East Palo Alto celebrates grand opening of U.S. Highway 101 overpass | News | Palo Alto Online |


East Palo Alto celebrates grand opening of U.S. Highway 101 overpass

New bridge makes schools, parks more accessible to residents

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The corner of East Bayshore Road and Clarke Avenue, one of the two entrances to the new U.S. Highway 101 overpass connecting the east and west neighborhoods of East Palo Alto. Photo by Christian Trujano.

Saturday’s rainy weather did not deter East Palo Alto families and community leaders from commemorating a newly constructed overpass, which joins the east and west sides of the city separated by U.S. Highway 101.

The overpass, connecting at Newell Road and Clarke Avenue, was designed to unite East Palo Alto neighborhoods and improve access for residents to schools, shops and parks, city officials said.

“This overpass brings us together physically and is symbolic of joining and sharing resources,” said East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier in a press release ahead of Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This project increases public safety and improves the quality of life by making the community more walkable and reducing some of the short vehicle trips. We have been looking forward to this for many years.”

During the event, Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones echoed Gauthier’s sentiments, saying that she is glad children now have a safe route to get across the highway.

Jones also acknowledged the crowd of about 40 people who came out to show their support for the project’s opening. “This is a great showing for a great building activity in our city,” she said. After cutting the ribbon, Jones allowed the children in attendance to lead the way across the new overpass.

Construction of the $14-million project took 18 months from start to completion. The city received $8.6 million from California’s Active Transportation Program and the remaining balance came from a combination of local funds.

The bridge’s pedestrian enhancements include LED lighting and a 12-foot-wide walkway. It cuts the crossing distance over Highway 101 to one-third of the current distance, from 1.5 miles to a half-mile, city officials said.

“Funding from California’s Active Transportation Program made this project possible and is allowing Caltrans to redefine transportation, creating a more robust bicycle and pedestrian system which includes safer routes to schools and reduces greenhouse gases,” Caltrans Bay Area Director Tony Tavares said in a statement.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who attended the ceremony, said 10% of East Palo Alto’s population walk or bike to work, noting that the project signifies the partnership between the city and Caltrans for the common good of the community.

“(Highway) 101 going through this town is a moat and now we have been able to cross that moat and get people safely from one side to the other,” Hill said.

Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, said people need to feel safe in order to choose to bike or walk instead of drive and the “status quo” that existed before the construction of the bridge was not safe. However, he said the new overpass represents “a totally new future for East Palo Alto residents.”

City Councilman Ruben Abrica, also a former mayor, said the bridge has been long awaited, adding that he wants to form a “Friends of the Bridge” group to ensure the overpass is well taken care of and kept free of graffiti.

Dixie Specht-Schulz, who lives across the street from the bridge, said the new structure will allow her to avoid making short-distance car trips. “I want to be able to walk to places when I can,” she said. “If I don’t have to take a car, I don’t want to.”

Specht-Schulz also urged her neighbors not to vandalize the new structure but said if it does happen the bridge should be cleaned and restored quickly to send a message that the community wants it to be kept in good condition.


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23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2019 at 9:47 am

While Palo Alto still talks....

11 people like this
Posted by CP Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2019 at 9:59 am

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Bridge Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2019 at 10:37 am

That new pop-up park that's under construction seems to be missing something that visitors will soon discover -- parking. There's no place to park on the Newell-side of the 101 bridge. Well, across the soon to be revamped Newell Road Bridge into Palo Alto, there's lots of parking on Edgewood.

20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 19, 2019 at 12:36 pm

@Bridge Neighbor - how about leaving your car at home and riding your bike to the park?

12 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Glad for a safe passage for the residents!!

2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 19, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

“You be careful, local graffiti artists, about tagging our new bridge!!”

42 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 19, 2019 at 2:50 pm

One fact that is missing from this article is that 1/3 of the East Palo Alto population lives on the west side of the freeway, but all of the city's schools are east of the freeway. University Ave is the only route to school for kids on the west side of the freeway and that is tremendously dangerous for kids on bicycles or walking in the crosswalks across the freeway on and off ramps. That route has gotten even more dangerous in recent years as car traffic to Palo Alto and Stanford has soared. This bridge makes getting to and from school much safer and is a long time in coming.

14 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2019 at 4:57 pm

All I know is when PA builds their bridge it better be better looking then this perfectly fine functioning bridge EPA just built. Also, it better cost more then three times the amount. PA doesn't want to be outdone by EPA...

24 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2019 at 5:00 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Nancy - "PA doesn't want to be outdone by EPA..."

Too late, EPA outdid Palo Alto by actually building a bridge. Even though PA had a head start of years, we haven't even started.

