Storm-damaged Arastradero Road won't be fixed until summer

County: Repairing other roads is greater priority

A section of Arastradero Road in Palo Alto where the asphalt is crumbling and falling into Los Trancos Creek has nearby residents and others who travel the road nervous that it could collapse.

Residents say it is hazardous for bicyclists and drivers, but a Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Division official said this week that a backlog of repairs of even more damaged roads elsewhere means the Arastradero stretch near Alpine Road is not likely to be fixed any time soon.

Erosion of the creek bank has created a sheer drop-off 10 feet down, and bicyclists already have no lane to ride in, Portola Valley resident Michael Houlihan said.

"It's a severe safety hazard to bikers, runners and vehicles," said Houlihan, a 40-year resident who lives on a road across from the creek.

He's been after county roads officials to fix the spot for about four years, but he was told the county doesn't have funding. The problem is also complex because permits are needed from regulatory agencies, including the California Department of Fish and Game and the Regional Quality Control Board, since the creek is home to threatened fish, according to roads officials.

In a March 2, 2016, request to the county, resident Mike Roberts called the stretch "a serious accident waiting to happen, Especially since it is next to a beer garden. Not to mention the frequent high-speed bike races in the vicinity."

The agency responded that the county was attempting to get the necessary funding and permits, and in the meantime, the traffic operations department would ensure access through the area.

With this winter's heavy storms, Houlihan thinks the situation has become an emergency, and he is frustrated that the problem has worsened.

"There are a lot of legal issues. Somebody's going to put a car into the creek. The budget is nothing compared to the liability," he said.

Jeremy Roybal, who picks up his kids from a nearby school, was out inspecting the damage last week. The roadway has been considerably uncut since the last storm, he said, pointing to a spot a couple of feet under the road that was scoured out by the roiling creek water and debris.

"Logging equipment with full loads comes down this road. ... This will collapse; it's being held up by a pipe," he said.

Ron Jackson, county deputy director of road maintenance, confirmed the pipe is a water line.

He said the damage at this location had been stable for several years until the recent rains.

"Prior to the latest deterioration, this location was placed on a priority list with several other repair locations throughout the county. The department did not previously have the funds for this location."

Jackson said an island in the middle of the creek containing a mound of trees is what is causing the erosion. As water rushes around the mound, it pushes everything water, logs and branches toward the roadbed where the debris gouges the bank.

The easiest fix would be to remove the island, "but that is not going to happen," he said, noting that regulatory agencies would be opposed to changing the creek. So the roads department will have to build a wall along the slope, he said.

"I understand the worry there. I know they are frustrated," he said of residents. "There's just so many things we can do. I'm not trying to downplay it at all, but it's a very involved process to get it repaired."

The county has added reflectors and cones to the area where there is no longer a shoulder to keep bicyclists and cars away from the edge, and they have added bike markings to the roadway to direct motorists to share the road.

Once the weather is better, the department plans to reconfigure the road away from the creek as an interim measure.

"It's not a very hard project, but it's tricky. We will do excavation and add asphalt and move the stripes a couple of feet," Jackson said.

But the interim road shifting won't happen until the rains stop in about May unless a more serious condition develops mandating an emergency, he said.

Meanwhile, his crews have been watching the roadway. For now, it isn't in danger of collapse; the surface isn't cracking, he said.

UPDATED Feb, 27: A long-term fix would not be completed until the summer of 2018 due to the permits required and the restricted construction time. The permit agencies will only allow construction in the creek area during the summer months, he said.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


20 people like this
Posted by Online name
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 17, 2017 at 8:52 am

"It is a very involved process to get repaired."

Drain the swamp.

9 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:02 am

Car drivers should use I280 instead. Bicyclists don't have any alternative routes through this area.

17 people like this
Posted by Green Quarter Acres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 17, 2017 at 11:33 am

I'd wager the bicyclists that ride Arastradero are 99% recreational riders. I see no reason to spend the money to fix that road just to subsidize somebody's personal hobby. I suggest either closing that part of Arastradero, or make it one lane residents only vehicles only. Ideally, the traffic and human impact on that area can be reduced and we can return that section of the city back to its more natural state.

17 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Santa Clara County roads has know about this issue for over 10-years, maybe even 20-years. This is very similar to the DWR and Oroville's spillway that was not repaired back in 2003. They ignore the minor issues until they become so large that it takes 10 times the cost to repair. Heads should roll.

27 people like this
Posted by Michael O
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 17, 2017 at 3:50 pm

I totally agree @Green Quarter Acres! Make the bicyclists stay home on the couch. Everyone is rich here anyway, so they can buy that Peleton thing that lets you take spinning classes in your home and they should just get off the road. And we should stop all the people in their cars who are on the way to the movies or the mall or something because they're just a drag on society and shouldn't be subsidized either. Only people going to sign off on their IPO or to meet with their personal investment advisor should be able to use the roads with their cars anyway. And keep the illegals off. That should be easy to do if you station National Guard troops at all the intersections because there are so many wasteful people in this world and they really should work to stop that! I hope Green Quarter Acres runs for office!!

12 people like this
Posted by Portola Valley Cycle Commuter
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 17, 2017 at 4:06 pm

I am a cyclist that commutes through this section, and others on Arastradero Rd. Please show a little consideration to other road users, as I do - moving over for traffic in the slower zones when possible.

