News

Controversy mars Newell bridge meeting

Differences over bridge plans remain as city tries to narrow down options

Residents on either side of the Newell Road Bridge, a 102-year-old structure that links Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, agree that it needs to be fixed to decrease the risk of flooding in the area, but that's about where the agreements stop.

The City of Palo Alto has put eight alternatives on the table for what to do with the bridge, and supporters and detractors for just about every one showed up to a community meeting Thursday night.

After a Jan. 8 community meeting brought concerned parties from all sides of the debate, city staff decided to order an environmental-impact report to determine the feasibility of each of eight proposed alternatives. The purpose of Thursday night's meeting was to present the community with a set of criteria upon which to rate each of the options, with the hope of weeding out some of them to lessen the complexity and burden of the environmental analysis.

But few of the residents at the meeting were as concerned with the city's screening process as they were with the larger question of what to do with the aging bridge, an issue that has been fraught with controversy. The bridge connects the two communities, and to some Palo Alto residents, that's not a good thing.

Parking shortages and related issues in the Crescent Park neighborhood, which lies on the Palo Alto side of the bridge, got so severe that the city passed a ban on overnight parking in the area to stop East Palo Alto residents crossing the bridge to park their vehicles in Palo Alto. But to many East Palo Alto residents, the bridge represents a vital artery to get to work, public services, shopping areas, restaurants and transit. Residents on both sides of the bridge are concerned that a larger bridge would mean increased traffic and more dangerous conditions for pedestrians.

The need for the project's timely completion adds to the turmoil. Like several other aging bridges crossing San Francisquito Creek, Newell Road Bridge's ancient abutments constrict water flow, creating a bottleneck that makes flooding more likely. Work on all these bridges must be done, but bridges upstream from Newell can't be fixed before Newell because the increased water flow would worsen the flood risk downstream.

The alternatives for Newell include keeping it as is, removing it completely, installing a larger two-lane bridge in its place with variations regarding its alignment or a smaller bridge with space only for pedestrians and bicyclists and/or for emergency vehicles, and a new one-lane bridge for cars. The city asked residents to judge the alternatives based on four criteria -- whether they would accommodate a so-called 100-year flood in San Francisquito Creek, how they would affect traffic in the area, how the perception of changes in traffic would affect residents' lifestyles, and the impact they would have on using different modes of transportation.

Some of the people at the meeting expressed dissatisfaction with these criteria, calling them difficult to understand or too narrow in scope.

Oneta Proctor, who has used the bridge to get to and from work for the past six years, said the criteria don't address what she believes could be one of the most serious problems with destroying the bridge or not allowing vehicles on it -- access to emergency services. She said East Palo Alto residents are "blocked" by Embarcadero Road and University Avenue and worried that they could be trapped in the event of a large-scale disaster. Proctor wanted to see a comparison of how each option would affect response time from emergency service vehicles.

Another resident wanted to know exactly how each alternative would affect a grant by Caltrans and the Santa Clara Valley Water District that could fund the project. The grant will only fund the bridge construction if one of the alternatives that includes two driving lanes is chosen.

Jane Kerschner, a Palo Alto resident, said that whatever the cities decide to do with the bridge, the decision should be made based on need, not funding.

"We should decide what we want and then how to pay for it," she said. "Money doesn't have to drive the solution."

Art Stauffer, also a Palo Alto resident, urged residents to be realistic -- saying that finding ways for the two cities to pay for bridge construction could be extremely difficult.

"There's a lot of talk about money not being an issue here," he said. "We have a blue bird with this Caltrans funding and I'd rather see us do something because we've got the money rather than do nothing because we don't."

One attendee said he thought that using the criteria process would only further muddle the issue, saying that he saw consensus for a smaller pedestrian and emergency vehicle bridge.

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene said it was important for residents not at the meeting to weigh each of the options as well, particularly when considering those alternatives whose costs would be born by residents.

To many residents the narrow bridge, which barely allows room for two cars to pass at once, is at best the cause of traffic logjams and at worst a dangerous intersection with a sizable blind spot on its East Palo Alto side. But some, like East Palo Alto resident Arnold Hart, see it as a good thing.

Hart said that the narrow bridge, while decrepit, serves as a natural traffic-calming measure.

"I'll bet there's never been an accident there," he said. "When people come across that bridge they do it as community members -- with common courtesy. If you widen it, everyone and their cousin will be coming across."

Fred Johnson who has lived on the Palo Alto side of the bridge for 26 years, said he doubted a larger, two-lane bridge would create a safety concern. He said that before traffic-calming measures were enacted in 1998, "Channing Avenue was a racetrack, with people driving 55 miles per hour." The measures, he said, helped significantly.

