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Google Pitches In To Help the City Build a Bike Bridge Over US-101


The city of Palo Alto has been hoping to build a bike bridge over US-101 at Adobe Creek since 2012, but until now, the project has met with significant struggle.

While many years of failed contracts and negotiations have passed, the city is now moving ahead with a new plan to make the bike bridge a reality.

Palo Alto Online reports:

“Once in place, [the bridge] will provide year-round access for pedestrians and bicyclists trying to get from south Palo Alto to the Baylands.

Now, three new project bids are in, and the city is preparing to award a contract to one of them. If the council approves on Monday the recommendation from Public Works staff, the award will go to Biggs Cardosa Associates. Under the $1.5 million contract, the firm would provide design services for what would be a “standard” 14-foot-wide bridge, according to a new report from Public Works. This includes a 12-foot walkway, with a 10-foot center path and 1-foot-wide shoulders.

The new bridge will include 5 percent slopes, an 8-foot-tall fence with 1-inch square openings. The project also includes landscaping for the area around the ramp near the Baylands.”

Previous contracts have fallen through due to ballooning budgets and challenging negotiations, and just this year the project’s budget was cut in as part of efforts to make up a state funding shortfall. Even so, this time the city is fighting to make the bridge happen, and has even picked up a few powerful allies to back them.

Palo Alto Online continues:

“Anticipating the loss of funding, the city and Google, which owns property near Adobe Creek, both made an appeal to the state and the county earlier this month to preserve the financial backing for the bike bridge, calling it a ‘model for effective state, local and private partnerships.’ The project, the letter notes, ‘has already absorbed substantial cost increases, due to delays in preparing environmental studies and an extensive public involvement process.’”

Google has a vested interest in making the bike bridge happen, not only because they own land on part of the site of the future bridge, but because many of their employees (as well as employees of similar powerhouse tech companies like Facebook) would likely become regular users of the bridge on their bicycle commutes to work.

“Google once again offered to contribute $1 million, this time with no strings attached. A May 6 letter from Igoe states that the company’s concern ‘stems from Google’s interest in offering transportation alternatives to our employees and other area stakeholders,’” Palo Alto Online reads.

“’Google and other bicycle users will greatly benefit from the construction of this bridge by providing meaningful vehicle trip generation,’ Igoe wrote.”

Even without support from tech giants, and the potential loss of previously promised government funds, the city of Palo Alto is continuing to seek opportunities for funding the bike bridge project.

“Palo Alto is also considering other funding options. The county’s Recreational Trails Program, for instance, also included a $4.5 million grant for Stanford University to construct a ‘perimeter trail’ around its campus. Stanford subsequently relinquished this grant and opted to fund the project out of its own pockets, creating an opportunity for additional county funds to be used for the bike bridge.”

While the future of the bike bridge may still be somewhat uncertain, it is clear that the city sees the bike bridge as a priority worth working on. As an option to make commuting into and out of Palo Alto by bike simpler and more practical, this kind of measure is what we need to see prioritized in cities all across the Bay Area and the country.

“The goal of this project is ‘to provide year-round bicycle and pedestrian access between Palo Alto, Stanford University, the San Francisco Bay Trail, Baylands recreational areas, and large job centers east of U.S. 101.

An existing bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing at Oregon Expressway is approximately 1.4 miles north and is inconvenient for active transportation users who live in south Palo Alto and commuters to the Google and Facebook campuses.’”

Will the Palo Alto bike bridge happen? Or will it face the financial and infrastructure challenges that so many bicycle-supporting projects face again and again? Only time will tell.