News

Editorial: After eight years, can Palo Alto finally reach a decision on a new Newell bridge?

In spite of it being a priority flood-control project, city has struggled to get project accomplished

More than 20 years after the worst flood in recorded history in Palo Alto and after numerous estimated completion dates have come and gone for a replacement bridge where Newell Road crosses San Francisquito Creek, this long-delayed project will soon be back again.

Within the next few weeks, a long-awaited draft Environmental Impact Report will be released and trigger a renewed discussion over which of four options is most agreeable to the cities of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, which must both approve the project.

The current 100-year-old bridge has been declared "obsolete" by the state because it is too narrow for two cars to pass safely and doesn't come close to meeting today's standards for accommodating bikes and pedestrians.

But the more critical problem is that the bridge's foundation is in the creek bed and constricts the flow of water during major storm runoff. It is one of two major choke points where the creek has historically breached its banks and caused substantial flooding in Crescent Park, Duveneck and neighborhoods south of Embarcadero Road, even past Oregon Expressway. (The other is at the Pope-Chaucer Bridge, connecting Menlo Park and Palo Alto, which blocks the flow of the creek when waters rise to flood stage.)

After the 1998 flood, which damaged about 1,700 homes, a multi-agency group was formed to develop long-term solutions. Studies concluded that improvements could only be done by starting at the bay, where San Francisquito Creek ends, and move upstream with a variety of flood-control measures. If changes were made to increase the creek's capacity upstream first, it would result in worse flooding at vulnerable downstream locations such as at the Newell bridge.

Last fall work was finally completed under and east of the freeway to build new levees and flood walls and a new marsh flood plain. These improvements are estimated to be able to handle water flow from a 100-year storm even when tide levels are 10 feet above the average high tide.

With that work complete, it is time to rebuild the Newell and Pope-Chaucer bridges. Both are on a similar track, with the draft EIR for the Pope-Chaucer Bridge just released. Little controversy is expected regarding the replacement of that bridge, but in earlier iterations of the Newell bridge discussion there have been sharp differences of opinion on the best solution.

Some Crescent Park neighbors of the bridge have previously advocated for the most minimal new bridge possible (a one-lane bridge with traffic controls) or even the permanent removal of the bridge. They are concerned that a new, modern bridge will only attract more traffic to the neighborhood. Others have supported a new bridge but have different views on whether it should be shifted to fix the misalignment of Newell Road between the two sides of the creek to correct a dangerous jog on the East Palo Alto side.

The Newell EIR looked at the one-lane option and three two-lane bridge options— one using the existing alignment, another fully aligning the roads by shifting the bridge, and a third that only partially aligns the roads. As required by law, the EIR also examined the impact of leaving the bridge as it is, although this would have the effect of halting all other upstream flood-control measures and is not viewed as a viable alternative.

The process of replacing the short Newell bridge has, like other Palo Alto infrastructure projects, dragged on for far too long. In July 2012, city public-works staff estimated design and review of a new bridge would be done by summer 2013 and construction would be complete by September 2014. Then in February 2014, the staff estimated the EIR would be certified in spring 2015 and construction would occur in the summer of 2016. But the city didn't even begin the EIR process until September 2015, and it took a ridiculous two-and-a-half years for consultants to prepare the technical reports for the EIR analysis of this relatively simple project. While some delay was due to the staff not employing an effective community-outreach strategy, most was due to delays in completing the studies.

We are hopeful that community discussion will now focus on which of the three two-lane bridge alignment options is best, rather than re-debate the merits of a having a bridge at all, and that the Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council move quickly to finally approve the replacement.

The bridge is an important connection between the two cities, and with the recent completion of the new pedestrian and bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 near the Newell bridge, it will be more important than ever to provide a safe way for cars, bikes and pedestrians to cross the creek.

Related content:

• Crescent Park neighborhood resident Rom Rindfleisch discusses the efforts to prevent San Francisquito Creek from flooding on an episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on YouTube.com/paweekly/videos, or our podcast page at PaloAltoOnline.com/podcasts.

