Now, with a generous influx of grant funds bringing the $10 million project to the brink of reality, city officials are delving into the details and preparing to open up the design process to a wide spectrum of architects.
On Monday night, the City Council will consider a proposal to hold a design competition for the new bike bridge, which would be located at Adobe Creek and span Highway 101 between south Palo Alto and the Baylands. Once built, the bridge would replace an existing undercrossing that is typically closed for six months every year because of flooding.
The project, which is seen as a critical east-west connection in the city's rapidly evolving bike network, received a jolt of momentum in November, when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a $4 million grant for the bridge as part of a broad package of improvements lobbied for by the city and Stanford University. Earlier this month, the city received another $4 million for the bike bridge, this time through the One Bay Area Grant program administered by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Another $1 million for design work could come from the funds allocated to the city by Stanford University Medical Center as part of a development agreement that allowed Stanford to greatly expand its hospital facilities, according to a new report from the Public Works Department.
With the funding nearly secured, the council will discuss various options for moving ahead with design work and consider a staff proposal for an "invited design competition" managed in part by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Under this approach, staff would work with AIA on design criteria and solicit proposals from about 20 local, regional and national architecture firms. A jury would then select three or four for interviews and invite the finalists to submit designs sometime in early 2014. Their designs would then be reviewed by the city's Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission before the council makes a decision on a design contract in spring 2014.
If all goes according to the plan, construction would begin in fall 2015.
"Given the wide range of bridge options and configurations, the possibility of a bridge design competition provides a venue to vet many designs simultaneously in the least amount of time and funding," the new report states.
While the council has yet to discuss the design competition, the city's Architectural Review Board has already endorsed the concept. During a February discussion, several members expressed enthusiasm for a competition, with board member Randy Popp saying there are "only things to be gained from it and nothing to be lost." His colleague, Lee Lippert called a competition an "incredibly good idea," and board Chair Clare Malone Prichard encouraged an "inclusive" process for designing the bridge.
The council will also weigh on Monday the merits of a traditional process in which the city solicits requests for proposals and then selects a qualified designer to come up with two or three designs. Each design would then be vetted by various boards and commissions through the regular design-review process. This process would cost about half as much as the design competition ($75,000 versus $150,000) but would explore "fewer design concepts and may have potential for redesign should concepts not be acceptable to the community," according to the new report.