Rising costs strain Palo Alto’s infrastructure goals

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / November 28, 2017

City Council moves ahead with new fire station and bike bridge, despite major questions about latest cost estimates

Palo Alto’s ambitious plan to fix up the city’s aged infrastructure and build a new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 is being strained by a sizzling construction market, which is adding millions of dollars to the price of each project and forcing local officials to lower their expectations.

Despite the obstacle, two priority projects on the city’s infrastructure list moved forward Monday night, when the council voted to approve the construction contract to rebuild the 1948 fire station near Rinconada Park and to approve the environmental analysis for the new bike bridge at Adobe Creek.

In each case, council members voiced significant reservations about the cost increases. The budget for the fire station has gone up from $6.7 million, the amount in the city’s 2014 Infrastructure Plan, to about $8.6 million (or $9.5 million, if you factor in the cost of staff salary and benefits).

Beset by cars, East Palo Alto to develop ‘mobility’ plan

Palo Alto Weekly – by Sue Dremann / October 9, 2017

Commuter traffic, parking issues disproportionately affect residents, officials say

Surrounded by U.S. Highway 101, Willow Road, Bayfront Expressway and Embarcadero Road, East Palo Alto is a gateway to Silicon Valley jobs. But the city’s residents bear a disproportionate burden of commuter traffic while receiving little or no benefit, residents said.

Since traffic is mostly due to Stanford University, Facebook and tech companies, the city should find ways to have them fund some of the infrastructure for traffic calming and street repairs, the residents said. The city could find a way to charge motorists using University Avenue as a through street.

Guest Opinion: Exploring creative options for underground train tracks

Palo Alto Weekly – Guest Opinion by Tom DuBois / October 1, 2017 

City holding next grade separation workshop on Oct. 21

Palo Alto is planning perhaps the most critical infrastructure in its history: the separation of our roads from the rail line that bisects the city.

The desire from the community is clear. We need to exhaustively investigate creative approaches to put the train underground and evaluate whether it is possible to do it across town or across a portion of it. Past councils, past rail committees, past community groups and our current community engagement process have all shown a preference for this approach. We need to get serious about how to underground the train and how to pay for it.

Lawsuit blocks Measure B funds

Mountain View Voice – by Mark Noack / August 30, 2017

Local transit projects delayed by legal challenge

Santa Clara County’s new Measure B sales tax has already collected tens of millions of dollars for a multitude of transportation upgrades, but that money is now embargoed from being spent.

An appellate lawsuit filed by Mountain View attorney Gary Wesley on behalf of Saratoga resident Cheriel Jensen is blocking the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority from spending any of the $6.5 billion in revenues expected to come from the new tax. For local communities, this means a series of crucial projects — such as plan for Caltrain grade separation and new bikeways — could be on hold for up to two years before the suit is resolved.

How to avoid a train wreck – doing grade separations right


Palo Alto Matters – Guest Commentary by Pat Burt / September 1, 2017

Former Mayor of Palo Alto

The city council is scheduled this Tuesday to decide on the process for designing railroad grade separations across Palo Alto, but the current plan for the decision-making runs a high risk of running the project off the tracks. While debate over “process” can make most folks eyes glaze over, how we come to agreement as a community on the design for this very complicated and expensive project is critical to its success.

Survey shows fewer downtown workers driving alone

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / August 24, 2017

Palo Alto Transportation Management Association sees signs of hope for getting employees to carpool, take transit

They serve food, wash dishes, staff shops and hotels and play a leading role in keeping downtown Palo Alto buzzing for residents, employees and visitors.

But as the city rolls out its effort to fight traffic congestion, downtown’s service employees also represent the biggest obstacle and toughest challenge. While many tech workers and City Hall employees have embraced Caltrain and ride-share options like Lyft and Scoop in recent years, the vast majority of the employees in the service sector reported last year that they drove alone to work, according to a survey commissioned by the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association, a nonprofit charged with getting people out of cars and into other modes of transit.

That, however, may be slowly changing. A more recent survey, conducted in May and June, shows the percentage of service workers reporting that they drove alone had dipped from 80 percent in 2016 to 70 percent.

Guest Opinion: A roadway Odyssey

Palo Alto Weekly – Guest Opinion by Evelyn Preston / August 18, 2017

Palo Alto-style A former teacher gives a glimpse into Palo Alto life by traveling around town

While some of my friends binge on their second safaris, cruise European canals or time-share in Hawaii, I consider a trip to downtown Palo Alto an equally grand adventure. For someone living in south Palo Alto, a crosstown sojourn requires strategic planning. Snail-like speed limits, packed parking and a rotating landscape of shops and restaurants present pioneer-like obstacles: The time it takes mirrors the forty-niners’ trek West; the lengthening queues of cars lined up at lights make their own modern wagon train.

Committee recommends no stakeholder group in rail redesign

Palo Alto Weekly – by Linda Taaffe / August 17, 2017

City staff directed to look at other options for public input

Palo Alto could move ahead with plans to transform its rail corridor without a formal community stakeholder group to provide feedback on the project if the City Council approves its Rail Committee’s recommendation, which runs counter to what the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission supported last week.

City Council OKs new South Palo Alto shuttle route

Palo Alto Weekly – by Elinor Aspegren and Shawna Chen / August 16, 2017

City staff to research dynamic ‘fixed-flex’ model for Embarcadero and Crosstown routes

The shuttle plan recommended by city staff includes three routes: a new South Palo Alto route that will replicate Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Route 88, which is being eliminated, and add some new stops; an expanded Crosstown route that will extend to Stanford and San Antonio shopping centers; and an expanded Embarcadero route that will service East and West Bayshore roads and Fabian Way.

Early results of Dumbarton corridor study indicate improved traffic flow

The Almanac – by Kate Bradshaw / August 15, 2017

Bicycle and pedestrian path, expanded bus service among ideas eyed for 2020

Facebook sponsored study of the Dumbarton transportation corridor looks at feasibility to:  Increase the frequency and number of destinations of transbay buses by 2020; Convert a traffic lane on the road bridge to either an express lane or a shifting lane that matches commute direction by 2025; Rebuild the abandoned rail bridge and activate a rail shuttle across the Bay to connect Redwood City to Union City by 2030.