Palo Alto, Stanford win $10 million for bike bridge, trails | November 23, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 23, 2012

Palo Alto, Stanford win $10 million for bike bridge, trails

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approves funding for major projects

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's bicyclists, pedestrians and nature lovers had much to celebrate Tuesday, Nov. 20, after the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors awarded $10 million to the city and Stanford University for a new bike bridge that will span U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek and for a host of improvements to trails around the university.

The board voted unanimously to spend $10.4 million in funds allocated for recreation on most of the projects that Palo Alto and Stanford asked for in September and to allocate another $400,000 for the Dumbarton Link in the Bay Trail, a project sponsored by the Midpeninsula Open Space District. The bridge project will receive $4 million, while Stanford trails will get $4.5 million. Another $1.5 million will pay for a new Matadero Creek Trail.

The board reached a consensus despite major reservations from supervisors Liz Kniss and Dave Cortese, who supported the bike bridge but wanted to provide about half of the funding that Stanford requested for its proposed network of campus-perimeter trails. After Kniss' proposal was rejected 3-2 (with Cortese supporting it), the board voted to entirely fund Stanford's $4.5 million request, which would enhance a 3.4-mile trail along Junipero Serra Boulevard, Stanford Avenue and El Camino Real.

Among the trail's features would be a new path on the block of Stanford Avenue between Raimundo Street and Junipero Serra. The Stanford Avenue block ends at the Stanford Dish, a popular hiking spot that attracts about half a million visits annually. The existing Stanford Avenue path, which stretches from El Camino Real to the Dish, ends at Raimundo, requiring visitors to the Dish to either walk on the road or cross the street to take the path on the south side. The proposal to modify Stanford Avenue would eliminate about 20 parking spaces on that block, according to the county's traffic engineers. Kniss argued that the county should hold a series of meetings before approving the potentially controversial modifications to the heavily used street. The board ultimately directed Stanford to conduct the necessary outreach before it receives the funds.

The $10.4 million was transferred to the county from Stanford as part of an agreement the university made in 2000. In exchange for being allowed to build up to 5 million square feet of development, the university agreed to compensate the community for the potential loss of recreational opportunities caused by the developments. Stanford was required to build two trails, one in Santa Clara County and another in San Mateo County. The latter was ultimately rejected by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors — a decision that remitted the $10.4 million in "recreation funds" back to Santa Clara County earlier this year.

When considering how to distribute the $10.4 million, the supervisors considered 15 projects from six agencies. Two of these agencies — Palo Alto and Stanford — came out as the clear winners, with the county funding most of the items on their collective wish list. There were a few exceptions. Palo Alto had hoped to get some funding for bicycle improvements, including "sharrows" (road marking reminding drivers to share the road with cyclists) and other traffic-calming features, on Park Boulevard. It also hoped the county would help fund improvements to the Arastradero Road trail. The county had determined that neither of these projects meet the criteria for the funds because they would merely upgrade existing facilities, not create new ones.

The board also rejected bids from Menlo Park, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley and the open space district, most of whom proposed improvements to open space.

The Tuesday vote was a huge boost for Palo Alto's bid to build a new pedestrian and bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek. The bike project, the most ambitious and expensive component in the city's recently approved Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan, aims to provide a new path to the Baylands in the south part of the city.

The new Matadero Creek trail in Palo Alto — a 1.3-mile, east-west path that would cut through the center of the city and link to Stanford through Park Boulevard — will follow Matadero Creek from Alma Street to West Bayshore Road.

Palo Alto City Councilman Sid Espinosa was one of many city residents who urged the board to support the Matadero project, along with others in the city's joint application with Stanford.

"This proposal would greatly expand the recreational opportunities to Stanford residents and campus users and Palo Alto residents as a whole," Espinosa said.

He also said that the city is committed to seeking other funding sources and spending its own money to supplement the county's contributions.

The bike bridge could cost up to $10 million, though Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez said the city is now in the midst of preliminary design work and should have a better idea of the price tag within six months.

Rodriguez also praised Stanford's trail proposal and called the Stanford Avenue trail "the single most important element of the trail program because of its nexus to Stanford residents."

