The City of Palo Alto's multiple-year infrastructure and street improvement project, Upgrade Downtown, will launch next week with the digging of trenches on Hamilton Avenue. The three-year project includes replacing water and gas mains on key downtown streets, adding sidewalk ramps for people with disabilities, upgrading crosswalk signs to improve pedestrian safety and adding signage to direct motorists to parking garages.
The project will also add fiber-optic cable underground along University Avenue and, potentially, two dedicated bicycle lanes, also on University. The city is continuing to plan for a six-story parking garage at Waverley Street and Hamilton, city staff said during a series of public open houses this and last week.
The work will take place on a block-by-block basis to minimize problems with traffic and parking and on retail businesses, city Utilities Department spokeswoman Catherine Elvert said.
The project will start with water mains on Hamilton, Everett and Hawthorne avenues, followed in 2018 by gas- and water-main replacements on sections of Everett and Hawthorne and along University Avenue. Fiber-optic cable will be added to University Avenue at the same time, Elvert said. Street improvements, including paving, striping and the flashing pedestrian signals, will be added in 2018 and 2019.
The bike lanes on University and the parking garage have not been approved by the City Council, but if they are, the lanes would be striped in 2018, and parking garage construction would begin in spring 2019 and end in spring 2020, said Public Works Engineer Gloria Yu.
The bike lanes would create a much-needed, safe east-west route for cyclists, Elvert said.
To accommodate the bike lanes, the city would change diagonal parking spaces on University to parallel parking. The switch would make enough space to add a highly visible green-striped bike lane in each direction. Changing the parking configuration would remove 37 parking spaces, but parking spaces on side streets could be adjusted to add 15 parking places, transportation staff said.
Before proposing the University Avenue bike lanes, staff considered adjacent Lytton Avenue, but additions on Lytton would require the complete removal of parking, Elvert said.
The city currently is seeking public input on the bike lanes and the garage, both of which must be reviewed by the Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council this fall.
A Palo Alto survey of downtown workers found that 24 percent would walk or bike to work if there were better paths, trails and sidewalks, said Jarrett Mullen, Planning and Transportation Department planner. A little more than half currently drive to work alone.
The garage would replace the 86-space parking lot behind CVS pharmacy with five stories of above-ground parking and one underground floor. The L-shaped structure would potentially create between 205 to 329 new parking spaces, depending on whether the garage has lifts — so-called "puzzle" parking that stacks cars, staff said.
The city currently has 4,389 parking spaces in downtown garages and lots and on the streets, Mullen said. The parking garage would also include about 1,500 square feet of retail space along Waverley.
The main streets included in the pipeline infrastructure project are:
• Hawthorne Avenue: Alma Street to Middlefield Road
• Everett Avenue: Alma to Middlefield
• Lytton Avenue: Waverley Street to Webster Street
• University Avenue: Alma to Webster
• Hamilton Avenue: Emerson Street to Webster
• Bryant Street: Lytton to Forest Avenue
• Emerson Street: Everett to Hamilton
Major streets to receive street improvements, such as pedestrian-signal upgrades and re-striping include:
• Middlefield Road: Palo Alto Avenue to Lowell Avenue
• Alma Street: Palo Alto Avenue to Melville Street
• Emerson Street: Palo Alto Avenue to Channing Avenue
• Hawthorne Avenue: Emerson to Middlefield
• Everett Avenue: Alma to Middlefield
Smaller sections of streets scheduled for upgrades can be found on the project's map web page at cityofpaloalto.org. The city's website for the project can be found here. Suggestions and comments can be sent to email@example.com or made by calling 650-329-2344.