Stanford OKs expanded list of trail routes along Alpine Road

Supervisors meet Tuesday on this issue

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.

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Posted by bike lanes
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The safest option is to leave the sidewalk as is and install regulation bike lanes on Alpine Road. Children can bike on the sidewalk at walking speeds, but adults should use the bike lanes on the road.

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Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

The safest option is to do nothing. The alternatives 4 and 5 would impact Stanford Weekend Acres in the Wildwood and Stowe areas even more AND the residents of Stanford Hills. It would also require two crossings of Alpine Road which is a non starter. Plus this is not feasible since it would cross not only SLAC but the SFPUC Hetchy Hetchy pipe line and the cattle pastures. The only existing "Trail" on Alpine Road(outside of PV limits)is the Dwight F. Crowder trail which begins at La Cuesta and runs to the PV limit. If you actually read the Agreement (changed at the last minute by Stanford) you will see that the county is left holding the financial bag and this will cost San Mateo Taxpayers big time. Even if everything sought to be done is done, this will not solve the traffic problem. Stanford made Alpine a truck route and it is their commuter/construction traffic that is responsible for the dangers. Stanford 11 yrs. ago promised no new commuter trips. We all know that is a total joke. Take the giant double semi rigs off Alpine, get the speed limit reduced and put some cross walks in at the 85 bus stop and at the intersection.

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Posted by JB
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm


You are not correct about the trail. If you look across the street at the La Cuesta intersection, you can see the trail sign. It says:

Alpine Trail
Constructed by Parks and Recreation Division
With Federal Assistance Thru the
Bureau of Outdoor Education
San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Division

The sign marking the beginning of the Dwight F. Crowder section is out beyond the Ladera Oaks complex.

The Alpine Road Trail is a connector trail that I've been using for the last 35 years. It is paved, but the pavement has become seriously degraded. Further, there are a couple of places where the creek is starting to undercut the trail. If left unchecked, the trail will eventually collapse into the creek.

I think the county should take the money and fix the trail.

I would leave it up to the planning department of the county to decide the best way to do this.

Personally, I would prefer to keep the trail where it is. Crossing Alpine Road just seems unnecessary.

As for the traffic problem, it is indeed extremely bad. I've heard that there are somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 car/truck trips per day on the section of Alpine east (north) of 280. This traffic makes it difficult for residents of Stanford Weekend Acres, Stowe Lane, etc. to enter/exit their community.

I'm not sure how you can just state that addressing the trail will not affect the traffic situation?! For instance, there has been talk of a stop sign at the bottom of the 280N offramp. Also, if a trail option is taken that crosses Alpine Road, a stop light would be the preferred way of doing this (tunneling or bridging would likely be WAY too expensive). If a stop light is added, car sensors could be added to the major entrances that could be used to trigger the light and thus create gaps in the traffic flow.

In the outreach efforts by the county planning department, they said they would definitely be considering the Alpine Road car/truck traffic as part of their trail investigations.

Let's take the money, do the studies, and have some good plans developed for that corridor!

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Posted by JB
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

To "bike lanes":

There are already bike lanes along that section of Alpine Road (though there is a section close to the golf course that is sub-standard).

In the recent re-striping work, the county actually also narrowed the traffic lanes (11 feet instead of 12 feet) and widened the bike lanes.

Even with the widened bike lanes, I see cars cut through the bike lanes EVERY DAY as they go around the big hill by Stanford Weekend Acres.

Serious cyclists already use the bike lanes and improving the trail won't move these cyclists off the road. The trail, on the other hand, is used by:
- Walkers
- Runners
- Kids on bikes
- Adults on bikes who aren't comfortable riding on the road with the high speed traffic.

I don't think we should be too judgmental of bicyclists who are wary or scared of riding in the bike lanes on this busy street. Just in the last week, a car took out the bike lane sign by Stowe Lane, and the memory of the woman killed out by 280 is still fresh in peoples' minds. Let these people continue to ride on the trail.

I'm not sure what you mean by "leave the sidewalk as is"? It is most definitely not a regulation sidewalk. It is a path made of asphalt that sometimes is separate from the roadway and sometimes is connected to it. (And yes, the trail is actually merged with a couple of the frontage streets along there.) The condition of the asphalt is poor. It is bumpy and the edges have degraded. Frankly it is a liability issue for San Mateo County.

The trail should fixed and we should allow the walkers, runners, kid bicyclists, and other casual bicyclists to continue to use it.

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Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Dec 12, 2011 at 8:17 am

Most of the traffic using the section of Alpine adjacent to SWA is using the road to access 280.
Where did all this traffic come from?
It certainly hasn't been from neighboring communities.
That growth comes from Stanford alone.