Stanford officials and campus residents asserted that the projects would create a pristine trail network for area cyclists and employees while, at the same time, greatly enhancing recreational opportunities for the university's population. James Sweeney, president of the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders — an elected board representing the campus population — urged the board to support the perimeter-trail proposal.

"The Stanford perimeter trail will give opportunities to people of all ages — and I want to emphasize all ages — for adequate recreation suitable to their physical capabilities," Sweeney said, noting that campus residents include seniors and parents with children.

"It's part of an integrated set of trails in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so I urge you to support the whole Stanford-Palo Alto proposal," Sweeney said.

Penny Ellson, a leading advocate for bike improvements along Palo Alto's routes to schools, said the proposals from Stanford and Palo Alto would greatly enhance commuters' abilities to shift from cars to other means of transportation.

The Palo Alto Unified School District also voted to back the city's and Stanford's proposal. Dana Tom, vice president of the school board, urged the supervisors to support the application.

The biggest disagreement on the board was over the Dumbarton Link in the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. Kniss said the proposed Ravenswood trail would provide recreational opportunities for East Palo Alto, a city that she said currently has a shortage of parks.

"This would considerably add to that community's ability to have more access, especially to the environment along the bay," Kniss said.

She and Cortese both supported giving the project $2 million. It would have built the last 0.6-mile segment in the South Bay portion of the San Francisco Bay Trail, connecting Redwood City to Alviso. When their proposal failed, they grudgingly voted along with the board majority to give the project $400,000.

"It's all good, but it's a classic case of 'the rich get richer and the poor stay where they're at,'" Cortese said.

Kniss, who is about to conclude her term on the board and return to her former position on the Palo Alto City Council, agreed and said it's "very regrettable that we didn't fund more of the Bay Trail connection."

Supporters of funding Stanford's entire perimeter-trails proposal said they were swayed by the fact that the university had agreed to designate the existing trails for public use.

The list of projects that the board ultimately approved was proposed by Supervisor Ken Yeager and immediately endorsed by board President George Shirakawa. Supervisor Mike Wasserman was the swing vote, while Kniss and Cortese voted along with their colleagues when it became clear the Yeager proposal would pass.


Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Really too bad that the East Palo Alto Bay Trail project did not get fully funded. That trail would be hugely beneficial both to local residents and also to people commuting between Palo Alto and east Menlo Park (Facebook, etc.). Hopefully Facebook can pitch in to pay for this trail. Currently, people must walk or bike along the decaying shoulder of high-speed University Avenue, which is not safe for children.

Posted by biker, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm

We have to make sure that this is just some plain old bridge. This must be a bridge that will people say- ” what a work of art Palo alto has”. Money should be no object. The city council should plan to add money to this bridge project. We need to lead the country on this issue. Ths bridge must first be aesthetically pleasing, then usable. Spate no expense.

Posted by bikertramp, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I doubt that Facebook will do much more contributing to anything. They hd to pay off the city of Menlo park recently for all the problems they are causing there, at a time that they are not making as much income as previously and employees are leaving.

Posted by Good outcome., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm

A City of Menlo Park at the meeting today asked the SCC Board to fully fund the trail gap. What chutzpah. They take the Facebook mitigation money and spend NONE of it on the trail gap in Facebook's front yard and then ask another jurisdiction to pay for it.

SCC generously contributed $400,000 toward closing this gap even though it is outside their jurisdiction. This is a good project and it will add about 16 miles to the bay trails connections. They clearly stated that they are hoping to incent a multi-jurisdictional partnership with this gesture.

I hope advocates in Menlo Park and San Mateo County who spoke today will now use this opportunity to get electeds in THEIR jurisdictions to step up. San Mateo County, Menlo Park, Facebook really should be playing an active role here.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2012 at 1:13 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

I'm pleased to see the 101 overcrossing get funded, and the Matadero creek trail. I think both will prove to have long-term value. The Matadero creek trail is a relatively easy one, as there is already a maintenance access road alongside most of the creek, which I used to use when I was volunteering as a Creek Monitor with Acterra. I believe that giving people access to their natural resources helps build connections to the natural world and foster a desire to protect and restore ecosystems. It is my long-term hope that eventually Palo Alto will restore our creeks to a more natural form that fosters native wildlife, rather than the concrete channels we have today that, for instance, hamper native frogs' ability to reproduce.