Plans finally emerge for replacing two north Palo Alto bridges

Resident: Pope-Chaucer Bridge was one of 'city's biggest mistakes'

Flood-control study proposes new Pope-Chaucer Bridge

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Comments

53 people like this
Posted by A CP Advocate For No Bridge
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2019 at 8:05 am

The Newell Road bridge at Woodland Avenue was a convenient crossover during the days when Palo Altans needed to access the frontage road along the 101 to Menlo Park.

Today it has become a major crossover point for EPA residents and downtown commuters entering Palo Alto & the cars parked bumper-to-bumper along Woodland Avenue tend to carry-over into the Crescent Park neighborhood.

Crescent Park is not a parking lot for East Palo Alto residents and permanently removing the bridge would have resolved this ongoing problem.

There is relatively little reason for a majority of Palo Altans to utilize this bridge as few venture into East Palo Alto (except for maybe a run to Home Depot/Ikea) and University Avenue provides a much more efficient thoroughfare. A wider bridge will only increase traffic into Crescent Park and lower the neighborhood's overall allure and quality of life standards.

Over the past few decades, the Newell Road bridge has also served as a direct link for hordes of EPA trick or treaters (and their parents who often drive them over) to blanket the entire Crescent Park neighborhood well into the late evening hours banging on doors for candy and although this only occurs once a year, it is a nuisance.

Quick and convenient access to the 101 also provides an easy escape route for residential burglars exiting Crescent Park. While this is also true of Embarcadero Road and the Oregon Expressway/Amarillo neighborhood near Greer Park) one less escape route could reduce potential burglaries especially in Crescent Park which often tends to attract thieves and miscreants from other areas.

The Newell Road bridge is only of significant advantage to East Palo Altans and being jointly owned, it will unfortunately be rebuilt.

Had the City of Palo Alto owned the exclusive rights to this bridge 100 years ago, it could have easily been demolished.




35 people like this
Posted by Thad
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 3, 2019 at 9:45 am

The antipathy Palo Altans show toward East Palo Altans is gross and based on racism and classism. Making someone else's life worse so yours can be better is wrong.


24 people like this
Posted by @A CP Advocate For No Bridge
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2019 at 10:14 am

It's like every Palo Altan stereotype rolled into a single post.


22 people like this
Posted by Newell Bridge co-owned
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2019 at 10:41 am

The Newell Street bridge is co-owned by Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. East Palo Alto is not going to agree to remove the bridge but Palo Alto will suffer the consequences of flooding if it is not fixed to allow more water to flow underneath. Thus the first poster is advocating for a position (bridge removal) that is not feasible and by doing so, continue to expose Palo Altans to substantial flood risk until the bridge is replaced.


9 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2019 at 10:45 am

YP is a registered user.

Any change to the bridge that increases car flow will turn Newell into another Embarcadero. Newell is either a primary road for kids going to school on bikes or a road they need to cross to get to school. Newell is already dangerous enough don't make it worse.


24 people like this
Posted by fed up
a resident of Duveneck School
on May 3, 2019 at 12:14 pm

I remember seeing a car heading to East Palo Alto, going at least sixty mph on Newell, closely followed by a police car going at the same speed. Neither car paid any attention to stop signs, pedestrians, or animals. Is this really the street we want our children to use to get to school? Even if this is not a frequent occurance, we must get rid of this bridge.


21 people like this
Posted by The kids were welcome
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2019 at 1:22 pm

"Over the past few decades, the Newell Road bridge has also served as a direct link for hordes of EPA trick or treaters (and their parents who often drive them over) to blanket the entire Crescent Park neighborhood well into the late evening hours banging on doors for candy and although this only occurs once a year, it is a nuisance."

I lived in CP near that bridge for many years. Those EPA kids were far more polite than their local counterparts.


27 people like this
Posted by Eliminate The Bridge
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2019 at 2:29 pm

Crescent Park residents do not go around burglarizing each other's homes. This comes from out of town. The bridge is a gateway to & from Crescent Park not the other way around.

As far as flood concern...widen the creek and perhaps make it deeper. The bridge by itself is not a flood prevention measure...it is just another enabler for floods of non-residents of Crescent Park to pass through our neighborhood.

