Survey shows residents want Newell Bridge removed | December 14, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 14, 2012

Survey shows residents want Newell Bridge removed

Respondents fear for children's safety, crime over flooding concerns

by Sue Dremann and Jocelyn Dong

Even as plans proceed to replace the Newell Road bridge that connects Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, Palo Alto residents who live nearby are mounting a protest, with many saying that their preference is to eliminate the bridge altogether.

Residents calling themselves Palo Alto for Responsible Bridge Development conducted a survey in November of 254 residents and received 145 responses by Dec. 10. The results show that many neighbors do not believe the bridge contributes to flooding, and at any rate, that concern ranks fifth, behind safety for school-aged children, speeding, crime and the need to reduce traffic.

The 40-foot-long Newell Bridge, built in 1911 across San Francisquito Creek at Woodland Avenue and Newell, is considered functionally obsolete and is targeted for replacement as part of a bigger plan to keep San Francisquito Creek from causing a flood, according to city officials. The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority flood-management plan is intended to improve creek flow from El Camino Real to U.S. Highway 101.

The future upstream work would cause "more water than that bridge has ever seen" to rush down toward residences on both sides of the creek, City of Palo Alto Senior Engineer Joe Teresi said in June.

Engineers propose replacing the 18-foot-wide Newell bridge with a 75-foot-long bridge that would have a 32-foot-wide roadbed and two 5-foot-wide sidewalks. New flood walls would be added along the creek, and new retaining walls would be added at the Newell and Woodland intersection.

The existing roadway barely lets two vehicles in opposite directions pass, Teresi said. Drivers face a blind turn when traveling east to west and bump awkwardly over the raised pavement. Pedestrians and bicyclists also face danger as they compete with vehicles. There is no dedicated lane for bikes or walkers.

One of two proposed designs for a replacement would shift the bridge to align with the East Palo Alto continuation of Newell, which currently jogs to the west. The alignment would make a straight, four-way intersection with four-way stop signs.

But survey leaders Andrew Vought and Ben Ball said residents on the Palo Alto side are concerned that change would turn Newell Road into a kind of highway, with vehicles rocketing unimpeded from Embarcadero Road through to West Bayshore Road. The current funky bridge and its cockeyed alignment causes drivers to drive cautiously and slowly. No accidents have occurred on the bridge as a result, Teresi said in June.

The survey found that 47.4 percent of respondents think even small amounts of traffic increases — 10 percent — would create more safety problems. Sixty-two percent expect a traffic increase to come from a new, two-lane Newell bridge.

Survey respondents were given seven scenarios to choose from related to the bridge: 40.7 percent ranked removing the existing bridge entirely as their first choice. The aligned bridge was ranked as the least desirable by 60.3 percent of respondents.

Other scenarios included constructing a 15-foot-wide bike and pedestrian bridge that would eliminate vehicle traffic (33.3 percent of total responses ranked this No. 2); doing nothing and leaving the current bridge (23.1 percent ranked this third); constructing a 27-foot-wide bridge with one shared car lane and dedicated two-way bike and pedestrian lanes (41.7 percent ranked this fourth); constructing a 27-foot-wide bridge with two car lanes and no dedicated bike or pedestrian lanes (ranked fifth by 46.9 percent); and constructing a 35-foot-wide bridges with two car lanes and a dedicated bike and pedestrian lane.

Ninety-one percent of respondents said the current bridge configuration limits speeding; 93.8 percent believe the proposed aligned bridge would increase speeding. Given a choice, 82.1 percent of respondents said they would maintain the current alignment.

About 3,500 cars utilize the current bridge each day, Teresi said in June. When it comes to safety, one-third of respondents (36.1 percent) viewed the current level of traffic as "unsafe" for children who cross or use Newell to get to Palo Alto public schools.

Residents who viewed traffic levels as "safe" numbered 19.4 percent; and 24.3 percent said they were neutral. Nearly 15 percent considered the traffic "very unsafe."

Vought, who has lived next to the bridge since 1994, said he personally does not think the bridge should be removed entirely. But an attractive solution could be to link it up with the proposed bike-pedestrian bridge that would cross U.S. Highway 101 from East Palo Alto. Rebuilding Newell as a bike-and-pedestrian bridge would enable users to "not have to relive the chaos of University Avenue," he said.

Ball said he favors a bike/pedestrian bridge that would solve the flooding concerns while preserving public access and addressing neighborhood safety concerns.

"I will personally heavily resist any two-full-lane bridge for car traffic," he said.

The city has ruled out a bridge solely for pedestrians and bicyclists, however, noting that the thousands of cars that normally use the bridge would cause traffic problems on side streets and University Avenue.