I hope they can work out a fix for the road soon

12 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 17, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I travel this section frequently by both car and bicycle. You don't notice the problem in a car, but the likelihood of a road failure is significant. You definitely notice on a bike, often forcing you away from the road shoulder.

This section of Arastradero endures heavy traffic by both residents in cars and many people on bicycles. it's hazardous and needs to be fixed.

12 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 8:05 pm

@Green Quarter Acres, if, as you suggest, Arastradero is to be a residents only road, then of course the residents should pay the full costs of maintaining the road rather than relying on all the local taxpayers. Right?

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Did I miss part of the article or did the author neglect to mention where on Arastradero Rd?

5 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 17, 2017 at 11:33 pm

@Mary - across the street from the Alpine Inn

25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2017 at 6:53 am

@Portola Valley Cycle Commuter,

It never ceases to amaze me why some bycilists,
on this strech of road and others in the area, insist on riding three abreast. It is not the Tour de France.

4 people like this
Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 18, 2017 at 8:12 am

@Green Quarter Acres, so that means Arastradero Open Space Perverse would only be for local residents? Good luck with that plan.

4 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:02 am

It is my understanding that there was significant upgrades made to the creek for the salmon. I guess this is why there are multiple agencies involved IE fish and game and RQCB among many others. Does anyone know how much this cost the tax payers? Why was there enough money for a creek but not enough to fix the road that butts up against it?I noticed this problem with the road 5 years ago, it's really unbelievable.

Like this comment
Posted by Tweeker
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 5:12 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2017 at 9:35 am

"It is not the Tour de France."

Like sailing, the same rule applies to biking. If there's two boats, there's a race.

1 person likes this
Posted by tom turner
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 21, 2017 at 11:37 am

We live off of Arastradero and use the road to get to Portola Valley. Only option is 280 which is difficult and crowded. The fish ladder was put in prox 8 years ago by Stanford. If road goes there will be no direct flow. Possibly Stanford could do repair.

1 person likes this
Posted by Catherine H
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 21, 2017 at 6:02 pm

I live in Los Trancos Woods. Yes, worst case, as a car driver, I can take Los Trancos to Alpine to 280 to Page Mill to Arastradero to get to the preserve or to get to the other half of Arastradero in order to get to my kids' school.

That's of course a huge challenge as the 280 to Page Mill offramp is a nightmare, the Alpine/280 intersection is a nightmare, etc. Sigh.

But even if I keep my car off the road, it's pretty certain that at some point before Summer, yes, the road will likely need to be closed to everyone but bicyclists and residents living on that road. There will need to be plans made for how to accommodate large numbers of U-Turns after the Preserve, Stables, and Winery.

On the bright side, that cuts off one of the likely escape routes for the Golden Oak thieves, so maybe the number of robberies will go down!

5 people like this
Posted by David B
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Although I strongly oppose the new regime at the EPA, I do see the point of view of people who feel environmental regulation has swung irrationally to the side of "the fish".

Stop by this washout some time and look at the "island" in the middle. It is SO CLEAR how the island is pushing the water toward the road.

Take out the damn island. The fish won't mind. This is crazy.

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2017 at 8:12 pm


My sentimens exactly.

Drain the swamp.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Whoops! Darn spell check. Sentiments.

Furthermore,I doubt if the island was removed it would destroy the salmon habitat,I am sure mother nature has done more damage this rainy season than if the island was removed. Also,we do not need a $450,000 EIR (environment impact report)or a CEQA study to figure that out.

This is a perfect example of government bureaucracy out of control.

Drain the Swamp!

4 people like this
Posted by Follow Bike Laws
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:40 am

A CHP Officer told me about five years ago that bicyclists, by law, are forbidden to ride no more than TWO abreast. Even that is ONLY in an area where space allows for a bike lane!

So, on old, narrow, rural or mountain roads, that means RIDE SINGLE FILE!

There have been many tragedies on such roads because of multiple riders riding abreast.

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2017 at 11:26 am

County Roads engineers and field staff were out yesterday (Thurs) to assess the roadway and look at temporarily shifting the roadway away from the creek. The likelihood of getting another torrential downpour and raging creek will drop as we get into spring with less rainfall. This will get fixed, it's just a matter of time.

2 people like this
Posted by Follow Speed Laws
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 24, 2017 at 1:50 pm

A CHP officer once told me that it is illegal to exceed the posted speed limit. That means you CANNOT drive 40 in a 35.
There have been many tragedies on our roads due to excessive driver's speed.
(Notice how everyone has lots of advice on how the other guy needs to act)

Like this comment
Posted by Follow Speed Laws
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 24, 2017 at 1:53 pm

@David: Yes, it's not an unfixable situation; just takes time. There are some simple ways around for now unless you're in a car.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Squid ink paella & patatas bravas: Barcelona natives bring Spanish tapas to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 3,737 views

What to do with all those cardboard boxes
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 2,095 views

Lights Out! Foods to Snuggle With in the Dark
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 2,041 views

Premarital and Couples: The "Right" Way to Eat an Artichoke
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,571 views

Some answers, please, PG&E
By Diana Diamond | 11 comments | 1,170 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results