Palo Alto makes bid for bike-bridge funds Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Aug 29, 2012 at 8:21 am
Palo Alto's vision of a curvy, elegant bike bridge spanning U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek remains up in the air, with coveted grant funding far from guaranteed. But questions over funding haven't stopped the city from proceeding with design work on the popular project, which the city hopes will serve as the backbone of a newly expanded trail network in the Baylands. Related stories:
[Web Link Palo Alto could get $5 million for new bike bridge]
Posted by closed for 3 years, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 8:21 am
This article is wrong. The existing Adobe Creek trail is not open 6 months every year. The trail has been closed for most of the last 2 years. It has been closed all of this summer. As far as I know, no reopening date has been announced. I am not optimistic about the trial opening anytime in the next 12 months.
The city needs to quit arguing about the details of the design of this bridge. Build whatever can be built the quickest.
This is a very important route for Palo Alto pedestrians and bicyclists. Families in southern Palo Alto love using this route to walk out to the Baylands for family outings or to bicycle out to Shoreline Park. Hundreds of commuters used to use it to get to work in the north Shoreline area. Most of these people have switched to cars while the trail is closed, further clogging Charleston Road and San Antonio Road that are already clogged by construction work.
Some people now use San Antonio Road instead (the most direct detour), but that is a very narrow road that has become much more dangerous in recent years since the JCC closed the old bike route through the parking lot on that location. Why can't Palo Alto at least paint bike lanes on San Antonio like Mountain View has on Rengstorff Road?
The new Permanente Creek Trail in Mountain View is beautiful, but that is a several mile detour (round trip) for many people. Also getting to the trail is complicated because of poorly marked bike routes and all the construction on Charleston and San Antonio.
Again, the city needs to quit arguing about the details of the design of this bridge. Build whatever can be built the quickest.
Posted by Really?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 8:45 am
"The existing underpass at the creek is only open for six months a year, which forces residents to rely on busier and more dangerous east-west connectors such as Oregon Expressway and San Antonio Avenue."
I agree that San Antonio is dangerous but Oregon Expressway? There is a bike bridge there.
Posted by cyclist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 9:09 am
We need an answer as to why the underpass has been closed for so long. Is it a coincidence that the underpass closed full time as soon as the bike bridge plans started to be discussed? It seems like there are a lot of politicians creating problems that need to be 'fixed' in very expensive ways.
Posted by Marrol, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 9:55 am
This story states that our city council unanimously and enthusiastically backed the proposed bike bridge. They need to be equally enthusiastic about balancing the city budget, and figuring out a way to fund our vital needs in infrastructure and public safety without yet another bond measure and tax increase.
It seems as though a majority of the funding for this project is coming by way of grant money. At least that's the hope. Serious consideration needs to be given however as to how much Palo Alto tax payers are going to be left on the hook for, and whether or not it is wise or affordable given our current financial condition. This project very much leans toward something desired as opposed to something essential. This argument is even more compelling considering our ongoing annual budget deficit, as well as the estimated 40-60 million dollar price tag on the absolutely essential needs that exist in public safety and infrastructure.
If this project does move forward with grant money, considering there will undoubtedly be the need for public money to be expended, the final design of the bridge in my opinion should be as affordable, simple, and basic as possible. We don't need or can afford the Mercedes Benz version with all the bells and whistles.
I understand that civic work and planning at all levels must go on despite these dire economic times. Again, I just wish I could see our city leaders and elected officials be as equally enthusiastic about balancing the budget and funding our vital civic needs. They must set some financial priorities and follow through with some responsibility and common sense.
Posted by Mike Sense, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 9:56 am
Talk to Cal Trans about the closure of the tunnel. I believe its because of the huge amount of freeway construction going on right above it. Its prudent to close the tunnel until the Fwy project is complete. Its also probably mandated by some insurance policy tied to the construction. I think most understand this.
Posted by Janet, a resident of Mountain View, on Aug 29, 2012 at 9:56 am
Cyclist and Jake: Nice conspiracy theory, but "closed" is right. The underpass has been closed so that they can build more freeway lanes to bring more noisy, polluting cars through Palo Alto and Mountain View on Hwy 101.
How's that for fairness? People who choose a less ecologically harmful transportation mode are forced to take long detours or to share dangerous overpasses with cars. Why? So cars are not inconvenienced by heavy traffic.