Until there is a route for direct access from Stanford to 280, the traffic situation is only going to get worse...and maybe even backup to Stanford itself.

It's time Stanford dealt with this issue lest we "Occupy Stanford and its Board of Trustees" to drive the message home!

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Posted by Say "Yes," please, Supervisors
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

The Alpine Trail is a trail that has existed for at least the 35 years that I have lived in the area. When I was younger, I ran along it. Now that I am older, I walk on it with my wife, and I ride on it with my nine year old son. (Truth be told, I’m also a recreational bicyclist, and when I ride by bike by myself, I ride in the bicycle lane on the road.)

The Alpine Trail is deteriorating, but it is still used daily by walkers, runners, and bicyclists.

I believe that a good plan for improving the Alpine Trail will in fact help ALL residents of the Alpine Road corridor (including Weekend Acres), even if they don’t see it today. Please have faith in the ability of people to change their minds once they have become comfortable with the concrete proposal(s).

Please vote in favor of accepting the money and designing the options. I believe that in the end, virtually everyone will be pleased with the outcome.

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Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

JB is incorrect. You can go look at the dedication documents with respect to the Dwight F. Crowder Trail. It starts at La Cuesta and goes to PV. The bike lanes that ARE bad are not within the County jurisdiction, but within that of Menlo Park. Many of us have tried to get MP to do something about the poor condition. The bike lanes in county jurisdiction are above what is required and are well maintained. There is NO TRAIL along the SWA section of Alpine Road and never has been. There IS a road right of way, most of which has been taken up by the bike lanes. Nancy Lund, the PV Historian is in the process of writing an article on the Dwight Crowder trail which she hopes will be accepted by the Almanac. The other factor is that a good deal of the infrastructure is in poor shape: sewers, water lines ( both of which burst recently) and the PGE gas lines. Plus there is absolutely no drainage system. This is all in addition to the fact that such a "trail" violates the provisions of AASHTO (bike trail standards), the Santa Clara and San Mateo County trails manuals. Cars do swerve onto the pathway frequently and motorbikes use it, which is just one of the reasons why increasing pedestrian usage is a totally dumb idea. On top of that Stanford was obligated to build a trail on its own land. It was also obligated to have "no new commuter trips" which it has not complied with. In addition $10 mill would not cover what is proposed and county taxpayers would be on the hook. It is time SU faced up to its obligations. People in SWA do not want anyone to get killed, nor do they want to kill someone. They are not NIMBYs. They see the dangers. Before people write pro trail they need to get their facts straight.

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Posted by JB
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm


Stating that I'm incorrect doesn't make me incorrect! I quoted the direct text from the sign at the La Cuesta intersection. Where is your documentation?

Here is the description of the Alpine Trail from the official San Mateo County website:
Alpine Trail
This is a paved trail, beginning at the Santa Cruz Avenue/Alpine Road/Junipero Serra Boulevard intersection in Menlo Park. It skirts the Stanford Golf Course, and curves into the old road fronting a small settlement, formerly known as Stanford Weekend Acres. Opposite the Linear Accelerator, the trail leaves the road and crosses a bridge over San Francisquito Creek, on the old road alignment. The trail comes back to Alpine Road near Webb Ranch fruit and vegetable stand. It then goes under Freeway 280, and dips down towards the creek, where it goes through an underpass for the on-ramp of Southbound Freeway 280. It passes through the Ladera Community on the southeasterly side of Alpine Road. After passing the Swim and Tennis Club, it enters the Town of Portola Valley and becomes the Dwight F. Crowder Memorial Bicycle Path, maintained by Portola Valley, and runs along Alpine Road to its intersection with Portola Road.
To see this description, go to:
Web Link
Click on Trails and look at the Alpine Trail description.

What is written on the county website corresponds with what I wrote in my post.

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Posted by Las Lomitas District parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Three comments: I will start with saying I support San Mateo County accepting the funds to study the options (full disclosure so you can stop reading now if you choose). A "yes" vote by the county is saying yes to accepting Stanford funds to STUDY trail options. It is not a commitment to a particular plan. Second, the increased Alpine traffic is not due to Stanford alone. It is simply because we live and work in a highly populated and popular area. Many people certainly work at Stanford and come off 280 via Alpine. Likewise, there are many people who use Alpine to get to other non-Stanford destinations, including Menlo Park, Stanford Shopping Center, Sacred Heart and Menlo Schools, Page Mill businesses, etc. It's a fact of life in our area for which Stanford cannot be held solely responsible. Finally, my understanding is the studies for the trail will include an Alpine traffic study and I think Ladera and SWA can certainly align on that need.