It would have been good and fair to more fully fund the Bay trail in EPA, especially as these funds were originally meant for San Mateo County's use. As mentioned above by "resident", that link is of value to Palo Altans as well. Most of my career I have commuted to San Mateo, often by bike, and that gap has a significant impact on connectivity, seriously limiting access from Palo Alto to the Bay Trail north of University and the frontage road east of 101, and causing a big detour through somewhat sketchy neighborhoods. Riding that stretch of University from Bayshore to downtown EPA is really dangerous, with poor pavement, lots of debris in the roadway, very little room for bikes, poor visibility, and cars going freeway speeds. Super sketchy.

Posted by Bob Wenzlau, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2012 at 7:06 am

While the new bridge is exciting, I concur that a future priority must be to bridge the 101 for bikes and pedestrians near University Avenue. Whenever I ride my bike across the University Avenue bridge, I know my life is a risk. I don't do it often, but it annoys me to have to drive to Mi Pueblo - it is the closest large market to our home.

Ironically we have a new bridge being forced on the neighborhood crossing Newell - a unnecessary new monument to cars and transportation engineers that like straight roadways. The same monies spent on a Newell bridge should be shifted to a more urgent need: to safe guard pedestrians and bikers that risk crossing University at 101. (This is a symbolic herrang as different "government" pots of money are at play.)

Let's not forget that for many the crossing at University is necessary risk as they work as service employees in Palo Alto's downtown.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2012 at 8:15 am

Sad that crossing 101 has become so complicated / expensive / controversial. As a kid the Matadero and Barron creek undercrossings were perfectly serviceable, but as adults, well, I guess it's worth $10M not to get muddy. More accurately, for hundreds of people not to risk getting muddy on their way to work or recreation daily for the rest of their lives, with increased safety margin. I just hope it doesn't encourage even more development in our rapidly diminishing natural open space.

I question the value of a new Matadero Creek trail. As Cedric says, the funded segment is relatively easy to implement. But like high-speed rail, it goes nowhere until huge expenditures at either end, indicated on the trail map as a crossing of Alma and the tracks, plus another 101 conquest. If anyone actually uses this path, the Middlefield Road crossing will become another traffic signal. (Aside to residents with backyards along the creek, 50 feet of razor wire costs about $100 online.)

I'll have to explore the Bay Trail northwards. Does the Dumbarton Missing Link refer to a crossing of the aqueduct and railroad right-of-way? I can find maps of the existing trail but nothing yet of plans for future alignments.

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2012 at 9:24 am

There are maps of the East Palo Alto Bay Trail link on the county supervisor's web site. It runs parallel to University Avenue, but away from the road.

The Mercury-News has a more complete quote from Supervisor Cortese:

Supervisor David Cortese also expressed reservations. He wanted more funding for the Bay Trail link. "This is really a great case study for a political science class -- maybe at Stanford, maybe at San Jose State -- on why East Palo Alto continues to be East Palo Alto, why Alviso continues to be Alviso. And why we can't pick up 60 miles of Bay Trail when we have the opportunity," Cortese said. "It's all good, but it's certainly a classic case of the rich get richer and the poor stay where they're at."

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

Thanks, found a map. Makes better sense now. Hope we find more funding for it.

Posted by lazlo, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

Santa Clara County is now operating under a $216,000,000 deficit but continues to spend money like a teenager with their mother's credit card. Funny how this "ticking time bomb" and "unsustainabe spending" has eluded the Weekly's editorial staff. With the county sales tax hike approved, supervisors continue their binge spending habits ignoring the need to pay down the "ballooning" deficit. What a farce. Maybe the Weekly can explain why they supported the tax hike?

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

To lazlo: this money is from Stanford who requires that it be used for recreational facilities, and apparently Stanford leaned on the county to make sure it was only used close to their campus. It is not from sales taxes.

Posted by GBD, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

The website has more information about the projects.

Executive summary:
Web Link

Details of the Matadero Creek Trail:
Web Link

Note that the Matadero Creek Bike trail will be completed by 2016 and the bike bridge will be completed by 2017.

