Town Square

Police: Avoid driving on Charleston during school rush hours

Original post made on Aug 15, 2012

Officials are bracing for potential traffic gridlock on Charleston Road Thursday, Aug. 16, as Palo Alto students head back to school amid PG&E pipeline work along the well-traveled thoroughfare.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 15, 2012, 5:27 PM


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Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Hopefully this will encourae more families to try walking and cycling to school!

It is only 4 miles from Greer Park to Gunn which should take 20 minutes by bike.

I'm guessing the drive with the Charleston construction is longer than 20 minutes.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Gunn Mom- [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]
I work well north of RWC, I need to get from my neighborhood near Piazzas to my work via 280, everyday. - and I drop my daughter off on the way. You might want to consider the fact that people actually have legitimate reasons to need to drive this route, that aren't going away because the city has their heads buried squarely in the "slow lane" (or other places) when it comes to traffic management. (FYI, you might have noticed there is not another east west route in south palo alto up to 280.) But yes, you are right about one thing - the the drive WITHOUT charleston construction is much more than 20 minutes on a good day thanks to the ludicrous striping changes on Arastradero. People late by 10 minutes will be the lucky ones. But don't worry about me, I'm getting pretty good at zooming around through neighborhoods to make my way to Gunn. I'm sure there will be others - I doubt biking is going to be safe for anyone.

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Posted by Babs
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Itiis everyone else's problem except those who instituted the work, they do not live there.

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Posted by carmageddon
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 15, 2012 at 8:43 pm

The city should be more proactive about this mess. Encourage kids to bike or walk to school with energizer stations like they have on bike-to-work-day. Bikes take up much less space on the road, which is a good thing when road space is limited.

Sure, not everyone can leave their car at home, but if twice as many kids (and adults) ride their bikes vs. usual, that is still hundreds fewer cars than usual.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm

You forget to mention that there is construction on Alma between Meadow and Oregon, Loma Verde and other side streets are blocked to Alma, we have construction problems on San Antonio and the Mitchell Park library is causing problems on Middlefield as well as the mess in Mitchell Park for pedestrians and bikes. Good luck finding alternate routes.

The City is almost one whole construction zone.

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Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

My neighborhood is surrounded by blocked streets and construction and dug up streets -- Alma, Charleston, San Antonio, and it is now tough to go where I need to go.

One obvious question: Why wasn't this done during the summer when school was out? Why now? Doesn't anybody in the city government have any sense, or are they too busy gazing at their pensions and free medical care...?

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Posted by Boggled
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm

They just noticed!?! Charleston has s*ked for more than a week already!

To @Disgusted: No, they don't have any sense, and yes, they are gazing.

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Posted by Sally
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 16, 2012 at 12:16 am

Love the armchair engineers who don't trouble to inform themselves or even click on the link provided by the reporter before they criticize. This pipeline replacement project is PG&E's project, not the City's.

The reason the project was scheduled this summer was that the aging Charleston Road segment of PG&E's gas transmission line # 109 needed to be replaced. Risks are being calculated differently since San Bruno explosion in September 2010 -- and that's a good thing.

The project WAS scheduled to finish before school started, but when you are dealing with 60+ year old infrastructure, stuff happens. Delays to original schedule were caused by discovering an old (and apparently unmapped) storm sewer crossing the pipeline, which led to rerouting the gas pipeline deeper for public safety. This in addition to finding about 100,000 gallons of groundwater that had to be pumped out before the trenching near Hoover School. Check the link:
Web Link

Personally, I'm thankful for the PG&E front line people and their attention to public safety. Yes we residents are inconvenienced by the fact getting in and out of our neighborhood is more of a hassle. And both parents and the commuters in their cars are inconvenienced by the fact that it's not done before school started.

But instead of whining, remember that replacing an aging pipeline that runs right under a roadway before a big explosion far outweighs this temporary inconvenience for anyone who lives near or uses Charleston Road.

Each of us can make the coming days/weeks safer by the choices we make. Some of us (not all) can travel at non-peak times, or choose to walk or bike or take the bus -- which will reduce the pain for drivers. In turn, drivers who feel they have no choice to drive at a particular time can choose to allow extra time for getting where they (we) need to go, repeating the Serenity Prayer and using extra caution near construction areas.