And "Really?" the Oregon Avenue overpass is an option for those whose trips take them that far north, but there are plenty of people in South Palo Alto and North Mountain View who don't want to bike an extra 15 minutes/3 miles round trip to take another ped/bike bridge. We would never expect drivers to make that kind of detour.
Posted by KP, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 10:58 am
A simple, inexpensive bridge would be nice, but the tunnel was already done and worked just fine. We used to use it all the time - you could even get a close look at the baby ducks! Our kids loved riding our bikes through there.
The freeway construction is unnecessary (if what they are doing is STILL the extra car pool lane!) and should never have been done to close the tunnel.
Caltrans and PA need to quit wasting money on unnecessary work.
Posted by Richard Placone, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:09 am
Just a thought I raise from time to time: From all I've read about this bike bridge, including the several articles here and the comments, it would appear that many people who work at the various high-tech plants either currently bike to work, or would do so if a better and safer access were provided, as this bridge. I also read recently that with profits so high, huge amounts of cash have been accumulated in companies like Google, Apple, Oracle and more. If they all got together and donated a million each, in a way that gives them a tax benefit, the money for the bridge would be there. Just think of the good will that would be generated by these companies actually contributing to the community from which they draw employees and other services. Mt. View seems to have the right idea in diverting property taxes from its industrial base to pay for its bike bridge and Shoreline Park improvements. Perhaps some of our "gushing" council members could approach these companies with this suggestion. But then of course some people will say I'm a naive dreamer!
Posted by Mark, a member of the Palo Verde School community, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:14 am
Please just open the bridge under the freeway for now?
What is wrong with simply installing a six (6) foot block sea wall along the bay side of the path and it curves under the freeway, with a sum pump in it incase way for some slim chance gets around it and on the path? That a $75,000 fix instead of multi millions on a new bridge. It a quick and it can't be seen from the freeway.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:17 am
I ride my bike frequently through town. Not as far south as the people above in this thread. Nor do I care to head out to the Baylands. Please understand I'm not trying to pick on any individual or suggest that their perception of need is incorrect.
Nevertheless, I have grown tired of the "what's fair" argument and the cars vs. bikes funding argument, the Stanford has the money - make them spend it on us argument. If the money is available and it doesn't hurt our city's first priorities, great. But I don't think that is the case knowing our city's budget concerns.
The bike bridge might be nice to have, but it doesn't need to be a 24K-gold bridge.
The 101 construction is for entrance/exit lanes, it is not expanding capacity per se. And it is funded by county sales tax dollars that were voter approved. So please know the facts of how it is funded, that it was voted in by a 2/3 county majority --- get over it, your fellow citizens voted for it, move on. Sorry that the tunnel is closed, but the alternative of having the tunnel collapse (by accident) is not worth the risk.
As for Stanford trails $$$ --- Stanford earmarked that money for trails on Stanford land (by agreement BTW), not somewhere down by the bay. Again - people wanting to take/use someone else's money. Why is it that people feel that Stanford should pay for everything around here?
If the bridge can be funded/granted without impacting the CPA budget, great. But frankly there are much higher priorities for the city that affects the greater good of all citizens. Especially the infrastructure issues we are facing.
Posted by I'll use that bridge, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:20 am
I feel compelled to respond to the writer's statement that project is getting "resistance from Stanford's campus residents". This is not accurate. It met resistance from SOME Stanford residents. Some other Stanford residents support the project.
This is such an important bike/ped connector across the huge 101 which is EXCLUSIVELY dedicated to cars. It connects walkers and bikers to baylands and commuter points to the south. It is very important. Please get it done quickly. Using San Antonio overpass is really not comfortable for any but the most experienced bicyclists, and it is not safe at all for young children on bikes.
The Lefkowitz Tunnel has always been problematic with frequent flooding, closure half of the year--and recently, closure most of the last two years to accomodate construction on the 101 to add capacity for cars.
Please get the bike bridge done!!!!!! As we watch hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the 101--exclusively for cars, it would be great to get a (relatively speaking) micro-portion of that money spent on this important project so that walkers and bikers can get across that river of cars safely and conveniently all year round.
Posted by It's all money we dont have, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:26 am
This whole project is crazy. No matter what other agency we get money from it's all barrowed money no one has. It's stealing from our kids and grandkids. The county, the state, and the feds dont have any money they are all in debt up to their ey balls. Stop spending other peoples money.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:44 am
Let's do the math:
* 74,000 bike trips per year.
* works out to 200 - 300 trips per day.
* assuming round trips, then it's 100 - 150 bike riders/day
* so the number of unique riders will be somewhat less 500? 1000?
