Around Town | February 15, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 15, 2013

Around Town

LANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES ... Palo Alto's elected officials have a hearty appetite for grant-funded transportation projects, particularly ones that involve bikes and pedestrians. But this week, the council agreed that the latest staff proposal for a grant application goes a few steps too far. The city is applying for One Bay Area Government, a grant program administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. But rather than seeking funds for one or two projects, city planners suggested 10, arguing that the more projects you apply for, the more likely you are to receive regional funds. Some projects are old standbys, such as the proposed bicycle and pedestrian bridge over U.S. Highway 101, the Magical Bridge playground at Mitchell Park and enhancements to Arastradero and Charleston roads. Others are new and controversial, including a plan to build a parking structure near the downtown transit mall and a new proposal to reduce lanes on Birch Street. The latter proposal proved particularly irksome for the City Council, with several members noting that the project had not even been vetted by any local board or commission (not to mention, the council). Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez took the position that when it comes to grant proposals, the more the merrier. "It's kind of like playing the lottery," Rodriguez told the council. "If you don't submit a ticket, you're not going to win." Councilman Larry Klein disagreed and said the city would pay a price in reputation for pursuing projects that have not yet been reviewed. "We have a lot more at stake than just the money that we're likely to get here," Klein said. "We're being bedazzled by some of the big dollars that aren't going to occur. ... We're going to get a lot of blowback." After a long discussion, the council voted unanimously to scrap the Birch Street proposal from the application. They then voted 5-4, with Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilwomen Liz Kniss and Gail Price dissenting, to scuttle the parking-garage project from the grant proposal as well.

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