Some of the people at the meeting, like Alester Avenue resident Kevin Fisher, worried that another flood could happen at any time and wanted to cut to the chase.

"Time is of the essence," he said. "We want flood control soon, and we want this bridge to never be replaced again."

With guidance from the screening process, the city hopes to have a narrowed-down list of alternatives to present at another community meeting in January. After that, it will embark on the environmental review with the hope of construction beginning in early 2016, after approval by both city councils.

Comments

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 6:36 am

> But to many East Palo Alto residents, the bridge represents a vital artery to get to work, public services, shopping areas, restaurants and transit.

I can't see how reality backs up this claim?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:00 am

CrescentParkAnon - Claim: Residents use the bridge to get to and from work daily. Reality: I live on Euclid Ave. EPA and work on E. Meadow, PA.

[Portion removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:11 am

I don't live in the area so I am not affected by this at all.

However, there are too many road blocks around Palo Alto. We have to get traffic moving efficiently around town getting people to where they need to go. It is evident that this bridge gets people off other busy roads because they live or work nearby.

It is narrow thinking once again which will stop this and add to traffic on other routes.

The parking and the crime issues are separate issues which have to be addressed separately.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:37 am

I thought it was a pretty good exchange of viewpoints, with some heated comments, but mostly civil. One thing that puzzles me is the assumption that seemed to be shared by many in the room -- namely, that a two lane bridge would significantly increase traffic. That is certainly possible, but to me it is not clearly the case. I would want to see a traffic study done before coming to a conclusion. At present, there is moderate-to-low traffic over that bridge. I don't think it is common for cars to be backed up, waiting to cross the bridge. So if the bridge is widened, it would not be as if a longstanding blockage is suddenly released, leading to a surge of traffic. I guess people think that commuters would learn about the wider bridge, and change their driving habits to use the bridge, whereas before they used University or whatever because the narrow bridge discouraged use. Possible, but I am skeptical that this would be significant. A separate issue is that the traffic that now exists would be able to go much faster across the bridge, as compared to now. This is a valid concern, but could be substantially solved by traffic bumps and stop signs. So given that a two lane highway might be the only alternative that has available funding, we should seriously consider it. Of course, if funding is available for the one-lane approach, or if East Palo Alto would permit the bridge to be removed, then those alternatives become much more attractive. But flooding is the main issue here, and the two-lane approach may be the only solution that is possible in the near term. (Apologies to folks near the bridge who would prefer a narrow bridge or no bridge -- but there are thousands in Crescent park and neighboring areas that are facing the threat of flooding and the threat of greatly increased insurance rates, and who need a solution now).


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

Bridge removal -- coupled with other, quite necessary, and long-overdue improvements downstream -- is the fastest means to achieve a substantive reduction in flood risk.

If, after removal of the Newell St bridge, traffic flow on University and elsewhere increases significantly and all municipal entities -- the Cities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and the Joint Powers Authority -- are willing to share in all costs, then rebuild a bridge.

But, until we reach such point, with definitive factual evidence of the impact of bridge removal and a firm, binding cost-sharing commitments to fund the bridge reconstruction, it's wise to remove Newell Bridge and complete all long-overdue improvements down-stream now.

We've now waited nearly fifteen (15) years since the floods of 1998; we've done so at a significant cost, the purchase of flood insurance for many, many homes.

Bridge removal now does not preclude the later reinstallation of a bridge in the same location.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 11:34 am

To Raymond on Euclid Ave EPA who said:
> Reality: I live on Euclid Ave. EPA and work on E. Meadow, PA.

Well, I'm looking at Google maps and I really do not see then how do you NEED this bridge. Tell me your route and I can find another that does not use the bridge that will be the practical equivalent. [Portion removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 11:59 am

If there was not a flooding problem there would be no need for anything to change. The driving problem is FLOODING - the bridge backs up water and will cause costly flooding that could affect thousands.

Flooding means AT LEAST that the bridge must be taken out - that is the cheapest, quickest and best solution, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

ONCE the bridge is taken out, the question then becomes - IS THERE A NEED, AND WOULD WE SPEND THE MONEY TO BUILD A NEW BRIDGE THERE NOW.

The answer to that has to be no. There is no reason to build a bridge across Newell that would serve only a small number of people on a small number of trips.

Aside from a very few people who live right next to the bridge and want to get to a destination immediately on the other side - any other trip from these areas using Embarcadero or University would be about the same amount of time, gas or traffic. Look at a map .... pick two points in PA and EPA and do the math ... the current bridge serves very little purpose.

