News


Woman identified in fatal collision

Palo Alto incident blocked westbound lanes for nearly three hours

A woman who was hit by a car after jumping from a Palo Alto overpass and later died Monday has been identified by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office as Alison Chang, 50, of Palo Alto.

The collision blocked westbound Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto during much of the morning, resulting in a traffic that extended to U.S. Highway 101, police said.

The incident occurred at about 6:30 a.m. Chang suffered major injuries and was transported to a nearby hospital, where she died. The incident appeared to be a suicide, Palo Alto police spokesman Lt. James Reifschneider said.

A woman driving the sedan stopped and cooperated with police, he said. She will not face charges for the collision.

If the driver was injured, the injury didn't appear significant enough to require medics to take her to a hospital, Reifschneider said.

Police closed both westbound lanes of Oregon Expressway between Bryant and Alma street and an eastbound lane of Oregon.

The closed eastbound lane was reopened about 45 minutes later and traffic was allowed back on westbound lanes at about 9:30 a.m., he said.

Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 1-855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 1-888-628-9454.

People can reach trained counselors at Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Additional resources can be found here.

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Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2017 at 8:37 am

Collision, or someone jumped off the road overpass?


38 people like this
Posted by LadyPA
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

Please drive safe, dont cut through Neighborhoods going over spee limit. School kids are biking to school!


11 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 23, 2017 at 9:13 am

Another reason to underground the train tracks rather than roadways.


53 people like this
Posted by issues
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2017 at 9:34 am

We were on Oregon expressway SOUTHBOUND, when we were routed to Oregon Avenue, no explanation. The rerouting.. then took this huge line of cars, back ONTO ALMA!! And of course Alma exits onto Oregon expressway were closed... so the police basically LOOPED the Oregon expressway southbound traffic through an INFINITE LOOP back onto Alma adding to the gridlock on Alma!

It was all rather inefficient. Only a few cars, after figuring out a loop was created, would take the side streets BACK NORTH to get onto Embarcardero to get back on track to go back south bound.

Really the only routes South into the city, if Oregon expressway is blocked, is Embarcadero. If there is a natural disaster.... the whole section of the city will be gridlocked. Disaster relief should really figure out how they will divert traffic because today was a fine example of inefficient traffic diversion (Oregon was blocked and suddenly a huge section of traffic were being looped infinitely through Alma with no clear detour routes back to a southbound road such as Embarcardero)






45 people like this
Posted by Demand Safety
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2017 at 9:55 am

" If there is a natural disaster.... the whole section of the city will be gridlocked"

Please take that sentiment and write a letter today to City.council@cityofpaloalto.org. Let them know that the Comprehensive Plan must prioritize a restoration of traffic circulation and safety or it should not be approved until it does.

If they approve something that does not, residents will have no recourse to fix problems and the traffic will only get worse. What happened to Santa Rosa neighborhoods should be a wake up call.


47 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2017 at 10:10 am

Car routes across the train tracks are a known problem in this city. The city council has been debating this for at least 20 years, but they keep giving in to anti-grade-separation NIMBYs. If you want much improved car routes throughout the city in a practical timeframe, then elevating the train tracks all the way through the city is the only realistic plan. Call the city council and tell them that personally.


42 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2017 at 10:40 am

How can you blame train tracks for the traffic congestion? The crossing trains take about 1 minute.

Alma merging onto OrEx towards El Camino is a disaster because there are too many speeding drivers on OrEx.

City Council needs to quit bringing more businesses to Palo Alto! Palo Alto's population is 67,000, but during the weekdays, expands to 250,000 people. Commuters are constantly running obvious red lights on Embarcadero and Oregon.

We have so many cut-through commuters these days. Part of the issue is that Menlo Park isn't expanding their roads that access 101 so the drivers overflow to Palo Alto.


3 people like this
Posted by A resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2017 at 10:51 am

[Post removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 23, 2017 at 10:57 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The train tracks have nothing to do with PA's traffic problems of its own making. For more than 2 years, Middlefield traffic has been backing up to and INTO Oregon Expressway, esp. during rush hour which is when the city SHOULD be conducting its traffic surveys, not during the lightest travel times so it can get the results it wants.

Of course there's an ever-increasing amount of cut-through traffic because commuters and regular residents have no place else to go, especially when they get stuck in the middle of intersections!

Tell the City Council to stop willfully making traffic worse and endangering our lives. Tell them to try less preaching and more common sense so not every road in a given area is under construction at once!


