Six-foot-wide sidewalks, flashing pedestrian crosswalks and new drainage systems are one step closer to being built on Santa Cruz Avenue, after the Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously on June 1 to pay upfront the $5.9 million expected cost of the project.
The sidewalks would extend on the north side of Santa Cruz Avenue between Olive Street and Johnson Street and on the south side between Olive Street and Arbor Road.
With about $1.1 million already designated for the project, council members agreed to set aside $1 million from the city's transportation impact fee fund and take the rest, about $3.8 million, from the city's general fund.
They also considered alternative payment plans, such as paying upfront using only money from the general fund, or paying with a debt financing plan, in anticipation of big expenses expected in the coming months, including a stormwater pump station and a contribution to a proposed project at the Willow Road/U.S. 101 interchange.
The project could begin as soon as September, after the city goes through the bidding process to choose who will build it.
Other features that add to the cost of the project are a 3-inch conduit that will be built to hold fiber-optic cables in the future, which could be used to monitor traffic signals. Some existing 5-foot sidewalks would be removed and then built wider.
Special storm drains are also planned. Otherwise, the height of the sidewalk could be taller than the level of the properties it would touch, creating a space for water to pool on private property.
There will also be a 2-foot-wide buffer for bike lanes, and the pavement will be smoothed for bikers, said Public Works Director Justin Murphy.
Michael Doran, who said he has lived on Santa Cruz Avenue for nine years, said that talks about building a sidewalk there have been going on for about 30 years.
"I would like to see it get built as soon as possible," he said.
The council also voted unanimously to commit $800,000 to the first phase of a project by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority to ease potential creek flooding in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.
The project involves widening a section of the creek near the Palo Alto Golf Course, building new floodwalls and excavating parts of the bottom of the channel, according to the staff report.
The agency received bids that were about $3.9 million over what had been budgeted, so city staff recommended that the council approve $800,000 in funding, spread over three years, from the city's general fund reserves to pay its share of the added cost.
The move reallocated the $500,000 intended for replacement of the Pope/Chaucer Street and Newell Road bridges and added $300,000. Additional funding would likely be needed for the bridge replacement project.
According to council member Kirsten Keith, the process to address the creek's flood risks downstream from Menlo Park has been underway for many years.
"It's taken 18 years to get here," she said. "With that in mind, I'm really supportive."