The current situation indicates that we should do the experiment ... remove the bridge and see what happens. Wait a year or two for things to settle down and I think we will all that no bridge is needed in that spot. People will get used to using Embarcadero and University and will not miss the bridge at all.

I have lived on both sides ... previously in college lived on Newell over by the 7-11 and today live in Crescent Park have always found the number of 3000 bridge crossings per day , which seems like a lot, is not that much ... and I'll explain why.

Look at the statistics.

3000 crossings per day equals 125 crossings per hour or about 2 CROSSINGS PER MINUTE, or 1 CROSSING EVERY 30 SECONDS.

Even if that was the case, 2 cars per minute folded into Embarcadero and University traffic is insignificant which indicated that the bridge does not serve a traffic relief function. Over time as density increases the traffic problem and the parking problem will only intensify in an area that was not designed for it. OVER TIME DO WE WANT MORE THAN 3000 CROSSINGS PER DAY AND PEOPLE COMMUTING INSIDE PALO ALTO RESIDENTIAL AREAS?

Any trip across that bridge is only marginally shorter or more efficient than going on University or Embarcadero.

If this bridge did not exist today, there would be no reason to build it and building a new bridge here is an expensive project that would serve only a very small number of people and disturb or endanger many more.

It is almost as if the deal is, build the bridge to prove that PA is not racist. There may or may not be racists in Palo Alto or East Palo Alto, but that is not a reason to build a bridge or a way to improve race relations.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Using West Bayshore instead of the Newell Bridge would get Raymond to work and might be feasible for Ms. Proctor as well. In the event of disaster, EPA residents shouldn't count on the existing bridge because it'll probably collapse & it's too narrow to be of much use anyway, but they won't be "blocked."

The bridge is useful for some & dangerous for others. It has been that way for the 45 years I've lived here. It lets some drivers avoid University, helpful during commute hours. It was also historically the fastest way out of Crescent Park for escaping home burglars because PA cops didn't cross the county line. That was a frequent comment from several Edgewood Drive homeowners.

The replacement bridge should be only wide enough to accommodate 2 passenger vehicle lanes, a raised sidewalk, and a bike lane. Is it legal to have a 2-way bike lane? Or a combined bike-pedestrian lane? As narrow as possible to allow 2 cars to pass. Obviously, no parking on the bridge and a size/weight limit for any commercial vehicles.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Commuter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Crescent Park Anon.: > that the people, mainly of EPA, exaggerate and expect the people of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and California to pay millions of dollars <

The people of EPA exaggerate and have expectations??? I fail to see how the majority of people in EPA bear the burden of exaggeration.

What about the hysteria and blame-gaming of some Palo Altans who find a reason to put down or blame EPA residents every time something impacts Palo Altans negatively? CaWell, let's tear down that bridge and shut those East Palo Altans out!

Palo Altans and commuters from other areas use Newell. Palo Altans and commuters use Pulgas and Clarke residential streets in East Palo Alto as cut throughs to Dumbarton Bridge. University Ave. is often jammed, as is the frontage road on the east side.

Palo Alto's access roads are obsolete when it comes to serving the many thousands of workers who double the city's population and add revenue to its coffers. Time for Palo Alto to step up to the plate with a real commuter road plan that stops depending on East Palo Alto to carry the bulk of the burden.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm

> I fail to see how the majority of people in EPA bear the burden of exaggeration.

Read carefully please, Commuter, I did not make any statement concerning the majority of people in EPA, who are fine upstanding citizens and good neighbors to Palo Alto,

What I said was that the majority - of those complaining about the bridge being torn down and demanding a new bridge be built to shorten their own commutes by a few minutes - were from EPA. I think there are very few people from EPA weighing in on this because they know it's pretty much a neutral or non-issue. Only a few squeaky wheels would be unreasonable to demand millions be spent on their personal commutes.
[Portion removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm

OK, for the EPA residents using the bridge to access Palo Alto for work or whatever, then simply use University or Embarcadero. Both alternatives are a short distance away. Give it a break already. The need to eliminate the bridge entirely far outweighs any other concerns, period.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

@commuter - while I agree that lots of commuters use EPA on their commute, most of them are not from Palo Alto. I'm not sure how Palo Alto should "step up to the plate with a real commuter road plan" on its own. People from the Easy Bay will come thru EPA and Palo Alto. We should really be arguing for a route from 280 thru Stanford Land, an ability to go straight thru on the Sand Hill/Alma exchange at El Camino, getting traffic off of Embaradero with its three schools and on Oregon with none and a feeder road to guard the houses and a direct route from 101 to El Camino thru Menlo Park.