A Caltrans grant is paying for 88.5 percent of the design and environmental-review costs, and Santa Clara Valley Water District will pay the remaining 11.5 percent, according to Teresi.

Vought and Ball said a concern is that the city is rushing judgment on the bridge design because of the free money.

"It feels as though there are hooks that come from the grants," Ball said, noting that other proposals seem categorically dismissed.

"Take the funding out of the equation and find out what works best for the community," Ball said.

The survey results have not yet been given to city officials, but Vought and Ball said they plan to do that as soon as Friday.

The survey does not include responses from East Palo Alto residents living on the other side of the bridge, they said.

The current plan calls for the old bridge to be completely torn down and the crossing closed for four to six months, Teresi said. Construction is expected to last from April to September 2014.

A community meeting about the Newell Bridge alternative design concepts has been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, at 7 p.m. at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at Editor Jocelyn Dong can be emailed at


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

You gotta be kidding! This survey was distributed to the email list of people who self-selected to oppose Newell Bridge replacement. A survey of a self-selected group of people is not a meaningful indication of public opinion.

Posted by resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I agree with my neighbor. This "survey" is very fishy if they only surveyed people who were likely to be opposed to the bridge in the first place. Did they make any attempt to survey people living on the other side of the bridge? Or is this survey just a big whine?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm

It's definitely The Big Whine. Is it relevant? Do they have any legal standing or can they gain legal ground w/this? I understand & share traffic concerns, but that's where my sympathy stops. Oh, & I agree that the bridge as is forces people to proceed cautiously - that's a good thing.

Posted by Duveneck resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I know a lot of Palo Alto residents are concerned about flooding and want that addressed as part of any solution, including myself.

Posted by Janet F., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm

According to a friend who lives off Newell now, there already is a lot of cut-through traffic in both directions. If the bridge is gone, wouldn't it just move that traffic somewhere else for another group of people to complain about? Right now it only affects people living in University South and Crescent Park, doesn't it?

Posted by Margaret, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Wow. Palo Alto residents worry about the safety of children biking down Newell to school -- including many middle schoolers who don't pay much attention to traffic -- and this is "whining"? It seems to me Andrew Vought and Ben Ball have put in a lot of time to help a fairly widely-held community concern be heard, and they should be commended.

Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Anybody interested in the fate of the bridge was encouraged to join the survey. It wasn't only given to folks that were against the bridge changes. Anybody could have taken the survey. Flyers went to every house in the neighborhood asking to join so they could voice their opinions. The survey was really about getting to know what folks in the neighborhood want and their major concerns so city Staff put a good plan together. Nobody was excluded. In fact, folks can still join the Facebook site to get in on the discussions.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm

My preference is ped/bike bridge. Otherwise, maintain current non-alignment and keep it narrow.

Where will the existing traffic go? Either on University or Embarcadero - the two roads designed/designated for in/out traffic.

Converting to ped/bike would also eliminate non-residents coming across the bridge and parking overnight in our neighborhood.

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm

bru is a registered user.

What are the problems with this bridge?

My current understanding is that the opening under the bridge is too small and with very heavy water flow the water will back up and be forced over the banks, as happened back in 1998 I think it was.

So, the question becomes - if the bridge cannot be modified to prevent it from backing up then remove the bridge.

Then, if the bridge has to be removed ... does it get replaced and with what? If rebuilt, should a bridge go there or a pedestrian overpass, or nothing?

My own opinion is that the bridge is a convenience for a very small number of people. It is not necessary, as in a priority and the only problem it will cause is that a small number of people will have to detour to University or Embarcadero to get from what would be the Palo Alto Newell to East Palo Alto Newell.

When I was much younger I used to live in that area when I was a college student. The bridge has always been a pain because it is so narrow and people do not drive politely. If a bunch of cars are going one way they will just keep going and going without allowing anyone from the other direction to go.

I say leave it alone and let it go on as before ... assuming it is not a flood threat, or remove it. If it was not there today, there would be no overriding reason to build a bridge there.

Posted by Edgewood Resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm

The city needs to provide a compelling reason to it's tax paying/home owning residents for building a new bridge. The city needs to prove that a new bridge is a benefit to the community. The city could be committing a tort if it causes it's homeowners to lose their "Right to Quiet Enjoyment". There's no whining here. This is about preserving property owners rights, property values, safety and reducing nuisance.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Funny how all of the PA residents think only of themselves & their torts. Make mine chocolate - I'll have it w/a cup of coffee.

Posted by This is news?, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Palo Residents who live near the Newell Bridge want it removed, limiting direct access to their neighborhood from East Palo Alto. Does this surprise anyone?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm

What is the down side to removing the bridge?


Take it down

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm

If there is an "improvement" that is necessary here explain what it is, why it is needed, pros & cons, what the plan is, and what the cost is, in a reasonable forum and let's hear what rational people have to say about it.