It would be one thing if people from Crescent park ventured into EPA on a regular basis but that is simply not the case.


13 people like this
Posted by Art
a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Art is a registered user.

Worried about increased auto traffic? Make it safer and more attractive for cyclists. The current bridge has no bicycle lanes, while Newell in Palo Alto has a wide roadway and comfortable bicycle lanes on either side. The new bridge ought to maintain that, not just satisfy the Caltrans minimum of "two 11-foot wide lanes plus separate 5-foot bicycle lanes or two 14-foot 'sharrow' lanes (shared bicycle/vehicle lanes). "


20 people like this
Posted by Woe is CP
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2019 at 4:26 pm

Wow. Some of the comments here perfectly some of the problems of Palo Alto. Some of the comments are borderline racist and continue a pattern of the “progressive and liberal” Palo Alto resident looking down their nose at EPA residents. But the humanity of the poor residents of CP having to suffer the indignity of EPA children trick or treating on Halloween. This is truly the major problem facing CP today.
But this also opens up the idea of having a design contest so that we can have an iconic bridge, that has worked so well in the past for PA


12 people like this
Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2019 at 5:39 pm

@Woe is CP

Palo Alto has always been like this. It's never been the progressive and liberal bastion that people like to think it is. The Internet, with it's very free freedom of speech has just shown how hateful, racist, and elitist your neighbors are. And now they can spout this anonymously.


22 people like this
Posted by Xiao Ming
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2019 at 6:15 pm

"Crescent Park residents do not go around burglarizing each other's homes. This comes from out of town."

I should hope not. Crescent Park is an affluent neighborhood and one of the main reasons we purchased a home here. Good schools and quiet neighborhood.

In East Palo Alto, I've noticed many homes with metal bars across their windows and heavy steel screen doors. When I asked a colleague at work about this, he said there is much crime in East Palo Alto in terms of residential burglaries.

I assume this crime is emanating from within the community as one cannot imagine driving all the way to East Palo Alto to do so. Home and personal electronics are popular theft items and easily fenced.

We have a monitored alarm system in our home but no steel bars across the windows or heavy metal doors. The Palo Alto Fire Department advised against the window barricades and told us that 99% of the residential buglaries in Crescent Park are usually from out-of-town thieves who have been known to case the neighborhood.

So yes, the neighbors here do not steal from one another and it is unfortunate that residents in East Palo Alto have to be more vigilent to avoid such instances.

As for Halloween, we just leave a big box of candy on the front porch and let the children help themselves. That way we do no thave to open the front door. Everyone and anyone from anywhere is welcome to help themselves.

I have no problem with a bridge but the current one is too narrow. As long as it is not being used for criminal purposes, ease of access to and from should be ensured.



12 people like this
Posted by M&M
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 3, 2019 at 9:44 pm

We look forward to a new bridge over the creek, if for no other reason than. to continue to give xenophobes, racists and other flavors of bigot
something to talk about. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!


9 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 3, 2019 at 10:07 pm

Any new bridge should have bike lanes, connecting the bike lanes on Newell to the new 101 bike/ped overpass. Unfortunately public works decided that 14 foot travel lanes would be enough, so bike lanes are currently not under consideration in the current EIR. This does a disservice to users for the life of the new bridge, perhaps another 100 years! Council should tell public works to go back and have a simple bike lane or buffered bike lane covered in the EIR, and plans with sidewalks on both sides.


8 people like this
Posted by Pro-Bridge, Anti-Elitism
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2019 at 9:18 am

I live in Crescent Park and I'm all for a new Newell bridge across the creek. I and other Palo Alto residents I know are saddened by comments like those above about "hordes" of children from EPA and claiming the bridge only benefits people in EPA (which isn't even true, of course).

The statement above that Newell will become like Embarcadero if we fix the bridge is also absurd. Embarcadero is a mostly four-lane road running between a major freeway and the largest employer in the area. Newell is a two-lane road with far less traffic and the connecting streets in EPA are also quite constrained. Newell will never be anything like Embarcadero, even if the dreaded "superbridge" is built. Yes, for those who don't remember, that was the way some people in Crescent Park earlier tried to vilify the proposed new bridge for having just two regular-sized car lanes and room for bikes and pedestrians .. like every other modern bridge across a creek in Palo Alto.

