BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
The long-awaited replacement of the Newell Road Bridge to protect homes from flooding is at risk of being delayed another year, according to the city of Palo Alto.
A delay would leave homeowners in Crescent Park and East Palo Alto living through another year with the threat of muddy water flowing through the streets and into their homes.
Delays have angered neighbors before.
“I was here 25 years ago – 25,” Alester Avenue resident Kevin Fisher said at a community meeting in April at Duveneck Elementary School.
“A quarter century,” another resident yelled out.
“Half a lifetime,” a third resident added.
The 112-year-old bridge has been a known chokepoint on the San Francisquito Creek since 1998, when flooding damaged 1,700 properties.
The city has been working on putting in a new bridge that allows more water through since 2011, with a couple stops and starts since then.
Caltrans gave the city a $6.8 million grant to replace the bridge, but the money isn’t budgeted until 2026.
The city is asking Caltrans to move the funding up to 2024 and increase the grant by $6 million because construction costs have climbed since the grant was approved four years ago.
City planners expect that Caltrans will approve the funding “but are proceeding in advance of approval despite the risk that it may either not be approved or not available during this fiscal year,” city spokeswoman Meghan Horrigan-Taylor said.
It’s possible that the city fronts the funding and gets reimbursed by Caltrans later, Horrigan-Taylor said.
Some of the money would be used to pay neighboring property owners for access to their land during construction.
The city did appraisals, sent out offer packages and is now negotiating with property owners, Horrigan-Taylor said.
Valley Water paid homeowners on Edgewood Drive just under $3,000 in January to survey their properties, according to public records.
The funding isn’t the only issue. The city also has to get permits and work with PG&E to relocate power poles that won’t work with the new bridge.
Everything has to be lined up by February for the city to hire a contractor, Horrigan-Taylor said. Construction in the creek can only happen in the dry season between June 15 and Oct. 15.