After more than two years of planning and designing, Stanford University is looking to break ground this month on an ambitious trail project to create a smoother trip for bicyclists and pedestrians around its campus, the nearby foothills and north Palo Alto.
Once completed, the 3.4-mile multi-use trail will stretch along sections of El Camino Real, Junipero Serra Boulevard and Stanford Avenue, providing new connections to Stanford Stadium, Town & Country Village, Palo Alto Medical Center, Stanford Shopping Center and the transit center on University Avenue.
In the near term, however, the project will hit local bikers and pedestrians with a few construction-related inconveniences, including the closure of the Stanford Dish for a month in July. It would also remove dozens of parking spaces on Stanford Avenue, near the Dish, and create new ones on Coyote Hill Road.
The trail project was sparked by a $4.5-million allocation from Santa Clara County, which agreed in November 2012 to accept a joint application for the trails from Stanford and Palo Alto. The money was initially transferred to the county by Stanford as part of the school's "general use permit," an agreement signed in 2000 that allowed Stanford to build up to 5 million square feet of new development. While the original plan was to spend the money on a trail in San Mateo County, that project fizzled under political opposition, freeing up funds for the new perimeter trail in Palo Alto.
Larry Horton, Stanford's recently retired vice president for public affairs, lauded the new trail system as "an exciting project and a big win for both Stanford and Palo Alto.
"After a few months of construction inconvenience, we will have a new connector trail, more and better parking, safer conditions for people and access to new recreational opportunities," Horton said.
Construction will begin later this month, when workers start setting up the new pathways on El Camino Real, between Stanford Avenue and Quarry Road. In mid-summer, the popular Stanford Dish will be close to the public between July 13 and Aug. 16. The summer months will also see a flurry of construction on Stanford Avenue, according to an announcement from the university. That component of the trail project is scheduled to coincide with the summer break.
The trail project has won an enthusiastic endorsement from the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders, which is composed of Stanford employees who live on campus.
Jim Sweeney, the group's board president, said in a statement that the plan makes "great strides toward completing a well-planned integrated set of recreational facilities that would allow walking, jogging and bicycling connections from the Bay to the Arastradero Preserve.
"As an integrated package, these improvements would be used regularly by a wide spectrum of campus residents, by residents of our neighboring cities and by others who visit Stanford to use its recreational facilities, including people from many different age groups from children to the elderly," Sweeney told the Stanford News Service.
Not everyone, however, is as enthusiastic about the trail project. Dozens of residents who frequent the Dish have been complaining about the new parking plan for Stanford Avenue, which leads to the main gate of the popular hiking destination.
The new trail system would replace the existing parking arrangement, in which cars are parallel parked along Stanford, with an unusual alignment in which cars would have to back into angled spaces between Junipero Serra Boulevard and Raimundo Way. North of Raimundo, cars would still be able to parallel park on the north side of the street.
Because the new backed-in angle parking would result in a loss of 15 spaces on Stanford Avenue (where the number of spaces would drop from 60 to 45), the university is creating a new parking area with 33 spots on Coyote Hill Road, about half a mile from the Dish entrance. The new parking area is expected to serve visitors to both the Dish and the recently created Matadero Creek Trail.
Critics of this plan contended last year that increasing the distance between the parking spaces and the Dish would discourage people from going to the preserve, which attracts an estimated 600,000 visitors. Supporters have countered that the segment of Stanford Avenue near the Dish is already too congested and chaotic and that the redesign will make road conditions safer for students at the nearby Nixon Elementary School.
While the new configuration on Stanford Avenue will reduce the number of parking spots for cars, it will add a new bike corral capable of accommodating 50 parked bicycles near the intersection of Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra. Stanford Avenue, which serves as the most direct route between El Camino Real and the Dish, will also be furnished with green bike lanes on both sides and traffic bumps to reduce car speeds. Much of the work will take place in the summer months, when school is out, according to Stanford University.
More information about the Stanford Perimeter Trail project is available here.