Palo Alto to consider design contest for new bike bridge | June 21, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 21, 2013

Palo Alto to consider design contest for new bike bridge

With bulk of funding secured, City Council to discuss next steps for building 101 overpass

by Gennady Sheyner

Just two years ago, Palo Alto's proposed bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 was a pipe dream, one of the most expensive components of the city's new master plan for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

Now, with a generous influx of grant funds bringing the $10 million project to the brink of reality, city officials are delving into the details and preparing to open up the design process to a wide spectrum of architects.

On Monday night, the City Council will consider a proposal to hold a design competition for the new bike bridge, which would be located at Adobe Creek and span Highway 101 between south Palo Alto and the Baylands. Once built, the bridge would replace an existing undercrossing that is typically closed for six months every year because of flooding.

The project, which is seen as a critical east-west connection in the city's rapidly evolving bike network, received a jolt of momentum in November, when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a $4 million grant for the bridge as part of a broad package of improvements lobbied for by the city and Stanford University. Earlier this month, the city received another $4 million for the bike bridge, this time through the One Bay Area Grant program administered by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Another $1 million for design work could come from the funds allocated to the city by Stanford University Medical Center as part of a development agreement that allowed Stanford to greatly expand its hospital facilities, according to a new report from the Public Works Department.

With the funding nearly secured, the council will discuss various options for moving ahead with design work and consider a staff proposal for an "invited design competition" managed in part by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Under this approach, staff would work with AIA on design criteria and solicit proposals from about 20 local, regional and national architecture firms. A jury would then select three or four for interviews and invite the finalists to submit designs sometime in early 2014. Their designs would then be reviewed by the city's Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission before the council makes a decision on a design contract in spring 2014.

If all goes according to the plan, construction would begin in fall 2015.

"Given the wide range of bridge options and configurations, the possibility of a bridge design competition provides a venue to vet many designs simultaneously in the least amount of time and funding," the new report states.

While the council has yet to discuss the design competition, the city's Architectural Review Board has already endorsed the concept. During a February discussion, several members expressed enthusiasm for a competition, with board member Randy Popp saying there are "only things to be gained from it and nothing to be lost." His colleague, Lee Lippert called a competition an "incredibly good idea," and board Chair Clare Malone Prichard encouraged an "inclusive" process for designing the bridge.

The council will also weigh on Monday the merits of a traditional process in which the city solicits requests for proposals and then selects a qualified designer to come up with two or three designs. Each design would then be vetted by various boards and commissions through the regular design-review process. This process would cost about half as much as the design competition ($75,000 versus $150,000) but would explore "fewer design concepts and may have potential for redesign should concepts not be acceptable to the community," according to the new report.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


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Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Enough chit-chat. Just built whatever can be built the most quickly. Pedestrians do not care what the bridge looks like. We just want to get over it as quickly as possible to get away from the smelly noisy polluted freeway. This is not like the Golden Gate Bridge where you get great views of the bay and ocean from the bridge. The main thing you will see from a freeway overpass is the freeway, which no one wants to look at. Just get the bridge built as quickly as possible so we can start using it before the old pedestrian tunnel gets flooded again.

If the tunnel does get flooded, please close off one of the car lanes on the San Antonio Road bridge and let pedestrians and bicyclists use that. There are plenty of other places where cars can cross, but those are too far for pedestrians to reach and the bike routes to get to them are dicey for kids.

Thank you.

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Posted by Just build it
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:29 am

Let me make sure i understand this--the building of the bridge will not start for another 2+ years??????
I realize this is palo alto, but this is ridiculous. Design contests???? Really???
Just pick a simple design and get it built. And you also do not hae to spend the entire $10 million on it. People want a usable bridge. Why does this have to be turned into the usual Palo Alto show??
I am sure at the council meeting next week, all the members will be falling over themselves to put in their two cents worth. we already know what Karen Holman wants--she has made that clear already--no simple bridge for her--only a grand design that shows off Palo Alto will do for our local historic expert.
And then of course all the local commissions and boards will get to have their say--I can imagine their nitpicking on this project.
i bet you Mountain View would have this project done in 6 months. Given our local library issue, I bet you this bridge will not be open until 2020

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:51 am

The Palo Alto Way at work. How many years does it take to build a bridge? Taking lessons from the new Bay Bridge?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2013 at 8:02 am

It's a bridge that will never be a work of art since we don't live in Venice.

It is needed now since the tunnel is closed at least half the year.

It should be a high priority, not another Mitchell Park library!