And the city wants to spend $5,000 - $10,000 per rider.
And how does this compare to all the other projects listed by the Infrastructure Commisssion? like replacing the public safety facilities which don't meet the standards for earthquake safety & storing evidence?
Or how about the roads, the Muni center, the refurishing of fire stations?
This is an example where the city council refuses to take care of the assets that the city already has, and spends money on boutique projects that service a small minority.
Posted by Not Really, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 11:45 am
"Really", the Oregon bridge is a non-ADA compliant crossing not designed for bikers and wheelchair users. It's blind curves, lack of width, steep slope, and retrofit baffles to counter that slope make it difficult for wheelchair users and family bikers towing kid trailers to pass it.
Not to mention that it leaves users off on the wrong side of a busy East Bayshore Road with no light or crosswalk to get across to the actual Baylands.
In recent years, bike bridges have gone up in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Belmont. Not sure how those were funded, but it is nice to see Palo Alto finally getting its act together.
Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park, on Aug 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm
re @crescent park dad - the money was *not* earmarked for trails on Stanford Land. It was intended to compensate the community for the lost of spur trails that extended from the Dish Trail. The intended beneficiaries are people in the area - on and off campus - who would have used those trails and seek other recreational opportunities.
I live in a neighborhood near Stanford, and use the Dish Trail and many other trails in the area in the hills and by the bay. Access to the beautiful Baylands is much more appealing than jogging around Stanford Campus.
Posted by a 100% car-free year-round commuter cyclist, a resident of Mountain View, on Aug 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm
1. I agree with many of the other posters: build something safe and effective and that's it. If the tunnel can be retrofitted cheaply, then do that. No need for a work of art. This is crossing a highway, not a garden! Throughout this area, there are plenty of examples of bicycle routes that are hardly beautiful but get the job done. And there are also those that are beautiful by accident and not by design. I think we're doing it wrong if the opening of a new piece of infrastructure involves a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
2. As a separate matter, I think any road project should always have to provide funding for pedestrian and bicycle routes that need to be built or improved as a result of the road, whether temporary or permanent. How is it at all sensible for a bicycle route to be closed for a long period of time due to road construction? The same standard should be applied to pedestrian and bicycle routes as to auto routes: an occasional weekend closure is permissible (and newsworthy), but not more than that.
Posted by Stanford, a resident of Stanford, on Aug 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm
I agree with the previous comment. It is unfair and possibly illegal for Caltrans to close a major bicycle route for years because of highway construction. Caltrans should pay for this bridge. The entire cost of the bridge is just a tiny fraction of what Caltrans is spending on the new freeway ramps that they are building right now.
Posted by OY!, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm
Santa Clara County (thats you and me) has a $240,000,000 budget deficit. So where is the $6 million dollars Palo Alto is requesting from the county supposed to come from? The Weekly fails to state that reserve money Stanford gave the county is in a "reserve" fund but fails to mention county supervisors used that "reserve" to reduce the budget numbers. Palo Alto insists they have a $4 million dollar deficit (not counting the $300 million they have in various "reserve" funds)but the city somehow came up with hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple bridge designs. Again, the Weekly fails to mention the costs associated with the bridge designs. The skyrocketing and ballooning ignorance of local politicians who insist on spending taxpayer money for their pet projects and continuing the cycle of deficit spending is truly amazing.
Posted by edward, a resident of Stanford, on Aug 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm
1. I agree with many of the other posters: build something safe and effective and that's it. If the tunnel can be retrofitted cheaply, then do that. No need for a work of art. This is crossing a highway, not a garden!
Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park, on Aug 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm
Agree with @stanford and @carfree. The reason we need to go back and retrofit these crossings is that the freeway system was initially not designed with all road users in mind so highways became a major barrier to biking and walking in the region.
Today, Caltrans has a "Complete Streets" policy following California state law. New construction and upgrades need to consider multiple uses. Doing it right the first time is cheaper than retrofitting.
Unfortunately, we are currently paying for the legacy of older inadequate designs.
Posted by dave, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm
I agree whole hearted;u with Merrol and common sense.
$$$ a resident... 74,000 people from Palo Alto with a resident population of about 62,000? And the 62,000 includes many children and seniors who don't ride or would not likely walk across such a bridge - very many miles to and from for most. Perhaps Mr. Sheyner will review that statement and amend if necessary.
Balance the budget. Follow the Infrastructure Commission's recommendations before spending money we don't have on this "want" which is not a "need".
