Crossing the Great Divide

Redwood City is 34.7 square miles in area, but of that total, close to half — 15.2 square miles — is water. When most of us (including me) think about Redwood City, we only consider the 19.4 square mile land portion of the city: the part that we can walk, drive, or build on. I haven’t actually done the math, but I’m guessing that Highway 101 slices the city nearly in two (the 15.2 square miles plus Redwood Shores plus the Bair Island neighborhood probably comes close to equaling the portion of Redwood City west of Highway 101). As it slices the city in two, Highway 101 also serves as something of a “great divide” between the two halves. Within Redwood City there are three roads, and one set of railroad tracks, that cross the freeway, but unless you are driving your options for getting to the other side of the highway are pretty limited.

Fortunately, those options are starting to become somewhat less limited. If you’ve used the Highway 101 overpass at Whipple Avenue lately, you know what I mean: Redwood City recently completed the Whipple and Veterans Overlay Project, and in addition to resurfacing the overpass they added a rather arresting bike lane to it:

I’m of course referring to that bright green lane in the center of the street: this is the new bike lane, at least for cyclists heading towards the bay. Cyclists making the opposite journey are faced with a more conventional option, a standard bike lane up against the north side of the overpass that then transitions into a lane shared with motor vehicles. The bike lane begins and ends on the eastern side of the overpass, where northbound traffic coming off the freeway reaches a signalized intersection:

By placing the bike lane in the center of the street, it at least keeps cyclists well away from the drivers on Whipple Avenue that are focused on getting to the northbound and southbound onramps to Highway 101. Personally, though, with cars on my left coming towards me, and cars on my right coming up from behind, all at some speed, I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be using that bike lane. Of course, I’m not much of a cyclist (although I do own a bike that I very occasionally dust off and use), so I don’t have to make that particular choice. If I were, though, I’d probably do what I usually do when I’m out and about on foot: I’d cross over using the Maple Street overpass. That particular crossing doesn’t have much in the way of sidewalks, but there are no freeway onramps or offramps to contend with, and the traffic on that portion of Maple Street is usually pretty light. While I did brave the Whipple Avenue overpass on foot to get the above pictures, when I am out walking I usually avoid it like the plague: cars heading towards the freeway onramps are typically speeding up in anticipation of getting on the freeway, and they aren’t expecting to see pedestrians crossing in front of them. Although there are marked crosswalks across the two onramps, there aren’t any signals to protect the pedestrian (there is one at the offramp, but not at the two onramps on the southern side of the overpass). Thus, I prefer Maple Street, even though it means walking quite a bit farther.

For now I use Maple Street, but I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when I can go under, rather than over, the freeway. Whenever I cross over to the bay side of Redwood City, I look in on the progress of the US Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing Project. This project will run from where Main Street ends near the freeway to the roundabout between the Boardwalk Auto Dealerships and our Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Lest you get the impression from the project’s name that this undercrossing will only be for pedestrians, bicycles will most definitely be welcome to use it.

Lately the work crews on this project have been spending a lot of time on the approaches from the Main Street side: they’re rebuilding the sidewalk on the creek side of Main Street:

On the other side of Main Street, crews are adding a new sidewalk and are working to define the path leading down to the undercrossing:

At one time the city hoped to have this undercrossing complete by the end of the year, but clearly they aren’t going to make that deadline. Hopefully this project will be completed early in the new year, however. I for one will be getting a great deal of use out of it.

