Master Schematic Design Study For El Camino Real

Palo Alto, California

City of Palo Alto

Lead Consultant

2002 - 2004

Community Design + Architecture led a team of consultants to develop a Master Schematic Design Study for the Palo Alto segment of El Camino Real, a designated state highway (State Route 82) that functions as a critical regional and local north-south transportation corridor. The corridor averages up to 50,000 daily vehicle trips during the week and hosts several key bus routes for the region and the city.

The project was funded by the City of Palo Alto through a major grant from the Office for Community Planning of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The project addressed functional and aesthetic improvements to the corridor that would achieve a better balance between the needs of automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians, and transit, while reinforcing and reflecting its importance as a 'main street' within Palo Alto.

The design process employed Context Sensitive Design and Flexibility in Highway Design ' nationally supported approaches to highway design ' to accommodate street beautification measures and improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists in the limited right-of-way (120' typical). The planning and design effort required several deviations from California highway design standards, and involved the input of high-level Caltrans decision-makers. The outcome will inform Caltrans' own efforts to revise current standards to better reflect communities' needs for a highway design practice that is more sensitive to the local context and community-specific goals. The Master Schematic Design Study will lead to major conceptual changes regarding the design of the street; design and transportation concepts for the segments and nodes that are defined by variations in use and function along it; and the design of the detail urban design, landscape, and multi-modal elements that will be needed to fully carry out the larger design concepts, including improvements to bicycle and pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, appropriate accommodations of street trees and other street furnishings.

After the City put the project on hold in late 2003 after completion of the Draft Master Plan, a final report ('El Camino Real Schematic Design Study') was endorsed by the City Council in late 2007. It will now be used to guide all improvements of the street within the City of Palo Alto. This process has already begun with major tree planting efforts in medians and will continue with a pilot intersection improvement project.