East Palo Alto AND Palo Alto bear the brunt of the commute traffic from all the major highways for the commuters in the area.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Tear the bridge down and do not replace it. It serves EPA and provides little to Palo Alto. Palo Altans using the bridge to cross over into EPA are few and far between. Commuters from EPA and elsewhere have nearby alternate in University Avenue and Embarcadero. If left intact or expanded the bridge would continue to be a gateway for EPA to use Palo Alto streets for their overflow parking. A bridge removal would eliminate the need for the costly permit parking restrictions that have been instituted. Legitimate concerns are held by our residents over the facilitation and movement a bridge provides to the criminal element. EPA has a significant gang and crime problem that their city leaders, police department, and residents are seemingly incapable of controlling. Palo Alto should not have to cope with those problems and challenges, especially with the access and escape potential that the bridge offers. I am all in favor of removing the bridge.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rich and Happy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm

We can comment, disagree, and exchange thoughts without resorting to cheap shots folks. Sarcasm and personal attacks on people is just as inappropriate as profanity. Forums such as these should give us the opportunity to disagree but not disrespect.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Well, this is really over the top and getting nasty ... with people swearing and name calling, and the editor as usual is busy editing my posts that I make the best effort to stay away from any of that and stick to the point.

Thanks editor ... after showing up and explaining how you want to listen and change and getting people to express their complaints and issues with the editing here .... you are doing nothing you said you would and in fact pretty much the exact opposite. This kind of editorial nonsense makes people think the Palo Alto Online cares nothing for the Town Square Forum.



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm

From The Forum Subject A Bridge Apart here ... Web Link


Moderator's note: Feel free to call or email us with any questions or concerns about our moderation of Town Square. You can contact online editor Eric Van Susteren {evansusteren@paweekly.com) 223-6515, editor Jocelyn Dong (jdong@paweekly.com) 223-6514 or publisher Bill Johnson {bjohnson@paweekly.com) 223-6505 Any of them would be happy to talk with you.


Let me make a suggestion:
Palo Alto Online editorial changes should be personally signed off on by name, or if names are too personal some kind of handle that tracks back to a given person so that we the public can see, comment and report problems better and there is something concrete to discuss and point to.


Yes ... well, I have a question ... why when people are cursing and name-calling and saying really nasty things are you deleting my comments? Please, who did it and why ... and when is an editor with some integrity going to get involved and either train the staff or get new staff that can prioritize? Sorry, I'm a little perturbed at seeing such outrageous insults here, and then deletions in my posts. Please go back and look at these posts and my others and explain why deleting my comments takes priority over cursing ... or what I said that needed to be edited at all?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm



The health/flood/safety need for Palo Alto to eliminate the bridge entirely far outweighs any other concerns


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by EPAmom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I use the bridge several times a day. I do not live directly on either side of the bridge. I may be perceived as selfish; but, yes, I appreciate the 15-20 minutes this bridge cuts from my commute time to get my children to their private PA school each morning. Regardless of what a map says about the distance, taking University, Embarcadero or Oregon does increase our drive time by 15-30+ minutes.

I don't use food stamps. I'm not ignorant (although I've never been to Europe...). I don't come into PA to park on the streets or commit crime or speed through the streets. My husband and I are highly educated. Yet, I decided to stay home to raise our children and my husband's Stanford salary doesn't afford us the luxury of living in Palo Alto. It's unfortunate that our address would cause many of the PA posters here to view us as selfish, second-class citizens. Mean people really do suck.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm

This has gone downhill.

The first priority has to be that flooding has to be dealt with. Secondly, traffic management means that we should not lose any type of efficient traffic flow. Lastly, EPA residents are welcome to drive through Palo Alto just like we are welcome to drive through EPA. Both are equally entitled to do business or any other lawful activity. Anything else about this situation has to follow those criteria.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

EPAmom- one of EPA's "secrets" is how many educated people actually live here. The west side, also, has always been known as a place for Stanford students, beginning families and a place where people who have pets can actually rent. None of these facts make interesting headlines, just like my more polite posts containing facts get ignored.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Seems to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

In an emergency, you want as many routes in and out as possible. Rebuild the bridge for no other reason than to not further isolating that portion of EPA. It gets a lot of use. If you feel need to get rid of something that no one uses, get rid of the CT library.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park, wrote, "Let me make a suggestion: Palo Alto Online editorial changes should be personally signed off on by name, or if names are too personal some kind of handle that tracks back to a given person so that we the public can see, comment and report problems better and there is something concrete to discuss and point to."

At the beginning of Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22, Yossarian and the other officers in the hospital were required to censor letters written by the enlisted patients.

"Catch-22 required that each censored letter bear the censoring officer's name."

I thought it might help if all the deletions from Town Square inlcude the name or unique initials of the censorer.