In my opinion shutting off East Palo Alto access to residents near the bridge is not a good reason - unless the problem is significant and the cost is appropriate.

If the area is predicted to have a flood under any expected load, that is a compelling reason to get rid of the bridge. Then, the question of pedestrian, bike or vehicle access becomes secondary and would need to stand on its own merit.

What I would guess is going on here might be some very rich people doing political maneuvering to shut off access to EPA and rationalize it in other ways?

I have read about some crimes in that area, none of which I can remember sufficiently to quote here but were serious ... but was access from EPA a factor in that crime to a significant extent? I think it was several muggings or robberies. But there have been crimes like this all over Palo Alto with no special access to anywhere so the bridge would seem insignificant to crime stats.

This is a touchy subject to even discuss ... due to the race and class distinctions, but for the subject to even come up, someone wants something done ... what ... honestly, what ? Is it too much to ask.

From my point of view in Crescent Park on the Palo Alto side there is not much destination-wise on the other side of the bridge except the 7-11 and the Mexican Place which is not bad ... but not much else commercial. I would not miss the bridge.

From the EPA side I have to wonder what access to this remote part of Palo Alto gets them? The only thing I can think of is Rinconada Park, which I believe is not a Palo Alto residents only park as far as I know. So in this vein the question would be what obligation does Palo Alto have to provide a special bridge, access and maintenance for this rather minute and easily divert-able traffic? Could East Palo Alto split the cost of a pedestrian bridge ... that maybe should have some brighter lighting.

If the problem is flooding, the bridge should be gotten rid of. I tend to think a pedestrian/bike bridge is not a good idea because the remote location and higher risk of crime.

I don't think it a landmark even though it's almost 100 years old now.

The Chaucer-Pope bridge allows traffic to flow better but I don't think that is true of the Newell Bridge.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

> The current plan calls for the old bridge to be completely torn down and the crossing closed for four to six months, Teresi said. Construction is expected to last from April to September 2014.

This is a good idea ... tear the bridge down and see what happens. 3500 cars a day is quite a few cars ... but do we have anything to compare that to? How many cars go across Univeristy, Chaucer/Pope, or into Palo Alto by Embarcadero? 3500 throughout the day might be a drop in the bucket.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 8:42 am

Ben Ball quote: "Take the funding out of the equation..."
Ben, are you offering to pay for the project? Are you offering to pay flood insurance premiums for hundreds of your neighbors for years to come? Are you offering to pay to rebuild my house if it floods? Can I come with my family and stay in your house while the repairs are taking place? After the 1998 flood, a group of residents whose homes flooded sued the city and got financial restitution. Are you offering to take on the city's financial liability for the next flood? Otherwise, it is completely irresponsible of you to fight this project.

Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 9:59 am

Neighbor, you misunderstood Ben's meaning. He is simply saying he wants them to build a bridge that is suitable for the needs of the community. A bridge that considers safety, flooding, traffic, crime, parking, natural resource and aesthetics. The current plan doesn't attempt to address all of these things. Ben's point is don't build something for the community that doesn't fit just because you may lose the grant money. Design something that fits and then lets figure out how it will be funded.

Posted by Einstein, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by neighbor who was , a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

Please don't comment unless you understand the issues and have read the article intelligently.

No one wants a bridge or bike/pedestrian path built that would contribute to flooding issues.

But to build a "superbridge" that is 4 times as wide as the existing bridge simply because we are being given money to do so is irresponsible. There is no connection between a wider bridge and flood control. The neighborhood is mainly concerned about the increase of traffic and speeding on Newell which is a designated "safe school route" for hundreds of kids who bike and walk along Newell every day. We feel that a "superbridge" would jeopardize the safety of children, bikers, and pedestrians.

It is inevitable that the bridge or bike path is going to be rebuilt regardless of where the funding comes from so there is no need to worry about who will pay for it.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by relative, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I don't think Einstein even knows where the bridge goes. It's across the creek, not 101. You have access to all the condos on other side of Woodland Avenue not the mall.
The only access to actual EPA is across University & Embarcadero. You sound like someone who wants to cut Palo Alto off from all surrounding cities. Or is it just those cities you consider beneath you?
I don't understand the need for a 4-lane bridge. Two lanes + pedestrians would be great. There isn't going to be a huge increase in traffic. Those that currently use it will continue to do so. There's no pent-up traffic suddenly looking for a way out.