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Posted by Last Day
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Could the opponents of the trail please post the requirements for a CONNECTOR TRAIL? The trail is NOT primarily a bike trail. The only trail sign says Hiking, Running and Biking. On any given day you'd find bikes are in the minority on the trail since there are good Class Two Bikeways on Alpine itself. There is no expectation that the trail needs to be redone to comply with the requirements for a Class One Bikeway.
As the trail passes SWA, it uses the frontage roads. SWA residents have pointed out that having bikes or walkers on those streets is dangerous, so the far side of those frontage streets (one at least used to BE Alpine) might need to be designated for the trail. Perhaps as a CONNECTOR trail, the current situation might be deemed acceptable. We won't know until someone actually makes some plans that SWA see rather than imagining worst case scenarios.
Given the traffic problems of Alpine Road, it seems odd to resist the chance to use Stanford's money to study the situation and perhaps install stop lights that would enable SWA residents to have their SamTrans bus stop restored and also give them a chance to get in and out of their neighborhood.
Apparently there will have to be changes to the northbound 280 off ramp to meet the EIR requirements for the hospital. That still needs to be completed.
Regardless the path needs to be repaved.
Regardless the creek erosion has to be resolved.
Does the county have the money to do anything?? Could they even paint "KEEP CLEAR" on the street as Menlo Park has done on the Alameda?
Stanford has 75% of this existing trail on their land. This is the only trail we can be looking at since any other trail is now completely off the board.

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Posted by Jeff B
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Jeff B is a registered user.

(Note: Jeff B == JB)


I've been following this issue since it began and I do have my facts straight.

I've already addressed the definition of the Alpine Trail in my previous post.

Let's go through some of your other points:

Regarding the bike lines, I stated that the substandard portion of the bike path is in front of the golf course. You replied that this is Menlo Park jurisdiction. Fine. What you wrote doesn't contradict what I wrote on this point at all!

I would characterize the bike lanes in the county in front of SWA as well maintained, but still dangerous. There is often debris from the hillside that falls into the westbound bike lane. There is traffic that cuts the corner into the bike lane (westbound again). There is little enforcement that I have seen about bike lane violations in that stretch.

Your statement that there is no trail in front of SWA is absolutely incorrect. If you stand at Bishop Lane and look towards Menlo Park, you can see a paved trail heading towards town. If I could post pictures on this forum I would! The trail exists. Claiming that it doesn't is a non-starter.

A more reasonable argument you could have used is that the trail merges with the frontage road within SWA. This is correct. Improving the trail along this section by clearly marking it would be an awesome improvement.

You then bring up a whole bunch of infrastructure topics which have nothing to do with my original post. From the outreach meetings, I heard many people make comments about drainage and other infrastructure topics. I also heard County Staff say that drainage and at least some of the other topics would be addressed as part of the plan for the trail.

I'm not going to comment on whether the trail violates the county standards, except to say that the trail already appears on in the trail maps for both of these counties. I suspect that it is substandard, so let's improve it where we can.

Your post then veers into a massive attack on Stanford. Hey, we all know that Stanford works for their own best interests. Stanford got Santa Clara County to agree to "kick the trail" to San Mateo County. The Committee for Green Foothills filed to challenge this. Unfortunately, they filed too late (as upheld by the California Supreme Court). Stanford is now living up to its obligation under its agreement with Santa Clara County. You don't get a "do over" just because you want one.

Finally, how can you just state that the 10+ million is not enough money? You can't possibly have seen the plans put forth by San Mateo County because they haven't even been created yet!

I guess I just have a little more faith in our public officials than you do. I believe that they can come up with a plan that improves the multi-use Alpine Trail and that they can do it within the allocated budget.

I am actually quite sympathetic to the plight of SWA... as I stated in my earlier post, the traffic situation on Alpine Road between I-280 and Junipero Serra is absolutely horrid. That corridor needs some traffic calming work, and it needs it yesterday.

But attacking the trail because you are upset about the traffic just seems really misguided (in my opinion).

Like this comment
Posted by DNLB
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Dec 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I sincerely hope that the San Mateo County Supervisors will exercise their good judgement on Dec 13th and vote to ACCEPT the money from Stanford, to repair Lower Alpine Trail.

As a taxpayer, in this time of economic hardship for both private individuals AND our counties, I cannot comprehend elected officials refusing money which can be put to good use to repair a seriously degraded multi-use trail.

As a local, who has driven Alpine Road literally several thousand times, I want to keep pedestrians and children safer from motor vehicles.

As a Stanford alumnae who gives to the University, I hope you will use my donated dollars for the public good it has been offered.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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