19 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

"How can you blame train tracks for the traffic congestion?"

Because the tracks force all traffic to pass through a limited number of crossings. Crossings like Embarcadero reduce the number of lanes. Grade level crossings like Meadow back up traffic that has impacts beyond the minute that the crossing is closed, especially when cars get hit or stuck. You are right though, that the root of the issue is too many commuters, so no more office construction please.


54 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2017 at 11:11 am

I can't believe how many of you simply hijacked this post. It's about the accident or jumper that happened. Not about the woes and safety of traffic congestion!

Get ready for the copycat jumpers. this is why the police was trying to keep the lid on this. So sad.


35 people like this
Posted by issues
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2017 at 11:47 am

I don't think we're trying to hijack the post. It's terrible someone got hurt [portion removed.]

Also, the reality is.... if today's gridlock of only ONE single route (Oregon expressway) was shut down for a bit (1 hour or less).... and that is how much gridlock happened on Alma, and subsequent roads... this is not ideal if there is a major disaster.

I started to think... if I need to pick up my children (on the other side of Alma) and I'm stuck on one side of Alma, and Oregon and Embarcadero are closed off from fires, floods, accidents... then I am essentially blocked from going to pick up my children, stuck in traffic with the everyone else trying to get across Alma.

Disaster plans by the city do need to consider what the major arteries and thoroughfares they are going to keep open and alive during such cases.


18 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 23, 2017 at 11:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I started to think... if I need to pick up my children (on the other side of Alma) and I'm stuck on one side of Alma, and Oregon and Embarcadero are closed off from fires, floods, accidents... then I am essentially blocked from going to pick up my children, stuck in traffic with the everyone else trying to get across Alma.

Disaster plans by the city do need to consider what the major arteries and thoroughfares they are going to keep open and alive during such cases."

NOTHING the City can do will keep the streets open in the case of a major disaster - please accept that fact.

And then accept your responsibility to have a family unification plan that does not depend on cars and roads and someone else coming to your aid.


22 people like this
Posted by issues
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:04 pm

@ Peter Carpenter

Who said I wasn't responsible and didn't have a family unification plan? Who said I was looking for someone else to come to my aid? Let's not be presumptuous shall we?

I am pointing out that the limited number of arteries crossing Alma from Palo Alto (south) to (north) and how quickly it escalates into a gridlock.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

You claimed that " I am essentially blocked from going to pick up my children, stuck in traffic with the everyone else trying to get across Alma." and then said that the City " need to consider what the major arteries and thoroughfares they are going to keep open and alive during such cases."

Again, the City cannot do what you expect. How well did Santa Rosa do in keeping 101 open?


9 people like this
Posted by Arnold Ziffel
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:11 pm

The article claims the blockage was in the WEST bound lanes. A reader says it was in the SOUTHBOUND lanes. In reality the direction was SOUTHWEST. This is a common confusion owing to our perception of San Francisco being north and San Jose being south and anything not going in those directions are east and west. It always confuses me when trying to figure out the signs on the Central Expressway. The fix, it seems to me, is to specify southwest, southeast, northwest, northeast.


65 people like this
Posted by CharlieBrown
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm

I personally knew the jumper. She did not survive. Her husband called our home to inform us. She was severely mentally ill. Pray for her family, please.


20 people like this
Posted by issues
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm

@ Peter Carpenter

What happened in Santa Rosa is unfortunate and the number of deaths was tragic. Because disaster happens, and people die, is not something we should simply throw up our hands and say, "oh well, darn it.. it happened over there... que sera, sera" and assume there wasn't something that couldn't be improved upon the next time it happens.

Every opportunity (such as today's gridlock and Santa Rosa's disaster) is an opportunity for cities and disaster relief committees to figure out a better plan and improve safety measures.

We can plan for the worst case scenario individually and have family unification plans, but that doesn't exempt disaster relief plans from studying gridlocks like today and figuring out what it can do to overcome these issues.

Reality is NOTHING goes as expected during a natural disaster. It wouldn't be called a natural disaster if things went smoothly. But by the same token, we can work towards a comprehensive plan as a city to avert as many deaths and injuries and traffic gridlocks when natural disasters strike.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:01 am
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
As an experienced wildland fire professional I am deeply concerned that our entire area, with its heavy (and beautiful) fuel/vegetation load and with the significant use of flammable construction materials is as significant risk of exactly the type of devastation that occurred in Santa Rosa.