Stay safe!

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2012 at 2:18 am

Construction is never-ending. I just saw a new trench across University downtown last night. When is the county supposed to redo Oregon Expy? When will the new light on Alma just north of Meadow go active? Imagine if we magically had that $40M needed for city infrastructure repair.

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Posted by No-Fan-Of-Lane-Reduction
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

Consider this an example of what Charleston will be like when the City decides to take even more lanes out of Charleston.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2012 at 7:53 am

High schoolers do not need to be driven to school. Unfortunately in this culture many drive themselves to school!

On a different slant, even the local news channels are reporting on the possible gridlock. Perhaps they will have news vans driving around to add to the mess and cause wannabe newsmakers!

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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2012 at 8:33 am

Resident - high school students do not "need" to be driven to school, but as another parent mentioned, many parents drop their kids off on their way to work. Seems silly not to if you are going right by their school!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

Paly Parent, it may seem silly not to drop them off if you happen to be going that way, but what are you teaching them?

Certainly not independence.

What about picking them up after school? Do you just happen to be passing at the right time of day so that it would be silly not to pick them up too?

High schoolers should be learning independence. Buses (the few VTA and shuttles that we have), bicycles and feet are also silly not to be used.

Teach them independence and self reliance. They will need these lessons in college and later life.

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Posted by Susan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

A big thank you to all the Staff of the City, PAUSD, and PG&E for helping with the traffic chaos while our kids are off to their first day of school. Appreciate all that you are doing to help keep everyone safe!

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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

Diverting the roads mess in Palo Alto discussion into a sidebar about high school students is indeed moving away from the need for some oversight and master plan and intelligent planning for road construction and PG&E projects. I am just wondering if the PG&E people (yes, I know they aren't equivalent to the City of PA -- were even informed we have a large population of schoolkids and commuters and that accelerating their work is important. They probably don't know and may not care. We have been through stuff like this before --I remember with a shake of the head in disbelief and a laugh, when they city chose to repave Embarcadero Rd right during the first week of school -- that is a VERY busy road -- PALY, Stanford, busses, visitors, local residents-- it was terrible timing.
Some students need to be driven to/from school at times for a variety of reasons: significant out of area after school activities; and my kids had horrendously heavy backpacks their entire time in this school district. Biking was difficult with musical instruments and heavy backpacks.
There has also been some sort of recent road work on Channing Ave., too...
Arastradero/Charleston is a MAJOR ARTERY in this city and some of us do indeed have a need to get crosstown. Page Mill/Oregon Expy is often terribly heavy and it seems the lights are not well programmed.

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Posted by Get Real
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

Biking and walking, yes, that may happen...but not in your lifetime.

For those who supported the lane reductions, enjoy the fumes and noise.

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Posted by PAUSD Mom and Charleston Resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2012 at 11:07 am

Wow. This thread reminds of something a friend of mine who was raised in a small town in India once said to me. "Americans whine like spoiled children about construction. In my small town we celebrated these inconveniences. It meant something was being IMPROVED and we were grateful for that."

I read the full articles and city releases about this. Yes. The city did tell PG&E about the hard deadline to accomodate school commuters at the outset of the project. However, PG&E ran into some unanticipated problems working on this 50-year old infrastructure. They had to clear over 100,000 gallons of ground water and deal with some sewer issues that couldn't be resolved quickly. They PLANNED to get it done over the short summer break (give the information they had before they started digging), but there just wasn't enough time.

Once PG&E realized that it was not humanly possible to make the deadline, even working on weekends paying for overtime, the city worked with PG&E to set up safe school commute routes around the construction areas. City police and staff were out there today in force keeping the kids safe. They sent emails in advance to district sites telling parents telling them what the alternate routes were. They did everything they could to make it work for folks.

I appreciate their effort. This thankless diatribe thread is embarrassing to our community and demoralizing to city staff who, in my opinion, did a good job given the circumstances.

I am glad that the gas pipeline is being replaced. I am glad that they are taking time to do the job right. It's too bad (and personally challenging for me because I live on Charleston) that there is some congestion this week, but these are the inconveneinces of construction.

