Stanford University has agreed to expand the range of options it would consider in its 2006 offer to pay up to $10.4 million to upgrade an aged asphalt path along Alpine Road between Portola Valley and Menlo Park.
A staff report prepared for the Tuesday, Dec. 13, meeting of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors notes that Stanford accepted two of the three additional options proposed by the supervisors in November. The supervisors now face a deadline of Dec. 31 to ask Stanford for a two-year extension to its offer.
The board, which rejected Stanford's offer in 2006 and 2010, meets at 9 a.m. in the Hall of Justice and Records at 400 County Center in Redwood City.
A university offers a county $10 million, in hard times, to upgrade a couple of miles of deteriorating asphalt and shore up a creek bank that may someday undercut the road. What's complicated about that?
As the path passes the unincorporated community of Ladera, it is wide, flat and seldom interrupted by intersections, but near Stanford Weekend Acres, its width, topography and right-of-way vary wildly. In places, the path veers dangerously close to Alpine Road, which is two lanes, curving and packed with speeding traffic twice a day.
In their cars, Weekend Acres residents must cross the "path" -- it disappears at intersections -- to get in and out of the neighborhood. Replacing a cracked, bumpy, random assemblage of paving with a smooth uniform surface suitable for serene two-way traffic of cyclists and pedestrians, including children and dogs, could further exacerbate residents' ordeal of negotiating a very busy arterial.
To complicate it still further, between Ladera and Weekend Acres, the path passes under Interstate 280 and crosses two off ramps. One ramp has a stop sign, but at the other, path users cross in front of moving traffic with drivers easily focused not on the crosswalk in front of them but on traffic that could slow their merge.
Five options, not six
Since 2006, Stanford has offered to pay to study three options, choose one of the two that involve actual construction, and build it with the remaining funds. In November, the supervisors upped the ante with three more options, and Stanford has agreed to pay for two of them.
The study and design of five options would likely deplete the $10.4 million offer by $200,000 to $400,000, Assistant County Manager Dave Holland said in a telephone interview.
The original three options:
■ Move sections of Alpine Road north to make room for an adequate trail on the south side of the road.
■ Leave Alpine Road alone and make do without the extra space.
■ Do nothing because the trail cannot be made safe.
On Nov. 1, a majority on the Board of Supervisors added three more:
■ Build a trail that crosses to the north side of Alpine Road at Piers Lane and goes up the hill. At this point, it could cross open space owned by Stanford or by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, depending on whether SLAC would allow a trail across its land. Either way, it would be out of sight of Alpine Road to about Stowe Lane, where it would descend via switchbacks to re-cross Alpine (to avoid Weekend Acres).
■ Build a trail that crosses Alpine at Piers Lane and hugs the north side of the road to Stowe Lane. This option would involved excavating the bottom of the hill to widen the right-of-way and make room for a street-level trail (to avoid Weekend Acres).
■ Upgrade the existing trail on the south side of the road between Portola Valley and Piers Lane and stop (to avoid Weekend Acres). Stanford will not "under any circumstances" pay to build this option, according to the staff report.
Under the heading "Fiscal impact," a standard heading in governmental reports, the paragraph reads: "All costs are reimbursed through agreement with Stanford University; there is no net county cost."
Shoring up an eroding creek bank, widening and/or moving a road by cutting into a massive hill, making off-ramp crosswalks safe for children, solving the entry/exit problems at Weekend Acres. While the choice of one option would eliminate some of this, is $10.4 million enough?
Maybe not, Mr. Holland said, adding that Stanford has given indications of being flexible on the reimbursement. "We've got to come to full agreement on what the range is," he said. "Studying all the options will clarify (the costs)."
The fiscal impact statement refers to the $10.4 million because that is the context so far, but it does not preclude adjustments upward, he added.