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Palo Alto Daily News - May 10, 2004
Trail Aims to Bridge 85 'Divide'
By Mark Helfen Daily News Correspondent

The Stevens Creek Trail is an inch closer to completion. The Mountain View City Council will discuss the environmental impact report covering the completion of the trail at its May 18 meeting. The proposal is for a 1.7-mile extension to the existing trail, starting at Yuba Drive, crossing under El Camino Boulevard, crossing Highway 85 twice, and ending adjacent to Mountain View High School. The city will release a 200-page response to public comments at the end of this week.

According to Helen Kim, the city's project manager, the draft has been circulating for 18 months. The city answered 57 comments. A full copy of the report is available at the Mountain View Public Library. "It's not a project yet," said Kim, until the report is certified by the council. The plan is for the council to meet next month to vote on certification. The proposed path roughly parallels Highway 85. An undercrossing would be built at El Camino near Highway 85, with a Highway 85 overcrossing near the intersection of Dale and Heatherstone, and another near Mountain View High School. No property would be condemned by the city for the trail. Neighborhood access points would be near the intersection of Heatherstone and Dale, at Continental Circle adjacent to the old Emporium store, and at Sleeper Circle where there is an unused parcel of land. Additional parking would be build at the trail end next to the high school.

The trail will bring several benefits to the city, said Mayor Matt Pear. "Its a good recreational resource, connecting to the Bay Trail," he said. The Bay Trail is a recreational path that will circle the San Francisco and San Pablo bays when complete. Used by hikers, joggers and bicyclists, about half of its 400-mile planned length is done.

East Meets West
For Kim, connecting the apartments on the east side of Highway 85 with the rest of the city is a big benefit. "It unites the east and west sides of the city. All the schools are on the west side, with apartments on the east," said Kim. High school students would be able to walk to school without having to deal with traffic. "It will allow bicyclists to get to and from their place of work," said Pear. The trail will also help bicyclists and pedestrians who cross between the east and west sides of Highway 85 to stay off busy streets. "Highway 85 is the great geographic divide," Pear said.

Public objections raised in the report were in three categories. "This is going through a wildlife corridor," said Kim. "People are concerned about native wildlife and vegetation." Pear stated that the plan was designed to have minimum impact on the area, with no damage to the tree canopy over the creek, which is home to steelhead trout. Pear also listed concerns from the public that the trail was wide enough to allow access by fire and police vehicles. There were security concerns from homeowners on the opposite side of Stevens Creek. Kim said that there were already people who illegally camp in the creek area. "Our experience in constructing earlier parts of the trail is that bringing a constant flow of legal users actually improves security," said Kim. Los Gatos had a similar experience with its trails.

When the report is certified by the council, the next step is to do the engineering and design, which the city will pay for, Pear said. After that, the only thing needed to complete the trail is paying for its construction. Kim didn't have a cost estimate. "It isn't designed yet," Kim said. But it will be an expensive project. Who's got the money? "That's a good question," said Pear. "This is a very expensive recreational amenity for us to be building. The funds are not lined up yet."

Copyright 2004 - 2005 Matt Pear. All rights reserved.