However, when reading Catch-22 again I was reminded that Yossarian wrote his own name only on those letters he censored that he hadn't read at all, but used a pseudonym on those letters he did read.

As long as the moderators of Town Square actually use their own names or initials for all deletions they make, I believe it would be helpful for those who are concerned about the moderators behavior.




 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tired of the BS
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

A couple things

I see PA PD officers on the east side of the bridge all of the time, it is not like they stop being police officers at the county line. The idea that criminals run across the bridge because they will not be followed is a myth.

I spoke to an EPA PD officer who was pulling cars over near the Newell Bridge a few months ago. She told me that she stops cars for blowing through the stop sign going south on Woodland and east across the bridge all the time and none of them have ever had an East Palo Alto address.

Obviously more people use the bridge than just the few who live closest to it.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Eileen Altman
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm

The old bridge has to go to reduce the risk of flooding. A new bridge that accommodates two lanes of traffic needs to be built in its place. The bridge is a vital artery for those of us who use it, is an important emergency route, and is not likely to get significantly more use due to EPA's old fashioned traffic calming strategy -- potholed roads.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I have yet to read any overwhelming reason why bridge capacity needs to be expanded. The need to improve ped and bike safety I get. But there is absolutely no reason to increase vehicle capacity so that the number of vehicles traveling in both bridge neighborhoods goes up higher than current levels.

As for those who want no replacement, I'm not buying your (lack) of arguments. Beyond the naturally controlled number of vehicles, the bridge provides ped/bike access...quite honestly for EPA residents to access Pardee & Rinconada parks, the library and the Rinconada Pool.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 19, 2013 at 4:24 pm

@Crescent Park Dad - I think the reason the bridge "needs" to be expanded is that the grant money will only pay for a 2 lane bridge. If something else is built, PA and EPA would need to come up with the $$


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Agreed on the funding model. But I haven't heard of any suggestions, outside of alignment, how the bridge volume/capacity can be governed so that neither neighborhood will get hit with a traffic increase.

I suppose you can a build the bridge and then narrow the openings own each side of the creek. There are many ways to solve this.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2013 at 12:58 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Newell Road Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2013 at 1:21 am

As a Newell Road resident since the 1970's, it seems that the majority of the trips across the Newell bridge are made by Palo Alto residents living North of Embarcadero and East of Middlefield, with those living closer to the bridge making more bridge trips than those further away.

This bridge provides this neighborhood easy and efficient access to the Bayshore Freeway and the former Whiskey Gulch, almost sans stop lights. This has always been a truth. Also, children love it when their parents take the bumpy Woodland Avenue ride along side the creek after creeping over the bridge.

This bridge also provides a much used shortcut in the opposite direction as well, from southbound 101 via University Avenue to Crescent Park. This shortcut mitigates the traffic impact on East Crescent and Center Drives, neither of which is engineered to take more cut-through traffic if the Newell bridge was removed.

In addition, riding a bicycle over this bridge has always been scary, not due to the narrowness, but due to the poor visibility from either side. Drivers simply are not looking and cannot look for anything other than oncoming cars as they approach and cross over the creek on this bridge. I simply do not recommend walking this bridge, as night time lighting is insufficient, and there is no room nor time for a pedestrian to get out of the way of any vehicle, be it a motorcycle or a garbage truck.

A well lit bridge, with zero glare to adjacent homes and residences, would add not only safety but security to the both neighborhoods on either side of the creek. A well lit Woodland Avenue and it's intersection with the bridge are much needed. The safer both communities are, the happier and more secure everyone will feel.

If not moving neighbors over the bridge, what about the slew of water and fallen trees ferried under it during storms? Sadly, as noted, the creek crested and flooded homes in 1998 and is bound to do so again. This creek reaches flood stage fairly easily and frequently at this location, roughly once a decade if not more. If one has been unfortunate enough to watch this creek at this bridge quickly rise and crest at 2:30 in the morning, I hope one agrees it isn't fun for anyone. A properly engineered bridge should be designed to remove the risk of flooding from Newell to 101 for both PA and EPA. Both communities deserve to have the flood risk lessened.

A final thought, after addressing safety and flooding, concerns traffic with the possibility of drawing more trips into Palo Alto. I gather that not one of our East Palo Alto neighbors in this small pocket seems to protest how much traffic originates from Palo Alto into their neighborhood. On the other hand, we, as Palo Altans, are known for voicing our concerns early and strongly. That being said, neither neighborhood on either side of the Newell bridge is aggressively growing nor zoned for aggressive residential or commercial expansion (Please correct me if I am in error). Both neighborhoods are well established and neither has a comprehensive nor convenient shopping center for the other that would draw significantly more trips if a two-lane bridge plan is pursued.