Posted by Stan, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm
City Council: Please do not squander millions of dollars on a stylish bike bridge. If a new bike bridge must be built, then make it safe, usable, accessible, etc. Do NOT spend millions of tax dollars, where ever it comes from, to make a ridiculous statement, or gateway, or some other ill conceived 'vision' in the name of Palo Alto. Just a bridge, nothing more, thank you.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:03 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
While using the existing tunnel seems like a good idea, it didn't work, unfortunately. Because this solution would be quick and easy, the PA Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC) thoroughly pursued this idea, asking after various ways to make it work, including a higher flood wall, or a tunnel in or adjacent to the creek passage, or a type of barrier that would fold down and be easy to clean of mud, etc.
The problems are that, according to the Water District which owns and controls the passage, the full capacity of the existing passage is needed to prevent flooding upstream in high rain etc. Solutions which involved occasional flooding of the path mean that the path is not really open year round, plus the path gates need to be closed before it might flood so that users don't get drowned, and it costs money to monitor those creek levels, and to open and close the gates, and to clean the mud from the path.
I don't recall the exact annual cost to the city of the current operation (where the passage is simply closed through the rainy season) but I think it is about $100K, and maybe five times that to repeatedly reopen and clean the path after each flooding. Considering that a bridge can be expected to last 50 years, it pays for itself through avoided expensive maintenance.
The new tunnel option was potentially but not certainly cheaper than a bridge, and had its own challenges, including that CalTrans does not want new tunnels bored under its freeways.
Council was presented with the option of a cheaper narrower bridge, or one that could more comfortably and safely accommodate all users and future growth. I think they made the right decision.
The wiggly nature of the bridge ramps is not to be fancy. It is rather to accommodate the constraints of the site, including high voltage power lines, the creek channel itself, private property, and a reasonable slope to the ramps.
Posted by Tool of the RNC, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2012 at 10:43 am
"The voluminous plan aims to make the city one of the nation's top-tier biking destinations, "
So the main thrust behind this plan is not to make biking easier for Palo Alto residents--it is to feed the ego of certain individuals in Palo Alto.
Clearly our city leaders want to be able to stand before this overpriced structure and pat themselves on the back for another job well done. Do they really think that people will rush to bike in Palo Alto because of this bridge? How about paying attention to the city's pressing needs??
"Council was presented with the option of a cheaper narrower bridge, or one that could more comfortably and safely accommodate all users and future growth. I think they made the right decision."
I, for one, am not surprised that Cedric really likes the more expensive, overpriced option. I have yet to see any sort of fiscal responsibility from him or the people who share his environmental pipe dream.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2012 at 6:55 pm
I value Cedric's inputs as reasonably factual and well researched. I'll note that I really like living in Palo Alto, which compared to most other cities is definitely "the more expensive, overpriced option."
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2012 at 12:25 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Educate yourself and at least read the introduction to the Bike/Ped Plan before applying your biases to extrapolate from one inaccurate line in an article. The plan's aim is not to make the city a biking "destination", but "to increase walking and biking rates to ambitious (yet achievable) levels..." The plan includes great maps of existing conditions and proposed changes to the bike/ped networks, to close gaps, improve access, etc. Most of the elements are not big ticket items like barrier crossings, but rather bike lanes or boulevards, improved signage, spot intersection improvements, maintenance, etc.
The plan can be downloaded from www.CityOfPaloAlto.org/bike (note: this is the final draft of May 2012, not the final document, and it took me a few tries to download: it timed out, but then it finally came through). From the Plan's Introduction, under 1.1 Purpose:
"The 2011 City of Palo Alto Bicycle + Pedestrian Transportation Plan (BPTP 2011) strategically guides public and private investments in non-motorized transportation facilities and related programs. The Plan complies with state eligibility requirements for Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA) funds, as well as updates citywide priorities within the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Bicycle Expenditure Plan (BEP).
"The BPTP 2011 expands the 2003 Bicycle Transportation Plan to include coverage of pedestrian issues, priorities, and design standards in addition to revising the proposed bikeway network and design guidelines. It will also be adopted as part of the Cityï¿½s revised Comprehensive Plan Transportation Element, which is undergoing an update process in 2012. From planning citywide networks to reviewing private development proposals, the BPTP 2011 contains the policy vision, design guidance, and specific recommendations to increase walking and biking rates to ambitious (yet achievable levels) over the next decade and beyond ï¿½ rates that will be instrumental in helping achieve local and regional targets for accommodating new growth, maintaining mobility, and reducing overall environmental impacts."