Posted by lets-be-moderate, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:16 am

I am *highly* in favor of a bridge - everyone (peds and cyclists alike) need a safe and year-round access to east of 101. HOWEVER, this need *not* be a "work of art". Not ugly; not inadequately sized; but not an extravagent "showcase" or "portal to Palo Alto".
There are too many things that need money, and too little of it available right now, for us to over-do this.

Posted by Sharing the Road, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:21 am

Bike bridges are wonderful. But please remember most people drive, and most will continue to drive. Our population is aging, and not likely candidates to be peddaling across town and biking at night.

In San Jose, a motorist lane was recently removed to make room for bikes, and cars line up for blocks, in bumper to bumper traffic, while one bike breezes by, in the new bike lane. It's silly.

The same is true for the state of the art bike bridge in Sunnyvale that goes over Highways 85 and 280. They took out a lane of traffic for commute vehicles on those two freeways, so two lanes of traffic are jam packed with cars, and while one sits there at a dead stop, drivers can look up and see one bicycle on the bridge.

Now they're talking about removing a lane for cars on El Camino Real, to give it to buses -- that have shaded windows so that one can't really see that the huge bus has two passengers. It's silly.

In the effort to accommodate bikes, buses and those that share a car to commute to work, please let's not forget the majority of people on the road, which are autos carrying only the driver.

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

Get the bridge done as soon as possible. 2017 is too long. I don't care what it looks like. Sooner is better than pretty. All the construction and development on Hwy 101 and San Antonio Road is just making that area more and more dangerous for bicyclists, while at the same time more and more people are trying to bicycle along that route (between southern Palo Alto and the jobs and parks around the Mountain View shoreline).

Posted by Hooray!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:34 am

Drivers already have a 101 overpass in south PA at San Antonio. There is NO safe overpass for bikes at present.

The planned bike bridge will not require taking any auto lanes. It is a GREAT idea. Members of my family will use it twice daily for their work commutes.

Thrilled to see this moving forward!

Posted by Gethin, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

Bridge: - what a colossal waste of money

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

The city should make the San Antonio Road bridge bicycle and pedestrian only until a safer bridge can be built. There are lots of other routes that cars can use.

Posted by Janet, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm

The resentment over spending $10M for a bike/ped bridge when we are spending $72M to widen a short stretch of Hwy 101 is extremely selfish. Freeways cut cities in half leaving few crossings for people on foot or bicycles, the ones for whom a short one mile detour means 5-30 minutes more travel time.

Do you realize that the old Adobe Creek crossing was not only muddy, it was closed half the year? Do you realize that it's now permanently closed? Why? So we can add even more car traffic to the freeway so that drivers are inconvenienced less.

How's that for justice? People who want to cross the freeway safely without getting into a car are shut out completely, and people who drive squeal that a comfortable new crossing is a waste of money. After all, they don't use it.

Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I'm really excited to see the Matadero Creek trail go forward, but we desperately need to figure out a way to connect the trail to Park Boulevard to make it useful. Having Caltrain at grade really splits Palo Alto in half.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2012 at 3:56 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Agreed, though crossing Alma would also need to be addressed, and would require either a light or an over or under crossing. The recently approved Bike/Ped Transportation Plan identifies as a long-term project to add a crossing of CalTrain/Alma somewhere in there. The stretch from Cal Ave tunnel to East Meadow is 1.5 miles, about a half hour detour by foot or 10 minutes by bike, each way. I used to live on the East side off Loma Verde and visit my GF on the West side off Margarita, which are straight across from each other. What would have been a 1.5 mile, 8 minute bike ride each way became a 3 mile 16 minute trip, doubling my travel time.

Posted by Andrew Boone, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2012 at 8:03 am

The City of Menlo Park did not ask the Board of Supervisors to fully fund the Ravenswood Bay Trail. Menlo Park City Council member Kelly Fergusson did. That's not the same thing.

I agree that Menlo Park should spend the Facebook mitigation money on the Bay Trail, but Kelly Fergusson alone obviously doesn't get to decide what Menlo Park does. If she did, this project would have been funded a long time ago. Menlo Park only gets about $1 million per year from Facebook, and it will be extremely difficult to get that allocated to the Bay Trail. Of course we are trying anyway, and I believe we are making progress toward that goal.

