Out of the mud, a bike passage could rise

Published in Palo Alto Weekly, March 6, 2009

Six months of muck, water and mud flooding of a popular bicycle route under U.S. Highway 101 in Palo Alto could become a thing of the past.

The crossing, which is adjacent to Adobe Creek at Fabian Way in south Palo Alto, is closed to bike and foot traffic from November to March, forcing residents to use an over-crossing at Oregon Avenue, north of Oregon Expressway, or navigate freeway off-ramps at San Antonio Road.

But a proposal by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, based on the Palo Alto Bicycle Transportation Plan could open the Adobe Park under-crossing year-round.

Commissioners, interested in improving the route as a gateway to the Baylands, met with the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee on Feb. 3 to garner bicycle commissioners’ support. The parks commission has assembled a subcommittee to draft various options for the Adobe Creek crossing, according to Cedric de La Beaujardiere, bicycle committee chairman.

Residents of the nearby Greenmeadow neighborhood have already met with the city officials regarding the under-crossing, which residents want, de La Beaujardiere said.

The current state of the under-crossing is at odds with the city’s goal to bike, walk and roll. With the Adobe Creek passage closed half of the year many people revert to driving as their primary means of transportation during the off months. The bicycle committee hopes that a year-long crossing will foster more bicycling and walking in the community, he said.

“Because (the Adobe passage is) currently closed half the year, the alternative for bicyclists is either going on San Antonio — which a lot of people will ride once and then never ride again because it’s not suited for riders going out to the Baylands” — or “alternatively, bikers can go to Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway, which is 1.5 miles away,” he said.

The bicycle advisory committee will ask the city to start a feasibility study to determine options for the crossing, including whether it should be an under-crossing, over-crossing or how much it would cost, he said.

The Adobe Creek passage has no known opposition and funds are available to see the project come to fruition, according to de La Beaujardiere.

“There have been some good suggestions that putting it within the city’s CIP (Capital Improvement Program) … will gather more money,” he said.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has a bicycle-expenditure program designed to help fund projects within the county, de La Beaujardiere said. VTA will match four times the money Palo Alto raises for the project, he said.

The estimated cost for an initial feasibility study is between $50,000 and $100,000, which can hopefully be met with grants from various sources in Palo Alto, City Transportation Manager Gail Likens said. The engineering study will figure out the exact price tag of the Adobe crossing project, but current estimates put it between $5 million and $8 million, she said

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