To state the obvious, it seems to me that most East Palo Altans in this small pocket leave the neighborhood through University Avenue, whether for commuting on the Bayshore Freeway, or to run errands, unless heading to the Embarcadero coridor. There really are not many services or destinations in this residential part of Palo Alto that East Palo Altans prefer to utilize. Lucky's used to top the list in the 1970's. Now Riconada likely tops the list. If anything, any increase in traffic from a wider bridge will be due to increased trips by us from our neighborhoods than those from the adjacent EPA neighborhood.

In sum, the City needs to survey residents on both sides of the bridge, allowing us as neighbors to rank the importance of freeway access, traffic concerns, pedestrian and bicycle safety, neighborhood security, creek flooding and neighborhood access. The City should then utilize that dialogue to formulate a plan that appeals to us and our neighbors, making this area safer as well as bridging the communities on either side of the creek.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2013 at 2:13 am

NewellRoadResident - Thoughtful post ... I don't agree with you but you state your case well. Living in Crescent Park I often take the Bayshore Rd turnoff and cut in at Newell to enter Crescent Park. Don't often go the other way, but I can see how a very few might - "a few". That minor convenience weighed against the negatives combined with the cost just tips me the other about this issue. I think it is a very small number of people who do this, and they do not save much, nor get anywhere they cannot get another way. If there was not a bridge there now, I think in a million years that reasoning would not get one built.

Crescent Park Dad - the bridge provides ped/bike access...quite honestly for EPA residents to access Pardee & Rinconada parks, the library and the Rinconada Pool.

I just don't buy this. To get to Rinconada you can just go down Bayshore Road and up Embarcadero. It takes longer, and perhaps parts of it need to be modified a bit to be safer but it's really not that much longer of a ride or drive. Walking it would be significant.

I hesitate to bring it up, but having grown up around here, I seen it and I've heard it that the only ones that go to Rinconada Park anymore are people from EPA. I think that is mostly on weekends. It's hard to tell, but a couple weeks ago I was walking through the park and a large Latino family was setting up in the park and the Dad driving his banged up car full of stuff through the park, up along the tennis courts to unload at the picnic tables. They don't have badges and I did not ask them if they were Palo Alto residents ... but I assumed not which is the only reason I used the description I did.

I don't know a good way to bring this up or discuss it, but what are the rules about this? Rinconada is Palo Alto and Santa Clara county. East Palo Alto is San Mateo county. I've never much cared who owned the park for for decades what I have heard from Palo Alto residents in my neighborhood, Crescent Park, from my school mates who used to use the park is that it bothers them that on weekends the park is taken over by what they think are non-Palo Alto residents. Much the same is true in Eleanor Pardee Park.

Maybe it is a nice friendly gesture to let our county neighbors come over on the weekends and use the park ... I don't really use it much anymore aside from walking though it, but do we have to build a bridge ... what's next, shuttles. Is a shorter route for people from another city to Palo Alto's park a real reason to build a bridge?

Do we build the bridge in order not to be thought of as racist or elitist ... but funny enough, some will always vehemently accuse no matter what.

I have to say also that looking at the judgement of the Palo Alto planners why do I think they will build some inherent flaw into any other bridge they build and that it will have its own problems and still not be large enough to prevent future flooding and then have to be built a again. I think we need to practice defensive infrastructure planning with the incompetent City crowd we have planning these things. God ... it's almost 15 years now since that flood and the damn city has not done thing one about it, and some are correctly pointing to too much undergrowth in the creek. I noticed the other day how a big eucalyptus tree has recently fallen across the creek. Get on the job City Of Palo Alto!. Last year the roads around the Chaucer bridge flooded minimally. I don't know what damage there was ... but something has got to get done ASAP.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Seems to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 8:18 am

If you look at a map, that part of EPA has only 3 ways in and out. Eliminate the Newell bridge and there will be only 2. That just does not seem like a good plan to eliminate one egress because some PA residents don't want to share access to PA streets. The EPA residents are sandwiched between the creek and 101, so the geography prevents a lot of opportunity for alternatives. To me, what must be done is clear, the bridge must be rebuilt.

Btw, anyone that says "they can just use university to exit" has not tried that during commute time. I tried using the newell bridge as a cut through to university to eventually get over the dumbarton bridge, big mistake. It's gridlock out of that tiny section of EPA in the morning because of the limited exits.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm

> Btw, anyone that says "they can just use university to exit" has not tried that during commute time. I tried using the newell bridge as a cut through to university to eventually get over the dumbarton bridge, big mistake.