We lobbied for Santa Clara County to fund the Ravenswood Bay Trail because that's a far better use of public dollars than repaving and widening a trail on the Stanford campus, which is what much of what the Stanford Perimeter Trail will do. Awarding Stanford $4.5 million in public funds was, in my opinion, irresponsible and wasteful in the extreme, given that the Stanford campus is already covered in bike/ped trails, and Stanford's annual budget is over $4 billion, about 1000 times what they asked for from Santa Clara County, without offering any matching funds of their own.

In any case, this has all turned out much, much better than if San Mateo County had accepted the funds and dumped them all into the Alpine Road Trail as planned - for that we should all be very grateful. Now Palo Alto's Adobe Creek Bridge and Matadero Creek Trail will likely actually get built in the relatively near future, and those are excellent and very useful projects.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2012 at 11:31 am

Bike bridge great idea, here is another idea improve the following. Musketeers Rd, Alma Ave, and then turn Central Expressway into large bike/street combo to Sunnyvale. Turn Foothill into street/ bike combo.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm

What do you mean by a street/bike combo?

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I used bike/street combo, was looking for term. Now for my idea, the problem with trails that they are shared with Walkers. People on bikes given a safe route to ride will make the difference in bike vs car. Take Central or Foothill, narrow and in places a just bike street with controlled intersections. They have to stop at red lights, lights will trigger like a car. Pass that have to cross bike street will have to treat it like crossing the street. Fences will keep cars and bikes away from each other, unless at controlled intersection.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

So sorry, Bad writing. Was trying to say we need to have bikes, cars and peds not in the same routes of travel.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Sounds like you're talking about a dedicated bike only path alongside the roadway. Generally that works best where there are few intersections, so as to reduce the places where bikes are shooting into intersections from unexpected directions from the drivers' perspectives, and where bikes may need to make left turns from a right-side path. From that perspective, Alma, Central, and Foothill are good candidates (I'm unfamiliar with the other road you mentioned).

Generally, barriers between bike and car lanes are not advisable because if there is debris or obstacles in the bike lane there is nowhere to go to avoid it, and because bikes need to get to the left lane to turn left.

However, the other factor is availability of roadway width to accommodate separate pathways for each of cars, bikes, and peds (and on many streets, parking). My (admittedly faint) recollection is that Foothill may not have sufficient width for such, at least in some stretches especially along Stanford. I don't drive or bike that road much, but seem to recall an issue of constrained width in that stretch vis a vis bike or ped pathways. Alma is definitely narrow and would likely require taking a lane from cars to create bike lanes or paths, which politically and traffic engineering-wise would be difficult.

Lots of bike lanes in Palo Alto have substandard widths, too narrow for bikes along parked cars, such that the lanes force bike riders into the door zone where they can be struck by or run into car doors that are opened suddenly in front of them by parked drivers who don't know to check for bikes before opening their doors. Often the road is too narrow to widen the bike lane. The choices then leave it as is with the false sense of security, remove the bike lane, remove or restrict parking, or replace the bike lanes with Share The Road Arrows (AKA Sharrows) which indicate to bikes the safer line to ride and to cars to expect bikes in the roadway. Sharrows is the approach recommended by the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

Certain places in the expressway or very wide streets, try it on only a few. Streetsweepers can be used to keep it from debris. Expressways don`t have cars parked along side of them, intersections are far and few. Share the road works but I am talking about improving bike travel times and making bike speed faster.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2012 at 10:53 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

It seems to me such projects are often moved along by individuals or groups championing them. I don't know if there is a movement for better accommodations on foothill (or whether there is a need for them, again I rarely if ever ride there), but you may be interested to reach out to local advocates, such as the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC: Web Link). There have been a few recent Santa Clara County policy and infrastructural changes for bikes on expressways.

I suggest SVBC because they are well organized and effective, and advocate beyond (as well as within) Palo Alto's jurisdiction, which the expressways are outside of. For local bike needs, the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee meets monthly, the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 at Cubberly H5: Web Link . The meetings are open to the public, and there is a public comment period at the start, though we can only take action on agendized topics. If you go to any group with an issue or request, it is best to be prepared and have a clear concise description of the problem.

The ThinkBike event sounds like it was very interesting is described here: Web Link

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2012 at 10:55 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Oh, I forgot to include the link to the Palo Alto bicycle improvement request form: Web Link

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