We need better preparation, planning, alerting systems, voluntary and mandatory fire safety/fuel load reduction/removal zones, voluntary and mandatory removal of flammable construction materials and well defined, tested and signed evacuation routes.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Fortunately we're not now in a major disaster situation but the fire chief from Menlo Park has repeatedly noted that the increased gridlock has already caused deaths due to the inability of fire fighters and emt's to get to the victims.

It seems like the height of irresponsibility to not consider ALL of the repairs going on simultaneously and how that effects traffic. Similarly, the Middlefield problem backup problem was man-made and has been ignored for too long with the city shifting responsibility to the county instead of correcting its own mistakes. Just count the number of cars that unexpectedly get stuck IN middle of the Oregon intersecton at around 5PM and watch the drivers maneuver their way to safety on "cut-through" streets!

I'm tired of being preached too about how X SHOULD reduce traffic when it doesn't. Remember how shocked the San Francisco "planners" were that Lyft/Uber services didn't reduce traffic but actually CREATED an addition 200,000 car trips daily?


7 people like this
Posted by Trains/traffic
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Tragic story. I'm sorry for the family.

With regard to trains and traffic. Trains don't take long to cross, but they make our traffic lights get out of whack (off cycle) and that's what creates traffic. The signals are set to push cars and pedestrians out of the area when a train is approaching (clears the intersection). When that happens several times close together (like at rush hour, when trains come from both sides) it takes a long time for the traffic signals to get back into the right groove to handle traffic flows.

We need both more trains and more grade separations. Trains take cars off of 101 (equal to 2 lanes in each direction at rush hour!). But, if we don't do something about those gates, the traffic will be worse.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

I saw the traffic report that PAPD posted on social media soon after the incident and was able to avoid the area.

Thanks to PAPD for doing their best to alert the public. Following them on social media at times like these does help and so does WAZE even if you don't need them for directions, it is able to alert you of red traffic ahead.


5 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

que?


15 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Very sad for the victim & her family, as well as for the unfortunate drivers affected, but how many hours does it take to analyze what happened, clear the street, and let traffic resume? All the on site examination in the world can't help the poor victim.


9 people like this
Posted by Jimmy
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Download the app called Pulse Point. It is red and white. It will show all the 911 calls that the Palo Alto Fire Department response to. It also shows what the calls are: medical, accident, fire, etc. and the location.


51 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Reading the adjusted headline on the news page, this sounded like a pedestrian v car collision. On reading the text, it transpires that this was a deliberate act and the driver of the car had no possibility of avoiding hitting her.

I can't imagine what the driver of the car must be going through, she has my sympathies. The family of the deceased also has my condolences.


3 people like this
Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm

Accidents or blockage in that underpass aren't rare enough. I've been using it for more than 45 years. Complaints about that underpass have arisen for its existence. The railroad tracks aren't the sole basis for that underpass; Alma St. and Park Blvd. pass over Oregon Expwy. that underpass also, which won't change regardless of railbed elevation. Around 1999, we had an extraordinarily heavy rain storm in the early morning. I left my midtown address for Stanford about 20 minutes early to contend with the conditions. All local underpasses were flooded and impassable; the street grade crossings were jammed and passage was inhibited by the CalTrains and vehicular traffic was backed up to Middlefield at the Churchill and Meadow crossings. It took about 60 minutes to negotiate what's normally a 5-minute commute. Our region has had overcrowded streets at commute times for decades. It is what it is, and improvement is a non sequitur.


51 people like this
Posted by Lucy
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Today someone tragically ended their life and as a result someone else will be left with the burden and guilt of being the one to hit her with their car. Is this really the appropriate place to complain about the city and its traffic? Maybe have a little compassion for the families directly impacted by the event today and focus a little less on yourself if your day was thrown off schedule because the road was closed.


14 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2017 at 8:56 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Lucy - [Portion removed.] The original story was about "a collision" on OE, and didn't mention a jumper or a fatality. The story wasn't updated until 4pm.


26 people like this
Posted by Jhow
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 23, 2017 at 9:57 pm

There’s a suicide... someone who has to
Live with the fact they hit the person
Plus the many tormented by witnessing the accident ...and Palo Altans gripe about traffic.
How can I not agree with those who call Palo Alto ...Shallow Alto. It’s teslly painful to read these posts. Please do not think that his could not be you... or your family member...
People are annoyed because it took so long to clear...???? The poor woman is dead, taking het pulse and investigating, messed up your morning?