Posted by Tool of the RNC, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2012 at 5:54 am
"Tool, don't be such a tool. Educate yourself and at least read the introduction to the Bike/Ped Plan before applying your biases to extrapolate from one inaccurate line in an article. "\
The line is accurate--this is about ego and the city--some of our city leaders have clearly stated that they want PA to be a biking destination and to be better than Portland, Oregon. Those are the facts
"As for your cheap shot at my fiscal responsibility, cowardly fired from anonymity, it is indeed cheap because you clearly haven't invested the time to read my many other posts which would disprove your false claim. Next time you want to talk tough, use your real name so your friends, neighbors, and colleagues will know how you conduct yourself online."
Cedric, you seem to have major issues with people disagreeing with you and criticizing your comments and views. My comments, which are my opinions, are just that---opinions. Unfortunately you are not open to the opinions of others when they are in disagreement with yours. You immediately launch into a diatribe in which you label me as "cowardly" and my comments as "cheap" and also label them as "false" and claim that I am "talking tough". I guess when you do all the things your ail against it is okay-the pot is calling the kettle black.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Aug 31, 2012 at 9:01 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
The Plan states:
"Policy T-39: To the extent allowed by law, continue to
make safety the first priority of citywide transportation
planning. Prioritize pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile
safety over vehicle level-of-service at intersections."
Somehow policy that appears to have been lost in the current compromise implementations.
Unless bicycles, automobiles and pedestrians are EACH provided with dedicated pathways the result will be a compromise that encourages dangerous and deadly mixingof dramatically different modes of transportation.
The key is the elimination of parking on one side of every street on which the city wants to establish bikeways and then to have dedicated bikeways with their own traffic control signs and lights at every intersection.
No doubt that bikes are here to stay but why not learn from the experience of European countries who learned long ago that mixing cars and bikes does not work. Or do we have to be really dumb and learn the hard way?
"Perhaps the most important reason for the higher levels of cycling in northern
Europe—especially among women, children, and the elderly—is that cycling is much
safer there than in the USA. Both fatality and injury rates are much higher for cyclists in
the USA compared to Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Averaged over the years
2002 to 2005, the number of American bicyclist fatalities per 100 million km cycled was
5.8, compared to 1.7 in Germany, 1.5 in Denmark, and 1.1 in the Netherlands (see Figure
3). Thus, cycling is over five times as safe in the Netherlands as in the USA, which
probably explains why the Dutch do not perceive cycling as a dangerous way to get
"The provision of separate cycling facilities is the cornerstone of Dutch, Danish,
and German policies to make cycling safe and attractive to everyone. They are designed
to feel safe, comfortable, and convenient for both young and old, for women as well as
men, and for all levels of cycling ability. "
I believe that pedestrians, bicyclist and automobiles should all be accomodate on public thoroughfares whenever each can be accommodated safely.
We have long ago separated pedestrians and cars.
We prohibit pedestrians and bicycles from freeways.
We prohibit bicycles from sidewalks in heavily trafficked pedestrian areas.
It is unwise to mix pedestrians, bicycles and cars.
Public policy which encourages mixing of pedestrians, bicycles and/or cars is simply stupid.
The European data on the dramatically improved safety of separating pedestrians, bicycles and cars is unambiguous.
I believe that we should be providing SEPARATE rights of way for pedestrians, for bicycles and automobiles and until we do there will be unnecessary and avoidable injuries and deaths.
Compromises with safety are just that - compromises. And when a 4000 lb car encounters a 200 lb bicyclist the physics are clear that the bicyclist will lose.
Claiming the 'right' to mix with cars carries with it the very real possibility of being dead right.
Posted by Palo Alto is not walkable, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2012 at 11:49 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Getting to the issue at hand, there should be a bridge built, but a simple one that will not cost the residents of Palo Alto--we have enough infrastructure issues that we cannot afford to spend money on fancy bridges, despite what some of our elite members of the community want.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Tool, you had written: "I, for one, am not surprised that Cedric really likes the more expensive, overpriced option. I have yet to see any sort of fiscal responsibility from him or the people who share his environmental pipe dream."
If your comment was truly not meant as an insult, then I apologize if my response offended you in turn.
Perhaps we can all agree to express our differences of opinion politely, and to carefully phrase our words (given that the written word conveys neither tone nor body language which can help smooth in-person communication).
I maintain my belief that if people post under their real names, they have more incentive to remain polite.