo alto taxpayer dollars at work throwing the problem back to me instead of contacting the county themselves.
Second, I submitted to Santa Clara county. Response was this request is denied. No other information of why denied or follow up action. I guess as it turns out this belongs to the state as per the article. Then we learn that the state can not fix the hole because of homeless people are wasting state resources. It was good to have the correlation explained to us !
Finally, thanks to whomever go the city to fix this. And thanks to our local paper for keeping the city honest on some of the basic reason they exist and have jobs


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