Almanac

Viewpoint - November 9, 2011

Guest opinion: Approve trail now or pay for it later

by Christine Martens

I must take issue with your headline on last week's article by Lennie Roberts, suggesting that "nobody" wants the Alpine Trail. This assertion is patently false.

Many people who actually use the path, including me, do emphatically want this unsafe, crumbling trail to be improved, and we know that this project will be necessary within a short time one way or another. Ms. Roberts asserts so many falsehoods in her article, rehashing wrongheaded ideas that have been utterly discredited; yet she and others have continued to promote them — now for over 10 years. Some people have even come to believe what she says.

The question to consider is, do you love Alpine Road as it is now? Because this is as good as it will ever be, if no changes are made. Residents of Stanford Weekend Acres are opposed to Alpine Road being widened and straightened, fearing that vehicle speeds will increase and their access will decrease.

Let's be clear: that is not what the path improvement project is about. But is it wonderful now? Left as it is, access onto Alpine Road from SWA will get much worse as traffic grows. Cyclists and walkers on a path — a handful of people, relative to the 25,000 cars on the road — will have a negligible impact on SWA's access to Alpine Road, but they are being held hostage to the problems with cars on the road! SWA residents realize that changes are needed now — they already have access problems, and they will get worse, but they keep wishing the traffic would just go away.

Traffic on Alpine Road will increase dramatically yet again when the Stanford Hospital expansions are done. That is already under way; it will happen sooner than you think. Without question, the physical condition of the path and the road will continue to deteriorate. As a result, if no changes are made, the road and the path will be in complete disrepair in five years, while carrying tens of thousands more cars per day.

At that time, dramatic changes will be made to the road and path — this project will happen. But we, San Mateo County taxpayers, will have the privilege of paying for the work, rather than having an outside agency pay for it. Yet somehow, now, SWA argues against a path that would have a few people walking in front of their houses.

Anyone who pays taxes in San Mateo County should be clamoring — no, screaming — for the Board of Supervisors to accept the offer from Stanford. Think about it: if the supervisors walk away from the trail improvement project, who will have a great victory? Will SWA celebrate that they get to keep all the problems they have right now, and watch them worsen? Who wins? In a very short time, fewer than the 10 or 11 years that we've been arguing about this, San Mateo County taxpayers will be asked to pay for a project very much like what is currently offered by Stanford. It will happen, and it will be soon.

Turning down the money from Stanford does not hurt Stanford, and does not buy us any clout or leverage with them as they continue to expand and increase traffic on our roads. All San Mateo County residents should be pressuring their supervisors to accept this offer to complete a project that is both necessary and desirable.

Christine Martens lives on Erica Way in Ladera.

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