News Details

Newell Road/San Francisquito Creek Bridge Replacement Project

Newell Road Bridge Project Update, November 14, 2014

The work to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Newell Road/San Francisquito Creek Bridge Replacement Project has not yet started pending resolution of funding issues with Caltrans. The design and environmental review work for this project is being funded with a combination of grant funds from Caltrans’ Highway Bridge Program and local matching funds provided by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Since the cost of an EIR was not included in the original grant awarded by Caltrans, City staff have submitted a request to Caltrans for increased grant funding to cover the additional cost of the EIR. Once we receive a final funding determination from Caltrans, staff will submit an amendment to the project consultant’s design contract to the City Council for review and approval.

Caltrans staff has indicated that their Headquarters Office is close to finalizing their decision on the amount of additional grant funding to be awarded for the Newell Road project. City staff is cautiously optimistic that we will be in a position to move forward with preparation of the EIR shortly after the start of the new year. One of the first tasks in the EIR process is a Scoping Meeting at which members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the scope of the project and to identify specific potential environmental impacts that should be addressed during the EIR process. City staff will conduct public outreach to publicize the Scoping Meeting in order to re-engage local residents in the design and environmental review process for this important infrastructure project.

Newell Road Bridge Project Update, March 12, 2014

Thanks to the many of you who attended the February 27 Community Meeting regarding the Newell Road/San Francisquito Creek Bridge Replacement Project and shared your thoughts and comments on the alternatives screening analysis results that were presented. At the meeting, City of Palo Alto staff explained that four alternatives would be carried forward into the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) phase of the project. Those four alternatives were:

• No project (leave existing bridge in place): Alternative #1
• New bi-directional one lane vehicle bridge with traffic signal control : Alternative #5
• New two lane vehicle bridge using existing bridge alignment : Alternative #6
• New two lane vehicle bridge with a partial realignment with Newell Road in East Palo Alto: Alternative #7

Since the February 27 Meeting, the City of East Palo Alto has requested that the alternative of a new two lane vehicle bridge fully realigned with Newell Road in East Palo Alto (Alternative #8) also be studied in the EIR phase (see attached letter from East Palo Alto City Manager Magda Gonzales). Palo Alto, who is managing the project in partnership with the City of East Palo Alto, has agreed to include Alternative #8 in the EIR. Palo Alto’s City Manager has publicly stated that the City is not supportive of this alternative, but felt it was important to recognize the two cities’ partnership and need to work together on this project by respecting East Palo Alto’s request. Ultimately, both cities will need to consider the EIR findings and agree on a preferred project design to advance to the construction phase.

The next Community Meeting for the Project will be the EIR Scoping Meeting. We will be reaching out to you in the next month or two to schedule that meeting.

Newell Road Bridge Project Update, February 21, 2014

The City of  Palo Alto and the City of East Palo Alto invite residents to attend the next community meeting about the project to replace the Newell Road bridge over the San Francisquito Creek. At this meeting, project staff will describe the results and finding of an alternatives analysis traffic study that used to a set of screening criteria to identify feasible bridge replacement  alternative to be studied further in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that  will be prepared for the project.  The meeting will provide an opportunity  for members of the public to provide comments and ask questions about the analysis and its findings. The meeting will be held at:

City of Palo Alto
Council Chambers
250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto
Thursday, February 27, 2014, at  7:00 PM

Click here for project flyer
Click here for meeting presentation
Click here for Alternatives Screening Analysis Report (including the associated Traffic Study)
Click here for Technical Appendices to the Traffic Study

Project update: May 29, 2013
Based on the high level of community concern regarding the potential options for modification of the Newell Road/San Francisquito Creek Bridge, Public Works Department staff and the City’s design and environmental review consultants have developed an expanded scope of work that will include a robust alternatives analysis and an enhanced traffic study. During the past several months, City staff have been coordinating with Caltrans and the Santa Clara Valley Water District to obtain approval for funding of the expanded scope of work. A contract amendment for these new services will be considered by the City Council for approval at their June 3rd meeting. (Please note that the contract amendment is scheduled on the agenda’s consent calendar, in which Council votes on all of the items in a single motion. Members of the public may speak on consent calendar items, but the Council does not discuss them unless two or more members of the Council vote to remove an item from the calendar.)

The following support documents are posted online for public review:

June 3, 2013 City Council agenda 
Staff Report (including contract amendment and detailed scope of work)

The alternatives analysis will examine the feasibility of the following bridge modification options:
• No project (leave existing bridge in place)
• Removal of existing bridge without replacement
• New bicycle/pedestrian bridge
• New bicycle/pedestrian bridge with limited emergency vehicle access
• New bi-directional one lane vehicle bridge with traffic signal control
• New two lane vehicle bridge using existing bridge alignment
• New two lane vehicle bridge realigned to line up with Newell Road in East Palo Alto
• New two vehicle bridge with a partial realignment

The alternatives analysis will consist of crafting a project need and purpose statement vetted with the community, conducting an enhanced traffic study, and then screening the alternatives using the criteria identified in the need and purpose statement in order to identify the feasible alternatives that should move forward for further study in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The screening process and results will also be reviewed through a public process before the list of feasible alternatives is finalized.