3 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 19, 2019 at 5:14 pm

This isn't a race to see who can build a bridge the fastest. In a few years both EPA and PA will have a new bridge, and hopefully both will get lots of use. The desire to race and "build anything" was a mistake that PA made. We could have built a great landmark that would be enjoyed by future generations, instead we decided to build a cookie-cutter structure that is tasteless and generic.

26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 19, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Looks are irrelevant. What matters is getting people across the freeway safely and efficiently. Part of efficient is getting it done sooner so people can use it sooner.

21 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2019 at 6:22 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@JR " The desire to race and "build anything" was a mistake that PA made."

That is literally the opposite of reality. Palo Alto futzed around with a design competition (remember the birds - must be a bird friendly design) for years, ended up with a dumb design that was too expensive and a non starter, so back to square one. It already has been "a few years" and PA doesn't have a bridge.

Remember 2013 when the ill fated contest was announced?

Web Link

The grant for the bridge came in 2012. So we are nearing 7 years of planning... Yeah, but don't rush.

Web Link

but no building, no bridge. It is laughable, but also pathetic. And people think that tunneling Caltrain was ever possible..

14 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2019 at 8:37 pm


I was just over at Home Depot yesterday and noticed the project seemed finished.

I always thought it would be cool if that was an overpass over 101 that went from
Newell St. to the shopping center in EPA which cars, bikes and people could use,
but hey you have done something PA cannot seem to get done.

12 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2019 at 7:56 am

Why doesn't Palo Alto outsource it's city management to EPA?


9 people like this
Posted by justathough
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 20, 2019 at 8:04 am

This is great for everyone... now let's get started on renaming the city - "Ravenswood"

26 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 20, 2019 at 9:29 am

Yay! As a daily bike commuter, so happy that the bridge is completed! Thank you to all who have made this bridge a reality!
Cheers to increaseing safer greener modes of transportation, and active lifestyles for many!

Posted by Rob
a resident of Atherton

on May 20, 2019 at 4:14 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

4 people like this
Posted by Overpass Makes PA Accesible!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 20, 2019 at 6:55 pm

Ease of access for East Palo Altans to enter Palo Alto has been a long time coming.

19 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Mayfield
on May 21, 2019 at 2:41 am

Rainer is a registered user.

RE: Landmark East Palo Alto $14Million Bridge, the bridge to architectural fame for the Palo Altos! Finally!

There are five types of bridges, and these are, Girder, arch, cable, rigid framed and truss. Each has its unique features and uses.

And then there is the Palo Alto bridge, build from epoxied $100 bills. If we would have used $50 bills, which have the same structural strength, we could have built 2 bridges for the same price.

This over-prized 14M utility project is just another misguided example of Silicon Valley’s, and in particular both Palo Alto’s efforts, to create an elegant looking land mark bridge, which is worldwide admired.

But the actual cost compared to what a company like USBridge.com would charge for an off-the shelf, or at least catalogue, pedestrian and bicycle bridge, is so astronomical that it smells like the usual small town corruption.

Great, practical, cheap, and elegant Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridges designs are available worldwide. The actual bridge you can then buy from a catalogue or even pre-fabricated off-shelf at a fraction of the price of $14Million.

When a VW beetle cost $2,500 in the 70s, studies showed it would cost a multiple if build individually. This applies to bridges as well.
So start with simply googling, for example “bowstring truss pedestrian bridge” [ gets you this Web Link] and click on “more images” and then vary parameters while googling.

Or google “parallel chord truss bridge”.

For the planned San Francisqito Bridges between Palo Al;to and Menlo Park you would add parameters like:
• 2-lane and 40 feet length, or some such parameter.
Or just simple “small 2-lane bridge”.
• With a prefab bridge it should not take more than a week, and not nine months, to interrupt he traffic and swap out the bridges. Germans seem to be able to demolish the old bridge and put in the new on prepared Widerlager (abutment) within 24 hours, at a total cost of Euro1.2M, plus the street connection.

Or go to www.usbridge.com and play with their software.
Or play here: Web Link and flip through their recent projects.

Or look here: Web Link

Why are bridged so expensive? Why does construction takes so long? Who pays off whom in Palo Alto? Local contractors? What is wrong with Palo Alto? These are not Nuclear Reactor vessels.

PS. For entertainment: scary bridges Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Jason Moy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Building this bridge does not seem like a good idea.

Like this comment
Posted by Tessa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2019 at 9:57 am

Prefabricated bridges sound like a great way to save money!!! City wastes too much money and this seems like a no-brainer!

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