“It’s a beautiful day in East Palo Alto,” declared the city’s Public Works Director, Kamal Fallaha, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Clarke Avenue/Newell Road Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge over Highway 101 on Thursday morning. “As an engineer you live for days like this.”
After the group photos of smiling public officials with ceremonial shovels and hard hats, construction crews continued bulldozing work on the site, the city-owned “Pad D” at the corner of Clarke Avenue and East Bayshore Road where the eastern span of the pedestrian bridge will touch down. Officially the city anticipates construction to take 18 to 24 months, but privately city staff admit it could be built in as little as 14 months if no major delays occur.
“It’s going to give a clear signal that we are committed to all the residents of East Palo Alto,” said Mayor Larry Moody at the ceremony. “I’m looking forward to seeing those first families coming down this ramp, crossing the highway.”
Vice-Mayor Ruben Abrica recounted that community leaders had to demonstrate that the neighborhoods on both sides of Highway 101 really comprised an integrated community to incorporate East Palo Alto as a city in 1983. “We did prove that we are one community, and we recognize that this [bridge] is a both an engineering project and a social justice reparation.”
“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not,” said resident Norm Picker of the bridge, quoting former U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy.
“It’s going to be so much more than just rebar and concrete,” said Picker. ” I’m so happy that it’s here.”
East Palo Alto city officials are also pursuing a second pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Highway 101 on the north side of University Avenue. Today University Avenue features a single five feet wide sidewalk shared by people walking and bicycling, widely agreed by residents and staff to be unsafe and inadequate. No funding for that bridge has yet been acquired or allocated.