Posted by Ben Ball, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Neighbors (both PA and EPA)

A few comments to attempt to respond to several issues raised from these comments. I think the suprebridge, current proposal by the city of PA, is irresponsible and will significantly increase traffic on Newell road in PA and EPA alike. Newell Road in PA is a safe schools route as many children attending Duveneck Elementary and Jordan Middle school use Newell Road every day and we need to find ways to reduce traffic and increase the safety for the children and families that must access Newell Road daily. This is a higher priority for me than flooding issues. The cost of a child being killed cannot be quantified in dollar amounts and isn’t an option that any of us should be willing “to live with.”

That said, I’ve lived in Crescent Park since 1996. I experienced the 1998 flood like, many of you, and believe we have a responsibility to mitigate flooding issues. I use the would “mitigate” intentionally instead of “fix” as anything we do with the Newell bridge won’t change the flooding in our neighborhood as the Chaucer/Pope street bridge remains the upstream bottleneck and it MUST be fixed immediately. Until all of the bridges are fixed, our neighborhoods will be at risk of flooding. The current Newell Road bridge restricts water flow through the creek and will cause flooding IF we experience a 50 year flood. This is my opinion but it is based on the data presented by the JPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. I would encourage everyone to read that material and then draw your own conclusions.

The survey. This was an attempt to identify what issues are important to people and what type of bridge alternatives are preferred. The survey was open to anyone who wanted to respond and voice their opinion. The objective was to allow us to give better feedback to the PA staff as they consider what to do with the bridge. I believe a proper decision making process will lead to a better decision even if I don’t personally like the outcome. The process that PA has followed to date has not included sufficient public commentary nor has it included proper disclosure. The process must be improved.

Funding: A few facts as I understand them today. 88% of the bridge redevelopment will be funded by a Caltrans grant. 12% will be funded by the Santa Clara County Water District. The Santa Clara portion was committed PRIOR to measure B’s approval in November. I’ve asked repeatedly of PA staff members what conditions or restrictions does Caltrans place on the funds that they are providing but over the last two months no one has given me an answer. This is a relatively simple question so it’s shocking that no one seems to have an answer. I have been told by staff members that a Bike/pedestrian bridge option would cost around 20% of the current superbridge proposal. I’m not going to hold that staff member to this quote but it’s probably a good estimate. It’s unclear if Caltrans would fund a bike/ped bridge only but it is clear that it would require applying for an exemption from Caltrans. I believe this is a prudent exemption to ask for regardless of what type of bridge is built. Additionaly, I believe the passage of measure B will allow the city to access more funds from the Santa Clara Water District. Based on this data, the worst case is an 8% funding gap that I believe can be bridged by a Caltrans exemption or securing additional funds from the water district. As such, I believe a bike/ped bridge is a viable alternative and a far more responsible option. It will be fully funded , with some work with the water district and/or Caltrans. It will mitigate flooding issues as well as increase safety on Newell Road in PA and EPA alike.
I would also encourage everyone to read the traffic report that the city presented. I found it interesting that the data in the traffic report for a bike/ped bridge option claimed that there would be a reduction in car waiting time at the University Ave and Woodland Ave intersection during peak p.m. traffic time. Despite this improvement, this option was categorically dismissed and no data as to why was presented. Assertions were made as to why the option was dismissed but I for one would prefer data so all of us can draw our own conclusions.

My final objective is to raise awareness around the bridge. I would encourage everyone to join the meeting scheduled for Jan 8th at 7pm at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. It’s important for everyone to show up, voice your concerns and then help find constructive solutions to these issues.

Posted by Christine, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm

As Ben points out and which can not be disputed is that, 'Newell Road in PA is a safe schools route as many children attending Duveneck Elementary and Jordan Middle school use Newell Road every day." '

I cross Newell every morning taking my children to school and I can not believe how many times I have seen cars fly through the stop sign at Dana and Newell almost taking out the crossing guard there. Whatever the determination is for this bridge, I truly hope that the City of Palo Alto makes children's safety their first priority when weighing the various options.

Posted by waste of time, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Here we go again, people making claims of endless cars ” flying” through stop signs. This seems to be the tactic of choice- pick an intersection and make claims about cars never stopping. If all these claims were true, it would seem that no driver ever stops at a stop sign in Palo alto! As for the bridge, naturally the neighbors want to get rid of the bridge and add usual they do not care where the traffic will go (as long as it is on someone elses street.

Posted by Christine, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Alright. I stand corrected. Maybe they don't "fly" through this intersection. Although cars certainly like to roll through it (in the morning at least) and sometimes at a pretty fast pace. And yes, I have seen the crossing guard almost hit at least twice. There was also a middle school aged child that was hit here by a car not too long ago. How can we argue about the safety of our children? I am not trying to sound like an alarmist....just a parent who witnesses too often the distracted and fast paced drivers headed down Newell towards Embarcadero (and God knows that it's not just on Newell). Regarding the bridge, I'm not making a judgement one way or another about it until I know more-- just hoping that the City Council will factor into whatever decision they make the importance of making Newell a safe route for our kids who bike to and from school.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm

1) Kids on bikes going home from school are a hazard, especially when they swarm out into traffic lanes, and most especially when they ride "look Ma, no hands." Volunteer parent monitors on every block, plus bike safety taught in schools, will help a lot more than removing a bridge.