6 people like this
Posted by Commonsence
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 23, 2017 at 11:10 pm

#humanlife over traffic whiners this nonsense (comments) is visual evidence the peninsula has little soul left


4 people like this
Posted by Commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 23, 2017 at 11:13 pm

#humanlife over traffic whiners this nonsense (comments) is visual evidence the peninsula has little soul left. Quit worrying about your precious commute and time saving apps and talk to your neighbors


4 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:11 am

ares is a registered user.

Very sad, condolences to her family and friends


13 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:09 am

@Lucy, Jhow, Commonsense: For those of you complaining about whiners regarding traffic, notice that most stopped whining after CharlieBrown posted at 1:00PM that it was a suicide. The article originally stated that it was a collision and wasn't updated to suicide until 4:00PM. I feel more bad for the woman who hit her—she has to live with this.


5 people like this
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2017 at 4:43 am

All of the above comments are legitimate concerns... What is troubling is that the Palo Alto Police are part of the problem and solution but have declined to take part in this discussion. Not sure what prevents them from doing so when in fact they serve as the spokesperson for the community... Whats interesting as well taxpayers are footing the salary for a 6 figure communications manager Claudia Kieth and she should chime in as well....


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2017 at 5:13 am

To the last poster (and others).

The police had this on social media, Twitter, Facebook, well before 8.00 am yesterday telling people to avoid the area.

I am not sure what you expect them to do now, they were trying to get traffic alerted to avoid the area.

We have a very sad story of a suicide, but the original incident was just a traffic collision. People did get held up and were late for various events in their lives. On top of that, one driver has to live with the memory of hitting the victim.

Palo Alto can be criticized for lots of things. But we have a history of dealing with suicides and do have compassion. I think the comments on this thread are all relevant in their own way.


15 people like this
Posted by Lindsay Joye
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 24, 2017 at 10:11 am

Lindsay Joye is a registered user.

Sending condolences to Ms. Chang's family and friends.


7 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 11:46 am

vmshadle is a registered user.

I find the vicious tone of many of the exchanges above a bit shocking. The late Rodney King captured this perfectly: "Why can't we all just get along?" Is Palo Alto that snide and hostile a community>

I hope the family of the woman does not read any of these comments. Having had first-hand experience dealing with a mentally-ill family member in my youth, that family has been suffering for years and will continue to suffer for many more years.

Every time a fatal collision occurs, the roadway is shut down so that authorities can conduct a full investigation without being menaced by through traffic. Sure, it's inconvenient, but I'd rather spend two hours in traffic and know that the grieving family or families will know conclusively what happened to their loved ones. Not everything is about you, people.


1 person likes this
Posted by Janine How
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Great to see concerned caring citizens
The ones who were “troubled “ yesterday due to traffic are the ones justifying and blaming police today.
When we begin looking at ourselves and our actions and being accountable the heart will grow open with respect and compassion for others


10 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Sending love to Mrs. Chang’s family and friends as well as to the driver and all those in our community who are impacted by mental illness and suicide. El Camino Hospital in Mountain View has excellent adult behavioral health services. Here’s info from the website: “f you’re interested in our services or scheduling a free assessment for yourself or someone you know, call our Mental Health department at 866-789-6089.“ El Camino is so committed to quality mental health care that a new mental health building is currently under construction. It’s going to offer expanded inpatient and outpatient services in a beautiful setting!


5 people like this
Posted by Mark V.
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm

I feel sorry for the woman who took her own life, but she could of kill someone in the car that hit her.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2017 at 9:43 pm

@ Lucy and others

Let's try to refrain from judging others. The original news article stated it was a collision on Oregon Expressway and there was no mention of suicide, or a death, or a jumper.

This story has been completely updated. The original story was about an accident on Oregon Expressway and road closure. It was brief. It said very little. Even if social media was updated on the traffic, not everyone follows social media, and not everyone follows twitter, or has a facebook account. Some people simply follow the news (i.e Palo Alto news online) as their main source.

Of course we feel terribly for what happened. But is it really conducive to reprimand posts on traffic when the actual news article was about the accident and tied into traffic being closed? It was a logical comment, so standing in moral judgement is likely not very productive from a community standpoint or problem solving vantage point.


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

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