There will be multiple opportunities for the public to participate in the alternatives analysis process. Staff will initiate the alternatives analysis by developing a draft need and purpose statement for the project. The statement will concisely document the reasons for pursuing the project and the goals and outcomes to be achieved through implementation of the project. The need and purpose statement will be presented at a public meeting for review and comments before it is finalized. The enhanced traffic study will include detailed traffic, bicycle, and pedestrian counts and analyses of the traffic impacts on each mode of transportation for each of the bridge alternatives, under both present and future conditions. The adopted need and purpose statement, along with the results and findings from the traffic study, will be used as screening tools to identify which bridge alternatives are feasible. Those alternatives that are consistent with the project need and purpose statement will be determined to be feasible. Preliminary findings from the screening process will be presented to the community at a public meeting before the list of feasible alternatives is finalized. The feasible bridge alternatives will then be studied in greater detail during the subsequent Environmental Impact Report process.

Funding for the alternatives analysis and enhanced traffic study is being provided through a Caltrans Highway Bridge Program grant (88.5%) and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (11.5%).

Past Project Update (January 9, 2013)
Based on the extensive community input regarding the Newell Road Bridge Replacement Project received since the November 1, 2012 Architectural Review Board meeting, an additional public meeting was held on January 8, 2013 to allow stakeholders to provide input on the project alternatives. Click here to view the presentation that was presented at the meeting.

Community Meeting for Input on Newell Road Bridge Alternatives
Date and Time: Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 7:00PM
Location: Community Room at the Lucie Stern Community Center
                1305 Middlefied Road, Palo Alto

Following the January 8, 2013 public meeting, the City of Palo Alto plans to initiate a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process under the California Environmental Quality Act.  The EIR process will evaluate project alternatives with respect to their impacts on the environment including aesthetics, biological resources, hydrology, land use and planning, noise, and transportation/traffic.  It is envisioned that the following alternatives will be analyzed through the EIR process. 
    * No project (leave existing bridge in place);
    * Removal of existing bridge without replacement;
    * New bicycle/pedestrian only bridge;
    * New bridge using existing bridge alignment;
    * New bridge realigned to line up with Newell Road in East Palo Alto; and
    * New bridge with a partial realignment

Project Description 
The City of Palo Alto, in partnership with the City of East Palo Alto and the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (JPA), is evaluating options for replacement of the Newell Road Bridge over San Francisquito Creek.  The existing bridge, built in 1911, impedes the creek channel and requires replacement to accomodate a 1% (100-year) flood event.  Improvements to the Newell Road Bridge will protect adjacent homes from flooding if there is a large storm event.  All the San Francisquito Creek crossings between Middlefield Road and US 101 will eventually be upgraded, as designs are completed and funds available, to provide improved local flood protection.

The existing bridge abutments are located within the creek bed, causing a flow constriction in the channel that prevents it from accommodating the estimated 1% (100-year) flow event. The current (2010) Santa Clara Valley Water District hydraulic model for San Francisquito Creek indicates that the existing bridge opening can convey peak flow of 5900 cubic feet per second (cfs), whereas the 1% flow rate is 9200 cfs. The Newell Road bridge is within the scope of an ongoing study being conducted by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA) to identify potential channel and bridge improvements that will provide increased flood protection to the area. It is important that the new bridge design not only pass the 1% flow event, but also accommodate future improvements within the channel and at the top of bank both upstream and downstream of the new bridge that will provide conveyance of the 1% flow and maintain FEMA’s minimum requirements.

The City has retained engineering consultant NV5 to assist with the design and environmental assessment of the project. Although the consultant will be managed by the City of Palo Alto, extensive coordination with City of East Palo Alto and SFCJPA staff will be performed throughout the project. There will also be a robust public communication and outreach plan to solicit input from members of the public. The project will require design review by various advisory boards and commissions in both cities. The consultant will also be responsible for environmental review and documentation of the project in compliance with the provisions of both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Lastly, the consultant must also assist the City of Palo Alto in acquiring all local, state, and federal regulatory permits required for the construction of the replacement bridge.

The design and aesthetics of the replacement Newell Road bridge will be subject to review by the following review bodies:

City of Palo Alto — Architectural Review Board
Planning and Transportation Commission

City of East Palo Alto -- Public Works & Transportation Commission
Planning Commission

In addition, the project is subject to the City of Palo Alto’s Art in City Capital Improvement Projects Policy. One percent of the final estimated cost of the replacement bridge will be earmarked for a public art element, at the discretion of the City of Palo Alto Public Art Commission. The design consultant will work cooperatively with the artist selected by the Public Art Commission and staff from the cities of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto to incorporate the art into the final bridge design.

The project is being funded through a Caltrans Highway Bridge Program grant. 88.5% of the funding for project design and environmental assessment is being provided by Caltrans, with the remaining 11.5% coming from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The initial community meeting for the project was held on June 27, 2012 to provide preliminary information about the project and to solicit comments and questions from members of the public.  Click here to view the exhibits presented at the community meeting.

Click here for Community Outreach Summary.

Architectual Review Board Study Session for this project was held on November 1, 2012

Click here for ARB Presentation
Click here for Project Summary

Bridge Selection Type Report

Click here for Bridge Selection Report
Click here for Traffic Analysis

Project Contacts:
Public Works Engineering Services Division
Project Manager: Joe Teresi (650) 329-2129
Project Engineer: Rajeev Hada (650) 329-2469

Last Updated June 13, 2012