2) Everyone gets utility bills, and they come stuffed with lots of fliers and information, so it would be an easy way for the City to do straw polls. This would get a more representative poll than a small, self-selective group.

Posted by Duh, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Do Palo Altans actually use the bridge to drive to EPA? Does it make sense to spend all the money when our residents don't even use the bridge? The section it leads to can be accessed by going on Embarcardero; it's not a necessity to have the bridge.

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Duh - careful, your ignorance is showing.

Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2012 at 8:35 am

The fact that the survey asked residents to give an opinion as to whether the bridge is part of the flooding problem makes me not give much credence to the survey. How could an opinion poll on this question have any relevance, other than to show that a lot of residents are ignorant about the hydrology of the creek and the bridge?

Posted by Joss, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

I have a feeling that this is more about not having a connection to EPA than it is about flooding.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

One of the goals of the new, larger bridge is to divert traffic from University (a concern with removing the bridge is that it will increase traffic on University and Hamiliton). This means more traffic on Newell. Many students and adults use the bike route on Newell - not just to Duveneck and Jordan Middle School, but also to Paly, Castilleja and Stanford. Increasing traffic on a small residential street that is highly used by children on bikes makes no sense.

Posted by relative, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

" I think the suprebridge, current proposal by the city of PA, is irresponsible and will significantly increase traffic on Newell road in PA and EPA alike."

There it is. You *think* it will increase traffic. Unless you can provide some data, you have noting backing up your requests and it just sounds like you're taking the opportunity to reduce traffic on your street at the expense of "you don't care" who else.
It's just the same as Professorville wanting parking permits. They don't care if it pushes the parking problems onto others as long as it gets them away from the front of their house.
If there is a significant increase in traffic, Palo Alto has the means to alleviate it. You're arguments don't hold water.

Posted by screw growth, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2012 at 11:21 am


you say "Unless you can provide some (traffic) data, you have noting backing up your requests"

Who is responsible for data? The City should be responsible for traffic data.

Unless the City can provide data to refute what anyone says about traffic, what residents experience IS the data. Same for the parking issues. The City should have data, but they either have no data, or if the data does not suit a new office complex, they hide the data.

Problem is - the data is also "fluid: because you just don't what the other new new new new or new office developments are (is it 2 more, or 20 more new office buildings).

I would say that if the data of traffic growth in the last five years is unavailable, estimate the recent growth in traffic by looking at new square feet of office space downtown Palo Alto, and Stanford, both rates of growth can be applied to traffic growth. There are several other indicators, like business activity downtown.

I expect someone will say that the traffic growth is all bikes and pedestrians, no cars at all. Sure. The City and people need to come clean on the fact that the people who bike in Palo Alto are mostly the kids going to school, and their parents.

It's high time to reward green residents, by providing safe streets, and by reducing car traffic.

If this is a fight between accommodating office developments, and "growth" in Palo Alto, office developments bring no income to the City, they are a losing deal for residents.

While I don't live near the bridge, I support whatever the residents say on traffic, parking, and livability issues.

I've stopped trusting the City on things like data, and especially on "planning."

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Get rid of the bridge - it is a win, win, win. Less traffic, less crime, less flooding. Spend the money on something useful instead of rebuilding an unwanted bridge.

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Rebuild the bridge - it is a win, win, win. Leaa flooding, more emergency access, improved access to amenities all around. Spend the money on it and don't overdue it, but rebuild the wanted and needed bridge.

Posted by screw growth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm


"improved access to amenities all around"

there is that word again - "amenities"

"Amenities" is what City Council always seems to bring up, to abate impacts that hurt residents. Who wants "amenities" compared to less traffic, less crime, less flooding?

What are amenities anyway?

After "amenities" the other one is "exciting opportunity." Bottom line, compared to the trouble the bridge brings to Newell and the neighborhoods, screw amenities.

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Access to amenities - in this case, to parks, libraries, business-related activities, shopping, dining, local cultural events - everything that we're supposed to support on Main St., USA.

Oh, yeah, and the amenity of NOT FLOODING, as I mentioned in my post.

Traffic crime blah blah crime traffic blah blah - where are the projected figures for the increase of one and the decrease of the other?

Posted by Trollspotter, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2012 at 11:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:02 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:17 am

> Moreover, "thousands" do not cross that bridge daily.

Actually if you read the full article they said that about 3500 cars use this bridge every day. Not sure how accurate that count is, but that is what they said.