So I hope to see a new bridge, progress on the flood control, and maybe a more friendly spirit from Crescent Park towards others.


2 people like this
Posted by An advocate for shaming racists
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2019 at 10:32 am

Stay classless Palo Altans! So great to see racism and redlining still has a home in the heart of the valley./s


8 people like this
Posted by An advocate for shaming racists
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2019 at 10:43 am

"I should hope not. Crescent Park is an affluent neighborhood and one of the main reasons we purchased a home here. Good schools and quiet neighborhood."

The implication here being that rich people don't steal things. If only I could think of an example...Oh yeah stealing a college admission from someone who actually deserved it.

Just because you live in "an affluent neighborhood" does not in any way reflect or provide an indicator of the morals and ethics of said neighborhood. Money doesn't buy class.


7 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2019 at 11:04 am

The Palo Alto half of the bridge could easily be removed, leaving EPA with a non-functional half-bridge. That would be better than the current setup for flood control, but not as good as building a new bridge or tearing down the entire bridge.

I do agree that a new bridge should be constructed, but it needs to take into account the concerns of residents who don't want their neighborhoods overrun with cut-through traffic. One idea is to have a single lane auto traffic with two separated bike lanes. The bridge would allow auto traffic to flow in one direction only due to limited space. Bike and pedestrian traffic would flow freely in both directions. It seems like a good compromise to keep traffic in check, while encouraging biking and walking.


4 people like this
Posted by M&M
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2019 at 11:27 am

How come no one is mentioning the former Palo Alto resident who lived by the creek and advocated for destroying the bridge because his yard, near the bridge, included city property? He didn't want to lose this easement, nor did he want it used, so he drove much of the past fear-mongering anti-East Palo Alto/anti-cut through commentary. So many PA residents fell for it, too. Ugh!


8 people like this
Posted by Woe is CP
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2019 at 11:40 am

JR- and EPA could shut Univeristy avenue to through traffic, since EPA is overrun with cut through traffic from Palo Alto to the dumbarton bridge, that would help. Let’s how that works for CP


11 people like this
Posted by A New Bridge + Security Measures
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2019 at 12:20 pm

>> The Palo Alto half of the bridge could easily be removed, leaving EPA with a non-functional half-bridge.

YES! Like a drawbridge permanently set in an upwards position.

EPA can have its bridge but using it to get into PA would be another story.

Another option (if the bridge is built) would be to have a security checkpoint on one side of the bridge to check any suspicious-looking drivers for outstanding arrest warrants.


1 person likes this
Posted by Woe to CP
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2019 at 1:27 pm

I was dear if EPA can funnel exit traffic from 101 into Palo Alto, by closing off access to EPA.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Posted by Woe is CP, a resident of College Terrace

>> Some of the comments are borderline racist and continue a pattern of the “progressive and liberal” Palo Alto resident looking down their nose at EPA residents.

Just curious. What identifies the people who make racist comments as "progressive and liberal"? In any group of people, some people will tend more towards the right-wing-authoritarian, others towards the more liberal/personal freedom side. Palo Alto included. I left out the "borderline" part -- the comments you refer to are clearly and obviously racist. So what? 20-40% of humanity, depending on where you draw the line. Probably a little lower in Palo Alto just because RWAs are slightly repelled.


1 person likes this
Posted by Woe to cp
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Anon- you are correct. Among any group you will find racists. Even when n a progressive, liberal town like palo alto


20 people like this
Posted by A New Bridge + Security Measures
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2019 at 3:00 pm

> Some of the comments are borderline racist and continue a pattern of the “progressive and liberal” Palo Alto resident looking down their nose at EPA residents.

> Crescent Park residents do not go around burglarizing each other's homes. This comes from out of town."

The general concern expressed so far is more about preventing potential crime via convenient access points. There was no mention of race per se.

This overall concern would be the same even if EPA was an all-white neighborhood.

