Stanford OKs expanded list of trail routes along Alpine Road

Supervisors meet Tuesday on this issue

Stanford University has agreed to expand the range of options it would consider in its 2006 offer to pay up to $10.4 million to upgrade an aged asphalt path along Alpine Road between Portola Valley and Menlo Park.

A staff report prepared for the Tuesday (Dec. 13) meeting of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors notes that Stanford accepted two of the three additional options proposed by the supervisors in November. The supervisors now face a deadline of Dec. 31 to ask Stanford for a two-year extension to its offer.

The board, which rejected Stanford's offer in 2006 and 2010, meets at 9 a.m. in the Hall of Justice and Records at 400 County Center in Redwood City.

A university offers a county $10 million, in hard times, to upgrade a couple of miles of deteriorating asphalt and shore up a creek bank that may someday undercut the road. What's complicated about that?

As the path passes the unincorporated community of Ladera, it is wide, flat and seldom interrupted by intersections, but near Stanford Weekend Acres, its width, topography and right-of-way vary wildly. In places, the path veers dangerously close to Alpine Road, which is two lanes, curving and packed with speeding traffic twice a day.

In their cars, Weekend Acres residents must cross the "path" -- it disappears at intersections -- to get in and out of the neighborhood. Replacing a cracked, bumpy, random assemblage of paving with a smooth uniform surface suitable for serene two-way traffic of cyclists and pedestrians, including children and dogs, could further exacerbate residents' ordeal of negotiating a very busy arterial.

To complicate it still further, between Ladera and Weekend Acres, the path passes under Interstate 280 and crosses two off ramps. One ramp has a stop sign, but at the other, path users cross in front of moving traffic with drivers easily focused not on the crosswalk in front of them but on traffic that could slow their merge.

Since 2006, Stanford has offered to pay to study three options, choose one of the two that involve actual construction, and build it with the remaining funds. In November, the supervisors upped the ante with three more options, and Stanford has agreed to pay for two of them.

The study and design of five options would likely deplete the $10.4 million offer by $200,000 to $400,000, Assistant County Manager Dave Holland said in a telephone interview.

The original three options:

• Move sections of Alpine Road north to make room for an adequate trail on the south side of the road.

• Leave Alpine Road alone and make do without the extra space.

• Do nothing because the trail cannot be made safe.

On Nov. 1, a majority on the Board of Supervisors added three more:

• Build a trail that crosses to the north side of Alpine Road at Piers Lane and goes up the hill. At this point, it could cross open space owned by Stanford or by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, depending on whether SLAC would allow a trail across its land. Either way, it would be out of sight of Alpine Road to about Stowe Lane, where it would descend via switchbacks to re-cross Alpine (to avoid Weekend Acres).

• Build a trail that crosses Alpine at Piers Lane and hugs the north side of the road to Stowe Lane. This option would involved excavating the bottom of the hill to widen the right-of-way and make room for a street-level trail (to avoid Weekend Acres).

• Upgrade the existing trail on the south side of the road between Portola Valley and Piers Lane and stop (to avoid Weekend Acres). Stanford will not "under any circumstances" pay to build this option, according to the staff report.

Under the heading "Fiscal impact," a standard heading in governmental reports, the paragraph reads: "All costs are reimbursed through agreement with Stanford University; there is no net county cost."

Shoring up an eroding creek bank, widening and/or moving a road by cutting into a massive hill, making off-ramp crosswalks safe for children, solving the entry/exit problems at Weekend Acres. While the choice of one option would eliminate some of this, is $10.4 million enough?

Maybe not, Holland said, adding that Stanford has given indications of being flexible on the reimbursement. "We've got to come to full agreement on what the range is," he said. "Studying all the options will clarify (the costs)."

The fiscal impact statement refers to the $10.4 million because that is the context so far, but it does not preclude adjustments upward, he added.

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Like this comment
Posted by Pauline
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

How would you get across Alpine Road at Piers Lane and Stowe Lane?

Alpine Road traffic is super-heavy at both points. It is hard to imagine foot and bike traffic crossing Alpine Road safely.

The mouth of Piers Lane also serves as the parking area for hikers to the Dish, for which I thank Stanford every time I'm up there. I can testify from weekly experience that even getting a car on or off Alpine Road at the Piers Lane intersection is a huge challenge.

Another huge challenge is the path under 280. Headroom is an issue for bikers in a couple of spots. Right across Alpine is where a biker and 18-wheeler tangled, ending tragically.

Like this comment
Posted by Dann
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

Ok- why is a private University interested in paying for a public transportation facility?
Seems like they should ask those paying tuition and/or the board if that is a good use of funds. I am missing the context apparently- please educate me. Why is Stanford involved and why is the local government looking a gift horse in the mouth and making demands? There must be a Stanford connection/responsibility that is old news to you all and perplexing to me. Perhaps a good portion of the faculty live there?

Like this comment
Posted by building permits
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

Ten years ago, Stanford promised to build these trails in exchange for building permits to expand their campus. Unfortunately, they put so many restrictions and limitations on the trails that nothing has happened in 10 years. The trails were originally intended to give people living at or near Stanford a safe route to the open space areas around the Arastradero Preserve. There is supposed to be another trail parallel to Page Mill Road and under I-280 that has not been built either.

Like this comment
Posted by Dann
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Thank you for explaining. So the followup article indicates that Stanford will not be allowed to upgrade/build the trails and therefore the building permit aspect is also out of the picture? I guess there is a history to why building permits must be
"purchased" in such a manner. I won't pretend to understand it all but I do thank you for the education.

Does the County get some money from Stanford rather then that same money going to the trail? Read a couple of comments on the other article about money going to SC County.

I wish you all the best.

Thanks again.

Like this comment
Posted by AreaResident
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Actually, Stanford completed and opened the Matadero trail that parallels Page Mill Road earlier this year: Web Link

There have also been lots of improvements along Alpine road and trail last two years, though further improvements are opposed by local residents for one section of road.

Like this comment
Posted by trail to nowhere
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Have you ever seen anyone use that Matadero trail to nowhere? It gives you an ugly view of the expressway then it ends in the middle of a horse pasture. What's the point? When they finish the second half of the trail to reach the Arastradero Preserve, then it will start getting some traffic.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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