Posted by Karen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:56 am

I just checked the Google Maps and there is no reason anyone should have to use the bridge. People who are using the bridge can easily use University Ave. or Embarcadero Road.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 1:19 am

Uh oh .... the fact that thousands ... around 3500 a day use that bridge is a red herring here, at least as far as metrics and actual facts.

How does 3500 a day compared to University and Embarcadero? ... I would imagine, but cannot prove it, that 3500 a day is a drop in the bucket compared to University and Embarcadero combined ... meaning that if the bridge was removed any increase in traffic would probably be insignificant/imperceptible. Also that 3500 a day is probably spread throughout the day so it does not add significantly to rush hour traffic which is the real concern.

I would need to see more information and some real proof to consider that the Newell St. Bridge is critical to Palo Alto infrastructure and in what ways.

For example in Crescent Park the only real regular destination I can think of over in EPA is the 7-11 or the Mexican restaurant. I can get to either destination or alternate destinations without any trouble. There are plenty of 7-11's around and if I really wanted to eat at the Mexican place I would just have to detour a minute of two across to University or Embarcadero.

The convenience of the bridge seems to me to be mainly for those who live on the EPA side so they can be and feel closer to Palo Alto. This is a high price to pay and the perception is that it is a crime liability to that area of Palo Alto. I am not really sure that is backed up either.

The other argument I have heard made is the Emergency response times. The allegation was made in another discussion on this topic that EMT vehicles could not get to this part of EPA without that bridge. I am not sure I buy that or that the better solution would not be to fix whatever problems there are with University and Embarcadero.

If we really needed a bridge to distribute traffic better it would probably make more sense to extent a bridge at Southwood across the creek which is closer to University and could possibly offload traffic for those who are coming up Unversity and heading into Crescent Park, Community Center or Deveneck/St. Francis. But I'm sure that would cause even more problems.

It would be very interesting to know the history of the reason why the original bridge was built and who it was to serve. I think the area of EPA was for poor and working class people who worked in Palo Alto ... but now the rents are so high that I think most people there have cars and probably do not work in Palo Alto and if they do not in the immediate vicinity. What is the need for the bridge,and if there is not a real need what is the purpose to spend a lot of money to replace it and maintain it, and then at some point if there is another mistake or more water flow to have to go through this all over again?

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2012 at 1:46 am

"It would be very interesting to know the history of the reason why the original bridge was built and who it was to serve."

Anon, in the contest you're referring to, it helps to know the history of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, what was annexed when and where.

Posted by Karen White, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm

A couple of clarifications:

First, the proposed replacement bridge is being called a "superbridge," which is a bit misleading. The critical dimension in terms of flood control is the clear span between abutments. Currently, the clear span is only something like 40 feet, which means the abutments are actually well inside the creek bed, restricting water flow. From the Project Summary provided on 11/1/12 to the Architectural Review board:

The new clear span between abutments of 76.7 feet matches the distance between the top of the SFC banks, allowing the new abutments to be constructed outside of the creek’s waterway including high flow events.

The roadway would be continuous as it is now, so whether the bridge itself is described as 40' long or 76' long seems to be a matter of semantics (referring to the clear span between abutments), unless I'm missing something. The width of the proposed bridge is a separate issue.

Separate but one thing to be aware of, regarding the concerns that have been raised about emergency access to the Woodland area, is the zoning map (and potential future development) for the land between the creek and 101 within East Palo Alto's jurisdiction. I understand that the City of East Palo Alto has issued a temporary hold on building projects in the area so that a thoughtful master planning of the area can be done.

Posted by Andrew, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I don't understand why people from all these different neighborhoods are getting involved, whatever the reason and whatever the outcome of the bridge being built in that area should be up to that neighborhood to decide.

There really is no reason someone who lives on the other side of the city should have any say, if you want to have an opinion, buy a house there, and then complain about whatever your little heart desires.

I say, do what that neighborhood wants, it's their property that gets affected, their kids, their life, stop complaining about something that has no effect on you.

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Yes, it involves SEVERAL neighborhoodS so they should ALL be involved; I completely agree.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

You cannot pre-emptively shut people up.

First, people from other areas of the city - and world - can and will post their comments, so it is up to us to evaluate them. Just because someone is not local does not mean they cannot add something to the discussion.

Do people outside America have to refrain or be prohibited from speaking about the US Presidential elections?

What kind of elitism is it to say you should not be able to say anything about something unless you have a house here? What about renters. What about past renters or possible future renters or owners?

Posted by TerribleSpy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I go across that bridge every day. The people who want the bridge gone are the same people that own multimillion dollar homes along the creek--the ones that flooded when the trailer park (now condos) during 1989's El Nino flooding of Embarcadero and 101. And they also don't want people crossing that bridge from East Palo Alto into their neighborhood to park their cars along Newell Road and in front of their houses.

