Newell Road/San Francisquito Creek Bridge Replacement Project

Newell Road Bridge view from the creek

Project Description

The City of Palo Alto, in partnership with the City of East Palo Alto and the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA), is evaluating options for replacement of the Newell Road Bridge over San Francisquito Creek. The existing bridge, built in 1911, is functionally obsolete. The California Department of Transportation inspected the over-100-year-old bridge on multiple occasions and determined it is functionally obsolete due to its dimensions. The narrow bridge does not accommodate two-directional traffic or meet the current standards for bicycle and pedestrian access. In addition, the bridge presents flood risks due to the bridge abutments that create a creek constriction. Replacing the bridge will improve the safety for all modes of transportation, provide a designated crosswalk for pedestrians, and will enable the creek channel to convey more creek flow and mitigate the risk of flood. 

The design and aesthetics for the replacement bridge will be subject to review by the following review bodies: City of Palo Alto – Architectural Review Board, City of Palo Alto – Planning and Transportation Commission, City of East Palo Alto – Public Works & Transportation Committee, and City of East Palo Alto – Planning Commission. There are five alternatives under consideration for the replacement of Newell Road Bridge. The City of Palo Alto has secured funding for project design and environmental assessment, 88.5% is coming from Caltrans’ Highway Bridge Program and 11.5% from Santa Clara Valley Water District. 

The bridge replacement alternatives include the following: 

  1. No project alternative (keep existing bridge as is)
  2. New bi-directional one-lane vehicle bridge with traffic signal controls
  3. New two-lane vehicle bridge using existing bridge alignment
  4. New two-lane vehicle bridge with a partial realignment with Newell Road in East Palo Alto
  5. New two-lane vehicle bridge fully realigned with Newell Road in East Palo Alto

Project Background

On July 11, 2011, City Council approved a budget appropriation for a new capital improvement project to replace the Newell Road Bridge and authorized staff to accept the Caltrans Highway Bridge Program grant funds to pay for the majority of the project’s design costs. 
On April 9, 2012, Council approved a contract with Nolte Associates, Inc. (now known as NV5, Inc.) for the design and environmental assessment of the replacement bridge. Council also approved a cost-share agreement with the water district to provide local matching funds to supplement the Caltrans funding. 

Based on the concerns shared by residents in previous community meetings and technical analysis, the City identified the five project alternatives to be analyzed in the environmental document. Unfortunately, the project was temporarily delayed in 2016 due to the staff constraints and project prioritization. In addition, from a hydraulic phasing perspective, it was essential to complete the downstream work before the Newell Road Bridge could be replaced. Otherwise, the flooding hazard would have been transferred or potentially increase to the residents downstream of Newell Road Bridge. 

The project was able to recommence in 2017, and the five bridge alternatives were analyzed and their associated impacts compared through a series of technical reports required for the EIR. These reports identified construction and post-construction-related impacts on the surrounding area in terms of traffic, noise, biological assessment, community impact, trees, air quality, etc. The preferred alternative must meet the project objectives as identified on the Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Assessment while having the least impact. 
Palo Alto as the lead agency has been managing the consultants, conducting public outreach, and coordinating the project environmental documents. The Draft EIR is now available for public review and comments.  

Project Status

In 2017, NV5, Inc. (formerly known as Nolte Associates, Inc.) and ICF International, the project design consultants, prepared the technical studies that support the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and assessed the potential impacts of the project alternatives. The studies were submitted to the City of Palo Alto, City of East Palo Alto, and Caltrans for review and approval. These were approved in 2018 and allowed the project team to advance the Draft EIR. The anticipated public comment period is in spring 2019 and certified by Council in fall of 2019. Once certified, the project will proceed with the design and prepare the construction documents and submit for regulatory permits from the agencies. The construction will need to be timed so that the work within the creek can occur during the dry seasons and in conformance with requirements from the regulatory permitting agencies. The City anticipates the project will start around summer 2020 at the earliest and will take about a year and a half to complete.

Project Documents

Environmental Review

Draft Environmental Impact Report (34 MB)


Technical Studies

CEQA Document Declaration
Notice of Availability
Notice of Completion
Letter – Notice of Preparation of EIR - Recorded Copy
Presentation – Newell Bridge EIR Scoping Meeting Presentation - September 3, 2015
Letter – Scoping Meeting - September 3, 2015 [English]
Letter – Scoping Meeting - September 3, 2015 [Spanish]
Letter – Notice of Preparation - August 12, 2015 [English]
Letter – Notice of Preparation - August 12, 2015 [Spanish]

Council, Boards, and Commissions


  • Palo Alto City Council Meeting - EIR/EA Certification, date to be determined

Community Meeting Presentation

Presentation - Community Meeting; presentation to Crescent Park Neighborhood of Five Project Alternatives; June 22, 2016
Letter – East Palo Alto City Manager Magda Gonzales; March 11, 2014
Presentation - Community Meeting; presentation of alternative screening analysis findings; February 27, 2014

Presentation - Community Meeting; presentation of eight project alternatives and screening criteria; October 17, 2013
Presentation - Community Meeting; presentation to prepare an Environmental Impact Report; January 8, 2013

Contract Documents

Staff Report ID# 3599 - Amendment No. 1 to Newell Road Bridge Design Contract with NV5; June 3, 2013
Staff Report ID# 5549 - Amendment No. 2 to Newell Road Bridge Design Contract with NV5; May 13, 2015
Staff Report ID# 2501 - Approval of a Contract with NV5; April 9, 2012

Contact Information

Public Works Department
Project Manager: Michel Jeremias
Project Engineer: Rajeev Hada