Before I leave the subject of Highway 101 for this week, I thought I’d just note for the record that the US 101 Express Lanes Project, which is converting our carpool lanes into express lanes, has reached Redwood City. Express lanes can be used by anyone willing to pay a toll that will vary depending upon how freely the traffic is moving. Carpools will still have free access to these express lanes, but note that the current definition of a carpool in our area — two persons — is changing to three persons for these express lanes. (Two-person carpools will have to pay to use the lanes, but they will pay less than single-occupancy vehicles). As to when to expect all of this, Caltrans hopes to have everything up and running by mid-2022. In the mean time, the new signs that are going up along the freeway will all boast the orange “Under Construction” banners:

Thanks to a recent article in the San Mateo Daily Journal, it seems that 5th Quarter Pizza and Bravo Taqueria, two restaurants located adjacent to one another and sharing a parking lot along Woodside Road near Kentfield Avenue, will be closing up shop by the end of January. According to the Daily Journal article, they “will likely be demolished to make way for a new development.” As yet I have been unable to find anything specific about what the property owners hope to do with the site, but you can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye out and will report on whatever I do find.

In a similar vein, I’ve been watching the progress on the remodeling of the old Pizza and Pipes building (for a brief time it was Pizza and Pints). It’s hard to tell just what they are doing with this space: they could be remodeling it for a new restaurant, or they could be turning it into offices. The building permit does mention “changes to store front windows and trim,” so hopefully the words “store front” mean that this will still be a restaurant or a retail outlet of some sort. Up until recently most of the work had been confined to the building’s interior, but true to the permit they have recently enlarged the four small windows that faced out onto Winslow Street, enlarging them so that they extend all the way to the ground:

This project sure is interesting. Back in late summer, when the remodeling first began, the city quickly stepped in and issued a “Stop Work Notice” — it seems that in February the contractor had applied for a permit, but they didn’t wait for the permit to be issued before starting work. That permit came through in early October, however, and work quickly resumed.

The following isn’t a great picture, but I went by the new building at the corner of Broadway and Jefferson Avenue and snapped a photo of the lobby, which is looking pretty complete:

The vast majority of this building will of course be offices for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the LLC that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan set up to “advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research and energy.” While this building was under construction CZI leased space in a nearby building, but it sure looks as if the move to their new space will begin almost any day now, if it hasn’t already. As for the retail space on the corner that is slated to become a Wells Fargo Bank branch, that space is still entirely empty. Someone has applied for a permit that includes “modifications to existing storefront along Jefferson Ave to accommodate (2) new ATM machines with surrounds and new building signage,” but that permit remains under review.

I thought I’d end this week’s post on a somewhat humorous, seasonal note. It seems that decorating for the Christmas season doesn’t have to be all that involved or take all that much time. Just check out this house on Hopkins Avenue:

Why get the ladder out and go to all the trouble of hanging lights on the eaves of your house, when you can simply get the ladder out and decorate it instead?  This is real creativity. None of those blow-up snowmen for these folks…

9 thoughts on “Crossing the Great Divide

  1. Regarding the pedestrian crosswalks on the southside of the Whipple Ave overpass. The streetlights above the crosswalks have not been working for months. I’ve emailed Caltrans 3 times and nothing. 4:40 am I use the onramp and the visibility to see a pedestrian is not good.

  2. That Christmas ladder is awesome…

    As a cyclist I get why they put the east bike lane down the center of Whipple overpass but did they make any changes to the Whipple/Veterans intersection in order for east heading cyclist to safety transition from riding along the side of the road to going to the center? It’s the transition points that can be sketchy. Even with relatively clear markings I still have issues sometimes getting across one lane of traffic heading west on the Sand Hill/280 overpass in Menlo Park/Woodside.

    I tried digging into what was going on at the old Pizza & Pipes building as well with not much luck. I did find an expired Loopnet lease flyer advertising the space as office space…I’m going to assume that’s what’s going in.

  3. The 101 undercrossing at the end of Main Street is going to be a huge improvement for access to the Bair Island from Redwood City. Much safer and more direct than the current options.

    And it will also dramatically improve the connection to Downtown for folks who live east of 101. It will be a surprisingly short walk (or even shorter bike ride). Can’t wait!!!

  4. I’m so bummed to hear that Bravo Taqueria is closing. Carlos, the owner is such a nice and hard working guy. I hope he’s able to open up somewhere else.

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