While these people are entitled to their opinion, the ones that matter are the ones ALL around that bridge. Not just Mark Zuckerberg with his $7M creekside house.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2012 at 9:33 am

TerribleSpy - I used to live in that neighborhood and the current amount of traffic and parking is fine. What people are objecting to is a projected huge increase in the traffic over the bridge and onto Newell which is a MAJOR bike route for students. The majority of the traffic won't be EPA residents, it will be people cutting thru from 101 and going to work at Stanford and other places in Palo Alto.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

The bridge is the bridge ... I sincerely doubt, unless I see something more compelling that a few posts that anyone that does not use the bridge now will use the bridge in the future because it is bigger. I'm in Crescent Park and if I need to go to the 7-11 I'll go across that bridge ... or to the 7-11 downtown.

There is no real point to use the bridge because it is bigger or wider really, it either helps your trip or not, and that bridge is not in any position to make anyone's trip faster from anywhere ... at least significantly.

Who would use the bridge more? Therefore no more traffic. Removing the bridge would make less traffic and push a bit more to University and Embarcadero ... that's all. Maybe make emergency access a little less.

Posted by Screw growth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2012 at 10:43 am

If the City wants to make the bridge bigger to invite more cut-through traffic, it will get done. They don't care what residents think.

As Anon sad it very plainly

"While these people (residents) are entitled to their opinion, the ones that matter are the ones ALL around that bridge." That especially means commuters.

City Council works for developers, not residents. Offices need to have a new artery to get people into all the new commercial space being built downtown. The bridge is part of the plan.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

Screw Growth ...
Just because a bridge to "nowhere" (sorry West EPA) does not mean people will use it.

I'm asking anyone here to explain to me what route including that bridge makes what trips shorter, better easier, ... improved in whatever way ... because I just do not see it.

The only reason we have that bridge is that it was here from 1911 or thereabouts ... period. It does not go anywhere significant to the public. It might make it a little easier to go from this area of EPA to Palo Alto ... but not for very many people. Getting rid of it would make the lives of property owners on either side of that bridge better ... save for perhaps Police and Fire response.

But the 7-11 parking lot is where most of the EPA Police force seems to hang out quite a bit so I'm not even sure that is accurate.

The City study said that 3500 a day go across that bridge - this is 124 cars per hour at all hours. I am not sure I believe that, but even if it is true those cars could just as easily use Embarcadero/University and not add much to the traffic. In any care the traffic mess in Palo Alto is not helped or hurt by that bridge's existence or absence.

My sole issue with this bridge is its ability to allow water under it - period. If it is going to flood because of more rainwater coming through from the hills ... then it needs to be gone or modified ... and gone is cheaper.

The problem of more rainwater is from the City's bad planning and too much development in the hills. We seem to get the problem with wetlands, but what we do in the hills is out of most people's view. The Palo Alto hills I thought were not going to be developed, and now they are a big spot for the rich oblivious snobs who just do not give a damn and have way too much say in this city.

It is these kinds of abuses that cause most of our problems, and also because these people with all their money do not want to pay taxes to help keep the city up. It is they who ought to pay for this bridge to be rebuilt if it is to be rebuilt in my opinion.

If I am honest I think the bridge is not really necessary to anyone ... but being a longtime Palo Alto resident, I am kind of used to it being there and think the city would be different if it was gone. But I don't think any more or less traffic will use that bridge if it is bigger and better ... there is little point to it except just to avoid University/Embarcadero.

Posted by Andrew, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:35 am

So you are saying I should say that they should plant trees next to your house, build a sewage facility in another neighborhood? It's easy to speak out about things that don't affect you personally. As long as it's not in your neighborhood and doesn't affect you, you can play whatever role you wish, but your comments, are air in the wind, this is a bridge, nothing that is hurting anyone.

You can't compare this to the presidential election, that's just a dumb comparison. The President of the United States has vast effects on the whole world. A bridge does not.

It's more elitism on your part telling someone how they should live w.o having any consequences of your own.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:47 am

I am saying you should quit trying to control what other people say. Remember that saying that goes:

grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Posted by M L, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2012 at 9:34 am

Remember the Alamo...

Those who annexated part of EPA blew it. They migth as well taken that sliver of land too.

And, didn't you guys see there was a bridge when you decided to buy your house here?

I know what the solution can be. Why don't have a checking point there to make sure only desirable people drive through the bridge? It can't be that expensive to pay for guards.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 9:48 am

The short distance around Embacadero or University is hardly enough to keep people out of the area.

