Can two counties work together to fix Alpine trail? | February 8, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - February 8, 2012

Can two counties work together to fix Alpine trail?

by Dave Boyce

The chance for San Mateo County to take $10.4 million from Stanford University to repair an Alpine Road trail is gone, but residents in and around Ladera hope to persuade the supervisors in Santa Clara County, where the money is now going, to help fix the trail now that Stanford is out of the picture.

Through spokesman PJ Utz, residents of Ladera and some from communities nearby persuaded the Portola Valley Town Council to urge the supervisors from both counties to collaborate on improving the deteriorating asphalt trail that borders both counties along the south side of Alpine Road between the Portola Valley and Menlo Park.

"I doubt that it's going to happen," Supervisor Don Horsley said in an interview, adding that a Santa Clara County supervisor broached the idea of sharing long ago, but that it never gathered the necessary momentum.

In December, a 3-2 majority of San Mateo County supervisors rejected Stanford's money, the third time since 2006, and now a deadline has passed. By an agreement related to the university's general use permit, the money now goes to Santa Clara County for off-campus recreational uses that serve the college community.

In rejecting Stanford's money, the San Mateo County supervisors considered using county funds to address the trail. But the project is deeply complicated and money is scarce.

Stanford's millions had been there, but for the sticking points: Did Stanford have an ulterior motive in improving a trail along a commuting artery into campus? Why were the routing options so rigid? As it passes Stanford Weekend Acres, the trail's right-of-way becomes nightmarishly complex. Could it be made safe without impacts the residents would see as adverse? Would even looking at redesign open a can of worms?

Most Weekend Acres residents rejected Stanford's offer out of hand. Residents in Ladera and some in Portola Valley did not deny Weekend Acres' concerns, but urged at least a fact-seeking exploration of the problem. Stanford was willing to pay.

At its Jan. 25 meeting, the Portola Valley council agreed to send a letter to supervisors in both counties. The council had written to the San Mateo County supervisors in September taking a neutral stance on Stanford's offer. This latest letter, based on the original and edited by Mr. Utz, removes the neutrality and advocates for improvements, or at least repaving.

"I wish you all the best," Portola Valley Councilwoman Ann Wengert said to Mr. Utz.

The residents' first proposal anticipates a willingness to share and includes a possible trail realignment, a possible traffic light at Weekend Acres, and much safer paths under Interstate 280.

A second plan has San Mateo County going on its own with a less expensive upgrade, including repaving, better crosswalks, and better signs and striping along Alpine Road.


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