Residential burglaries and the potential for random street crimes combined with easy access to 101 is the primary apprehension here & reducing the flow of out-of-towners (regardless of where they originated from) is paramount as they are the ones committing the crimes...not Crescent Park residents.

University Avenue is a more than adequate route for going to and from EPA to Palo Alto and beyond.

As far as Halloween candy goes, we do the same as the Ming family...by leaving a huge box of candy outdoors and the kids can help themselves accordingly.

On a more humorous note, one of our elder neighbors was dispensing candy to some EPA kids on Halloween several years ago and made the remark, "The spooks are out tonight." He was referring to all of the trick or treaters that evening but the African-American mother who was accompanying the children took it personally.

Sometimes people take things way too personally and it's this PC liberal fringe mentality that often stirs up the hornet's nest.

Besides, East Palo Alto has a track record of its own in regards to perpetuating crime and no one needs a pie graph or a PowerPoint presentation to fully comprehend who the culprits generally are and their backgrounds.

This is not racism. It's a basic truth (aka reality). Read City-Data.


8 people like this
Posted by EPA Joe
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 4, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Drop that bridge and leave it down. We are upgrading our city and we don't need or want those crescent parkers polluting it.


15 people like this
Posted by Xiao Ming
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2019 at 6:09 pm

Why is the race card being played among those who support a new bridge at Newell Road?

There are some established neighbors in Crescent Park who probably weren't all that thrilled when my family (along with wife's parents) moved in.

But we don't burglarize our neighbors or infringe upon their privacy and sense of security. That is the primary difference between outside people from elsewhere and outside people such as ourselves who are new to this neighborhood.

As a previous poster noted, this is not about race but rather home security and safe streets.

I would imagine that there are more residential burglaries in Crescent Park emanating from out of towners than vice-versa. Just guessing.

Maybe Crescent Park should hire its own private security patrol like in Beverly Hills as a preventative measure. I don't know.


3 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

I use the. Newell Road bridge to access 101;make the bridge wider. I paid $39,995 for my house. If you paid more,that’s your problem.


5 people like this
Posted by CP Advocacy
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2019 at 5:05 pm

>> I use the. Newell Road bridge to access 101;make the bridge wider. I paid $39,995 for my house. If you paid more, that’s your problem.

Comprende. Then how about making it a one-way bridge from PA > Woodland Avenue?

That would work.



3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2019 at 6:07 pm

I've been for demolishing this bridge for a long time now.

>> Over the past few decades, the Newell Road bridge has also served as a direct link for hordes of EPA trick or treaters (and their parents who often drive them over) to blanket the entire Crescent Park neighborhood well into the late evening hours banging on doors for candy and although this only occurs once a year, it is a nuisance.


Hordes? A large group of nomadic warriors? Gee-whiz, come on ... it's just makes you look crazy mean to try to rally people against trick-or-treaters. Halloween is not the problem .... the bridge flooding, the lack of parking on the EPA side and some crimes issues are.

Not only do i think it would be better for the neighborhoods on both sides because of the reduction of traffic, but reducting traffic on Woodland would make that area much safer to drive, bike or walk in for those on the EPA side ... where I have actually lived before as a Palo Altan now.

In flood conditions whatever goes to replace that bridge is likely still going to be a bottleneck and back up water causing overflows.

The one concern I have is access for emergency vehicles. The whole west of the freeway area for EPA could be a really nice spot if traffic was slowed down.


4 people like this
Posted by On The Border
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Having no Newell Bridge serves as a viable geographic and symbolic separation between EPA and PA.

We never use it as we have no reason to. University Avenue suffices.

If anything, make the creek DEEPER to prevent flooding and crossings.

As for Halloween, why not just leave a number of wholesale-sized boxes of candy on Woodland Avenue for the out of the area trick or treaters?


3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2019 at 2:38 pm

> Having no Newell Bridge serves as a viable geographic and symbolic separation between EPA and PA.

And why do you feel you need a symbolic separation between EPA and PA?


4 people like this
Posted by On The Border
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2019 at 4:35 pm

> And why do you feel you need a symbolic separation between EPA and PA?

"Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet."
Rudyard Kipling

Global as well. Unfortunate perhaps but that's just the way it is.


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