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Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

To Sally and to PAUSD Mom and Charleston Resident - thank you both for stepping back, taking the time to get the facts, and asking folks to take the conversation down a notch. I will be affected by this, but in a month or two all the construction will be gone and Palo Alto will be better for it.
Construction costs: lots of $$
Construction hassle costs: lots of angry folks
Perspective on the above: priceless

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Posted by Living in Paradise
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

It is a shame that Palo Alto cannot afford school buses.

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Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

anybody know the purpose of the work on Alma north of Meadow?

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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm

@ PAUSD mom and Charleston resident -- be grateful for construction EXCEPT when it is repeated numerous times along the same sections of road -- Channing is an excellent example. There have been plenty of posts from informed and concerned residents and drivers in past, concerning the poor planning among city departments with regards to repeated tear ups and patch ups - leaving this city's roads in very poor shape.

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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Why did construction on E. Charleston start shortly before the beginning of the school year? It makes no sense. And if we are to believe PG&E, something I'm never comfortable with, they should have waited till next summer, this is a bloody mess.
Why is there endless construction all over town, just everywhere you go? It makes Palo Alto one of the noisiest places I've ever been to, and this is supposed to be a leafy quite suburb with high quality of life-NOT.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm

PG&E fenced off Charleston and then did nothing for two weeks. It's no surprise that the pipeline is behind schedule. Most of the time their their "workers" are standing around with only a select few actually working.

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Posted by Kevin
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

Late this afternoon, PG&E also came by and put flyers on our doors, saying:

"Dear Palo Alto Utilities Customer:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is replacing sections of natural gas pipeline along Charleston Road between Alma street and Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. This work is part of PG&E's system-wide program to ensure the safety of the transmission pipelines that deliver natural gas across the region.

In order to work safely in the current soil conditions and near existing underground utilities, we have had to extend the construction period an extra couple of weeks.

What to expect
Although most traffic control barriers can be removed in several weeks, several small areas with construction barriers will remain into September, or potentially later.

We are working closely with the City of Palo Alto Utilities department to complete this project as quickly and safely as possible.

We appreciate your continued patience and cooperation.

<PG&E person>"

It's nice that they waited until TWO DAYS before the project was originally supposed to end to tell us this.

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Posted by GM Mama
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I would like to thank the Palo Alto Police Department for sending out the notification, by phone and email, about the possible traffic snarl as the schools began. It was helpful. We live nearby but avoided that stretch of Charleston Road after receiving the message.

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Posted by Better Safe thaqn Sorry
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm

@ Daniel - - Are you kidding???

You want PG&E to wait until next summer to repair a 70 year old gas main that is constructed the same as the one in San Bruno that exploded. It killed 8 people and burned entire neighborhoods. The pipeline thru Palo Alto has never been inspected for leaks or failed welds. The odds are it has the same wear and stress flaws as the one in San Bruno.

The construction is annoying, but a gas pipeline explosion is not something we want to wait around for.

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Posted by JustShutiItDown
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Why the city let it happens since none of us are PG&E customers!

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Posted by Thanks for fixing it!
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm

@JustShutItDown -- Please take a moment to think about how the natural gas gets into the Palo Alto Utility gas pipelines. The City buys the gas and it comes to us via a PG&E main pipeline that is 70 years old, uninspected and a twin of the one in San Bruno that exploded. If the main supply pipe were "just shut down", then there would be no natural gas in Palo Alto. No one likes the inconvenience caused by the construction, but not fixing the pipeline is just not an alternative!

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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2012 at 11:51 am

Being homesick is a very painful condiditon and I've suffered a lot of it since moving away 4 years ago. By following the news of what's been happening in P.A., and by reading the entries of many folks on Town Square, I am happy to report great progress in recovering from that affliction. I've gone from "wish I was back there" to "glad I'm not back there". I still greatly miss the beaches and little towns on Coastside, the Santa Cruz mountains, Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, but Palo Alto? Not so much.

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Posted by Road diet
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

All these "repiars" are part of the conspiracy by Jaime Rodriguez and the biker zealots to narrow more streets in Palo alto. RodrigueZ is making sure we go On a road diet. Alma, charleston and other streets will be permanently reduced to 1 lane in each direction with expanded bike lanes.
Then Rodriguez, ksihinoto, Cedric and Ellen will party till the cows come home. Beware, everyone, embarcadero, Oregon and middlefield are next