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Meandering path on Woodside Road in line for an upgrade

Plans are afoot to improve the pedestrian and equestrian path along the south side of Woodside Road between Roberts Market and the elementary school.

A roadside improvement project, for now just a concept, would put a horse-compatible surface on the path, separate it more distinctly and regularly from traffic, and connect it to other walking routes to school. The Town Council on May 13 authorized the staff to submit a grant application to the California Department of Transportation.

In a 6-1 vote, the council also agreed to write a "strong" letter of "wholehearted" support for the project.

Existing crosswalks at the school are already being upgraded with new paint and flashing lights in time for the start of school in August. The state grant would pay for four new crosswalks -- three across school driveways and one across Woodside Road in the vicinity of Woody, the wooden fish sculpture next to Dry Creek. That crosswalk would also have flashing lights.

To pay for it all, the town is seeking $855,000 in Caltrans funds. A breakdown: $110,000 for project design, environmental issues and permits; $645,000 for construction; and $100,000 for construction management and testing services, according to a staff report.

Councilman Tom Shanahan cast the dissenting vote on the letter of support, having expressed his well-known aversion to the idea of public projects paid for with funds not originating in the pockets of Woodside residents. His preference is to break out the shovels and get to work. "I suspect it'd be a lot quicker," he said. "We'd get 60 percent to 70 percent of what we want."

That approach would not be productive, his colleagues said. For one thing, the work has be done with enough expertise to last 50 years, said Mayor Dave Burow. Councilman Ron Romines noted that the road belongs to the state.

Modifications to state highways must have Caltrans approval, which in this case will be needed to provide room for the path improvements by narrowing each traffic lane to 11 feet from the current 12 feet.

Getting the money

Agencies from all over the state are competing for $129 million in grant money from the Caltrans Active Transportation Program. Among the program's goals: encourage biking and walking, reduce greenhouse gases, enhance public health and put disadvantaged communities on an equal footing for the money.

Woodside is hardly a disadvantaged community, but it does have an edge of sorts, said Andrew Lee of Parisi Transportation Consulting in Sausalito. The application is "very competitive" in that the current path exposes high numbers of pedestrians to conditions that are less than safe, and that the proposed fixes would effectively reduce the danger, Mr. Lee told the council.

"It's very challenging out there," Town Engineer Paul Nagengast told the Almanac. The proposed project is intended to provide a safe and accessible route for all users of the path along the south side of the road, he added.

The project will need letters of support from affected agencies. Town staff are anticipating them from Caltrans as well as the town's Circulation Committee, the Woodside Elementary School, the Woodside Fire Protection District, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, and the county library Joint Powers Authority. The City/County Association of Governments has already approved a resolution in support, Mr. Nagengast said.

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