Editorial: Is third time a charm for Stanford trail?It is rare when a town or county refuses a $10 million offer to build a bike/pedestrian trail, but that has happened on a project proposed for a busy stretch of Alpine Road between Sand Hill Road and Portola Valley.
The trail offer began as part of a Stanford agreement with Santa Clara County to build two trails near the northern and southern boundaries of Stanford property in return for a general use permit to develop 5 million square feet of space on the Stanford campus. To settle a dispute about where the trails would be built, Stanford offered $8 million to San Mateo County to build a trail on Alpine Road. Stanford recently completed a trail south of Page Mill Road.
Now, after accruing interest for several years, the $8 million has grown to more than $10 million, but the offer to build the trail expires at the end of this year.
San Mateo County supervisors, who oversee the road, have turned the money down twice at the request of residents of Stanford Weekend Acres, a group of homeowners on Alpine Road who say they already have trouble getting into and out of their neighborhood and would have more problems if they had to cross a much wider trail as Stanford proposed a few years ago.
The trail idea came back to the supervisors last week, and despite the prior controversy, might have a chance of approval depending on a survey of residents who live nearby. With two new supervisors, the prospect of the trail gaining enough votes has improved, in part because conditions have changed.
While some residents who testified before the board last week remain adamantly opposed, others believe the current bike path is dangerous and should be repaired. In their opinion, the county needs to at least take a final look at improving the trail near their homes before turning down $10 million.
"If the county doesn't use the Stanford money to repair the trail, it will have to spend its own money to repair it," said Noel Hirst, who said she used to ride her bike in the area but stopped due to the trail's safety problems.
Early versions of the trail upgrade were elaborate and included cutting into a hillside on southbound Alpine to make enough room for an up to 12-foot wide trail for bikes and pedestrians. And despite lengthy negotiations to make it acceptable to residents of Stanford Weekend Acres, talks broke down.
This time around, however, another scenario has surfaced that might allow San Mateo County to design a trail that would be more amenable to neighbors and still greatly improve safety along Alpine Road. This could happen due to the stipulation that requires the county to use the money by year's end or give it to Santa Clara County for recreational use.
Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss, whose representative attended the July 26 meeting, said she will attempt to get her colleagues to endorse a plan that would place the $10 million in a regional recreation fund that would cover both counties. Such a fund would give San Mateo County the opportunity to apply for funding to improve the bike/pedestrian trail according to its own specifications, hopefully with a design much more acceptable to the neighbors at Stanford Weekend Acres.
If such a deal can be arranged, it could improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians along this busy corridor without creating any more road blocks for residents. In this case, a less elaborate trail is the best solution. It would cost less money and still be able to link up with Portola Valley's trail, which will make the entire section much safer for ev