If you live in Menlo Park, you may want to call your city council and let them know what you think about this.
Menlo Park bridge sparks controversy — 16 months after decision
By Mike Rosenberg
Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 04/07/2009 11:30:25 PM PDT
A Menlo Park neighborhood is circulating a petition asking the city council to rescind a decision made 16 months ago to build a new bridge that connects them to the low-income Belle Haven community after the old, existing one is demolished.
Once the 53-year-old Ringwood Avenue pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 is demolished by Caltrans as part of the state's $81 million project to add a freeway auxiliary lane, no overcrossing should replace it, say residents of the Flood Triangle neighborhood west of 101 between Marsh and Willow.
In December 2007, the city council could have chosen to simply leave the area without an overcrossing, replace the existing bridge with a bigger one or have an overcrossing built in a different location — all on Caltrans' dime.
Some Flood Triangle residents have complained the overcrossing gives criminals an easy getaway to the Belle Haven neighborhood on the east side of the freeway. They also contend the new bridge, to be larger than the current one to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, would lower property values and result in the loss of privacy.
A group of residents say they just learned last month about the plan to build a new bridge in early 2011, which is why they started the petition drive two weeks ago in hopes of forcing officials to revisit their decision. The petition has more than 200 signatures and residents plan to submit it to the city Friday with nearly 300 names, all from the west side of the bridge.
At the Tuesday city council meeting, neighborhood representatives will publicly lobby the council to revisit the issue at a future meeting.
The residents' main argument is that the neighborhood is only now hearing about the project and the city did not sufficiently inform them of the project while it was in the planning stages.
When the council approved the project in 2007, it decided that the design of the bridge should involve residents' viewpoints. That requirement led to a public meeting March 25 that alerted Flood Triangle residents to the issue.
"Literally everyone I'd talked to about this petition had not heard of this issue, or had heard of it in the last couple weeks," said Flood Triangle resident Mark Throndson, one of the petitioners. He said his house has been broken into, and police subsequently arrested someone who came over from the east side of the bridge.
Menlo Park Transportation Manager Chip Taylor said Caltrans, which is funding and operating the $5.7 million year-long project, issued broad notices to properties around the bridge prior to the council meetings, but that some of them apparently arrived late.
The city also had alerted property owners within 500 feet of the bridge before the project was approved, Taylor added, noting that the meeting when the decision was made was packed with residents.
But residents such as Cathy Tokic argue the project also affects homeowners farther from the overcrossing and insist that most residents are just now learning of the council's decision.
"The people in this neighborhood have spent millions of dollars remodeling their homes," Tokic said. "People's homes have been broken into multiple times; windows broken multiple times."
Taylor said although council decisions are rarely re-examined, it should be legally possible to do so. Ultimately, such a decision would be up to council members, he said.
Tokic said the petition appears to be the only avenue residents have in their crusade to have the decision reversed.
Ideally, she said, residents would prefer that the Willow Road overcrossing be rebuilt to and made safer, although that bridge is about a half-mile away from the Ringwood Avenue walkway. In addition, she said Menlo-Atherton High School students, who make up a majority of the bridge's roughly 50 daily users, should be given better bus access across the freeway.
Taylor said the bus option would be costly and it is inconvenient for pedestrians to travel out of their way to Willow, the closest access across the freeway from