Editorial: Suddenly, agreement on trails, bike bridge | September 7, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - September 7, 2012

Editorial: Suddenly, agreement on trails, bike bridge

After a false start in May, Stanford and Palo Alto agree on plans for improving regional trail system

Just three months after a Stanford residents' group complained it wasn't even consulted on a proposal by Supervisor Liz Kniss to use funds meant to offset the impact of Stanford growth on a bike bridge over Highway 101, a new plan with support from both the residents' group and the university picked up the endorsement of the Palo Alto City Council this week and now goes to the county Board of Supervisors for approval.

If county supervisors approve, the $10.4 million being held by the county will fund five projects:

• $4.million to help fund a long-sought pedestrian and bike bridge at Adobe Creek, connecting the Baylands and Mountain View commercial areas east of Bayshore with south Palo Alto;

• $4.5 million to develop new or improved bike-pedestrian trails around the western and southern perimeters of the campus;

• $1.5 million for a new east-west bike-pedestrian trail along Matadero Creek, running from Bryant Street to Greer Road;

• $200,000 to create the city's second north-south "bike boulevard" along Park Boulevard;

• $200,000 to enhance a trail along Arastradero Road between Foothill Expressway and Purissima Road in Los Altos Hills.

The deal flew through the City Council Tuesday, rightfully earning accolades from members who liked the positive impact it will have on the city's new Bike and Pedestrian Transportation Plan that eventually could transform the city into one of the nation's premier bike-friendly communities.

Supervisor Kniss, who represents Palo Alto on the county board had promoted using $8 million of the Stanford funds to build the bike bridge and a bayfront trail, said Wednesday that county staff members will have to determine if each project meets the terms of the general-use permit, awarded to Stanford by the county more than 10 years ago. She added that the process to approve all the proposals could take some time to work through the county system and ultimately will have to be approved by the supervisors.

"There is no rush," she said, reacting to grumbling by city officials that the county gave them less than two months to put together a proposal for the available funds, due yesterday.

The funds became available when San Mateo County decided not to build a trail on Alpine Road. The trail was one of two proposed as mitigation for Stanford's "general use permit," which gave the university permission to build up to 5 million square feet of new development on the campus. The $10.4 million reverted to Santa Clara County, which must now use the money to enhance recreation opportunities for users of the Stanford campus.

The Stanford residents' group, which had strongly opposed Kniss' plan in May, said at the time that some of the money should be used for projects that would benefit students and permanent campus residents, and proposed the campus trail improvements that ultimately became a major part of the plan approved by the council Tuesday.

If the deal wins approval from the county, it will be a huge benefit for the thousands of cyclists who use trails and bike lanes every day to crisscross the Stanford campus and city residents seeking better ways to get around by bike. Adding dedicated trails to safely navigate to the Stanford Shopping Center through Stanford and better connections up Stanford Avenue to Junipero Serra and the Dish trail will be a major improvement over what is now available.

For Palo Alto, a new bike bridge would provide a safe, year-round route to the Baylands, a much better option than the access available now via the Adobe Creek tunnel beneath the freeway, which is closed during the rainy season.

Just last year, when then-Mayor Sid Espinosa made the adoption of a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan one of his major priorities, the exciting projects envisioned at that time were without funding, dependent on finding grant money or competing with other city projects for scarce city capital-improvement dollars.

We trust Supervisor Kniss will push county staff and her colleagues to approve the Stanford-Palo Alto proposal before she leaves the board later this year. With the broad support of Stanford University, the Stanford residents' group and the unanimous endorsement of the Palo Alto City Council, this should be one of the easier Stanford-related decisions the board has been asked to make.


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