"Seems to me", you are conflating at least 3 different things and reducing it to ways in and out ignoring that University and Embarcadero are two major arteries of the area. That's a big plus.

A bridge on Newell does not help you to get to the Dumbarton either. The traffic problems on University and Willow are a different issue and we all have to face those no matter where we live.

To get to 101 or the Dumbarton this area is in fact much better off than I am in Crescent Park because they do not have to go down University at rush hour that can take 15 minutes or so from Lincoln. They just pop out on University right where the on-ramp is ... I know because I used to live over there.

During commute time it is hard to get anywhere, which has nada to do with a bridge across Newell.

What can be done is to go towards Embarcardero and then down Channing to get downtown, or over to Louis to get to the Charleston area, or go towards University and cross it to the Whiskey Gulch area to Menlo Park.

Yes, if the bridge is gone it leaves two ways in and out ... how many do you suggest we need - 3, 4, 5 ?? Why not build an overpass from the other end of Newell by the 7-11 over 101 to connect it up with the other parts of East Palo Alto and San Mateo county to which it belongs? That sounds great ... but expensive.

How much money do we spend for building and maintaining - or my fear that the incompetent engineers we have will not get the flooding problem right and then we will have to go through this all over again at some point because the new bridge is too small. No thanks - our engineers here seem to design for their full employment, not the needs of the project.

>> eliminate one egress because some PA residents don't want to share access to PA streets.

Now come on, Palo Alto streets can be used by anyone, what you are talking about when you incorrectly say "share" is used as a parking lot.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Seems to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm

My basic point is that there are only 3 ways out of that area, eliminating one is a bad plan.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

{Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted post.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

[Post removed.]




 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted post.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by member
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm

The problem of flooding starts upstream - follow the river all the way up to the dam and remove it, then clean some of the dead trees and rubbish. The creek needs to be cleaned up at the top so it is not driving rubbish downstream and building up. Stanford needs to help here to clean up the top part on their property and allow water to flow uninterrupted into the bay.
This is a total ecosystem that needs repair. PA and EPA need to deepen the bottom part and clean it up so the water flows correctly into the bay. Anyone that looks at the top part and lower part beyond 101 can see the amount of rubbish and dead tree building up.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm

The health/flood/safety/crime needs for Palo Alto to eliminate the bridge entirely far outweighs any other EPA concerns--flood is urgent for Palo Alto.

EPA is in San Mateo county

- Palo Alto is in SC county


---eliminate the bridge


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Duvmom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Why not remove the bridge? It will solve the immediate loosing need. Then, if there really is a need for a bridge we can build it. CalTrans will be waiting with their pocketbook open to fund the super bridge. If it turns out we don't need the bridge then it is a in/win. I never use that bridge. Why would I when there are so many other options?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I've said this before, I'll say it again--solutions that consist of adding traffic to University and Embarcadero are not acceptable. Both streets are already a bad combination of residential and freeway artery. Embarcadero, in addition, has three schools on it.

Having been someone who used the Newell Bridge to get to the Dumbarton, I'll say that all of the proposed work-arounds would have added several minutes to a long commute (West Bayshore? Really?). I'll also add that I doubt a two-lane bridge at Newell will tremendously increase traffic--the poor condition of bumpy, curvy Woodland sees to that.

Newell Bridge serves those who live nearby in PA a quick way to 101, the Dumbarton and the box stores in EPA; it serves as a low-traffic way for residents of west EPA into Palo Alto. It's good for Stanford students (it's true, a lot live there--What, you think they can afford anything *in* Palo Alto?) It's one of of the easier ways into parts of the downtown (Channing) and the Edgewood Shopping Center.

If you really want to fuss, design it to be one lane and two bicycle lanes. But removing a bridge that's been useful for 100 years and not replacing it is beyond questionable.

(as for criminals, well, they tend to visit at non-peak hours, removing the bridge isn't going to be a big deterrence--they'll just use the alternative routes you've mentioned. They don't come to Palo Alto only because it's convenient, they come cuz it's rich.)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Seems to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Removing the bridge until you understand whether it is needed is not a good plan. Anyway that leaves near the bridge and plays attention can see it is used. Its a good way in and out of that triangle of land into Palo Alto. Its a good cut through to the dumbarton during non-commute hours. I really don't want to have to cut through all the narrow undersized, heavily stop signed Crescent Park streets to University or suffer the uncontrolled left turn into Crescent Park from University. The narrowness of the bridge does not bother me as drivers are very polite crossing that bridge and take turns. We should do this right since we will probably only get one chance.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Seems to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm

leaves -> lives


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:36 am

I would argue that if the bridge was removed (which I don't think is the right solution), that net impact on Embarcadero is near zero. What changes is where people access Embarcadero...but I would expect that most people using the bridge into PA, are using Newell to access Embarcadero.