Maybe what they could do is to put up a sufficiently heavy duty pedestrian bridge with blocks for normal traffic that could be removed for emergency vehicles or in an emergency

Posted by Screw growth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

Was it just last night, but t's a like parking lot on Newell at night. Looks like overflow from the housing complex on the other side of the bridge. A big long row of cars extended to Hamilton.

I don't think people expected that when they bough their house. I would have the City put up no parking signs, and get cars towed.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:52 am

Screw Growth ... I agree with you on the parking ... but that is not the issue.

It is unsightly and dangerous to have all those cars parked on the street. No one seems to want to build enough parking places so they think they can just ignore it.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Screw growth - the parking issue has nothing to do w/a new bridge. It has EVERYTHING to do w/2 things:

-Woodland Park Apts., jerks that they are, demand payment now for parking spots. No one used to do that, which is why this is a new problem.

-Some of the residents are too cheap to pay for the parking spots. Some may be too poor. Some may be over crowding their homes w/people who have cars.

You can call and complain to Woodland Park Apts: (650) 248-2903

It's gotten so bad there that my friends often can't find parking & people park illegally. Where you are, they are parking legally. This means that your options are limited.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm

> Woodland Park Apts., jerks that they are, demand payment now for parking spots. No one used to do that, which is why this is a new problem.

Huh ... what are the circumstances and terms of that?
You mean that one or two appropriate parking places do not come with every unit?
If they need more money they need to raise the rent and use the market system to compete if their rents are too high. This "fee" idea is a really bad thing insinuated all over the place now. This should be illegal if it is not already.

Or is this instead too many people living in cramped dorm style apartments?

Posted by Andrew, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 20, 2012 at 10:51 am

Well Anon

Then might as well make my own agenda for that area, how about we build the full bridge, you know, for future expansion of that area, give everyone access, and a couple high rise office buildings, to generate some nice sales revenue. We could also add some generators, solar panels, and we should only allow people that live in that area to walk backwards, because I feel it's the right thing to do.

Sounds like a plan?

Posted by Crescent Park resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm

It is clear from the comments above that the results from the survey do not fully represent the perspectives of the community. That bridge has been dangerous for 100 years, and needs to be replaced. If we truly care about the safety of our children, the plan proposed with ample sidewalks should do the trick. My family and I had a good laugh over dinner when we saw the pamphlet describing a "SUPER bridge", which turns out to be a 2 lane extension of a 2 lane street to replace a badly dated narrow structure. Please! I've lived in this neighborhood for 20 years, and every time something happens that might benefit those on the EPA side of the creek, the neighbors in Crescent Park complain that there will be safety, traffic, etc concerns. And it hasn't happened yet. Let's take advantage of the funding opportunity to do something that should have been done years ago and will improve pedestrian and vehicle safety, reduce flooding risks, and improve the community. The new bridge makes good sense for the community, and it makes economic sense to do it now.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Why does the new bridge make economic sense Crescent Park Resident?
Spending money to create a road to where there are two ways to get to already?
I don't see it. Except for pedestrians and bike riders and how many of those do you think there are?

Posted by Edgewood Resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I've heard this bridge has everything to do with a big development center going in where the apartments are in EPA. Apartments will be removed so Newell Rd can be aligned from the Palo Alto side to the EPA side all the way through to 101.

In order to move traffic off of 101, a major thorough fare will be needed - thus the "Super Bridge". Big bridge to move big traffic. Traffic will increase significantly through our neighborhoods.

I guess my biggest question for the City of Palo Alto is why? Why do they think this is a benefit to our neighborhoods - for EPA or PA?

The residents on both sides of the creek need quiet, safe neighborhoods for their families. Major arteries should stay at University and Embarcadero. The space between should stay for inner neighborhood streets.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Seems obvious that if there is going to be a lot of commercial re-zoning on the Palo Alto side of EPA that Palo Alto should want to close that area off permanently or it will be a major pain in the neck with people driving all through there if they want to head in another Palo Alto direction ... Newell is not a good thoroughfare.

It will benefit EPA and they have that right, but Palo Alto also should have to the right to control access to what are residential backstreets.

Posted by Screw growth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2012 at 12:51 am

Edgewood Resident,

"I guess my biggest question for the City of Palo Alto is why? Why do they think this is a benefit to our neighborhoods - for EPA or PA?"

The reason is because of growth. What residents have not clued into is that growth can (will) possibly destroy this very small town. We will become like a high density mall/parking lot for all the offices and likely high density housing units in town and around us.

Clearly University and Embarcadero are not enough for growth.

University and Embarcadero could be enough if residents come together for a ballot initiative to cap the height of buildings to under 50 feet. That should limit growth, to an extent.

I would vote on making Palo Alto a version of a historical something or other. Literally untouchable.

As it is, we are becoming Stanford's back office.

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