Stating again - replace the bridge, flood-safe, bike-safe, led-safe --- set up either tight entry points or some other "hurdle" to restrict flow and speed in the same manner that the one-lane bridge does today. Do not align w/ Newell on the east side...keep it more of a slow, curvy course.


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Posted by Chuck Karish
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Why is there so much talk about traffic calming devices on a street that has a stop sign on every corner? I'd like to see the full-sized bridge with the two Newells aligned. The current bridge approach isn't "curvy". It's a nasty blind corner.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

> replace the bridge, flood-safe, bike-safe, led-safe --- set up either tight entry points or some other "hurdle" to restrict flow and speed in the same manner that the one-lane bridge does today.

Now you know this is not going to happen ... if they replace the bridge they are not going to deliberately make it difficult to use or put a hurdle in it - get real.

When you look at what happens over the long term if they remove the bridge or they replace the bridge, removing it is the better alternative all around and does not depend on a planning group that never gets anything right to get it right so it does not have to be replace yet again for some reason.

I know this is tough for the tiny group of people who keep posting how their lives depend on this bridge, but they will get over it and life will go on.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm

> I'd like to see the full-sized bridge with the two Newells aligned.

Have you looked at a map of this area ... the two Newells do not align, and that is not because of the bridge, it's because THEY DON'T ALIGN! It's not even really an intersection ... it's a dog's breakfast to use an off-color-ful British phrase.

The PA Newell and EPA Newell are like 50 feet and 30 degrees misaligned ... this will never be a well-designed area or bridge.

You want to build the bridge across someone's backyard?


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Posted by Seems to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I bet "tiny group of people" who use the bridge outnumber the even smaller group that want it eliminated. Just replace it with something that does not restrict the water flow and most people will be ok.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2013 at 10:50 pm

To those of you who want to take the Caltrans money and build whatever is required to get the flood problem solved, I say the following:

1. if a 2 lane aligned bridge was what was wanted by either the city of EPA or Palo Alto, city council or city planners or any of the citizens, surely someone would have proposed it at least once over the many years since the flood in 1998.

2. I know many of you who want to take the state money are business people and I find it hard to believe that you would accept money from an outside investor or a VC if it came with strings that didn't reflect your ultimate goals. In particular, you may wish to solve one problem, and an investor comes along and says, "sure, I'll pay some of the money to solve that problem, but you must do the following things that may be in conflict with your company just to get the money". I don't think you'd agree to those terms.
3. The only reason the city has access to this money in the first place is that they didn't plan to pay for flood improvements over the past 15 years when citizens like yourselves were asking for help. Now that they have found a way to once again not take responsibility, you want to support the solution. Guess what? When they don't take responsibility for the design of the bridge, they likely won't take responsibility for the increased traffic or safety issues that come along with it.

4. None of us can predict what the city of EPA will do long term with the area that now contains almost 1/3 of their housing. While dense housing for the city may not go away, how do Palo Alto residents know for sure that the city of EPA won't approve a 50% or 100% increase in the number of housing units in some redevelopment of that valuable that? Remember, a majority of the units in this section of EPA is owned by one property owner. That property owner hasn't taken responsibility for many other things such as parking. Those additional homeowners will need outlets to get to the freeway and all those cars will want to "save a few minutes" and cut through Palo Alto on Newell and other streets.

The most responsible solution is to force the parties to sit down and find a solution that meets everyone's needs. Supporting increased traffic now or the potential of increased traffic in the future is not a need that many people want to support. The city may have to reallocate funds from some other project and fund a more responsible bridge if Caltrans money comes from too many constraints.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:35 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Let's discuss how the neighbor on the north side of Edgewood/Newell rebuilt their fence, cutting into city property. How did they get away w/that? Doesn't that screw up potential bridge plans?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ho-Hmmm
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

@Hmmm - I suspect there is an easement next to the bridge but since the bridge has been there for so many years, I'd use the land if I lived there too, just like people fence in yards that include include utility easements. If the bridge gets expanded, it's easy to move a fence.


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Posted by Andrew Kloak
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I worked for the San Francisquito Creek JPA for five years from 2000-2005. During that time, I was amazed at the slow progress on all the flood prevention and protection efforts. Granted when I was there there was nepotism. Then JPA Executive Director hired her nephew to a top post. I was the odd man odd and left the group in mid-2005.

What a waste of taxpapers money. We were always beholden to the Water District for money and resources. It never seemed to work. And still doesn't seem to work. As an observer of all this since, not much has really progressed.


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