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Santa Clara Proposes New San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail Detours

Santa Clara closes a 1.2-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to the public during events at Levi's Stadium, forcing people walking and bicycling on a two-mile detour. Photo: Andrew Boone
Santa Clara closed a 1.2-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to the public during events at Levi's Stadium, forcing people walking and bicycling on a two-mile detour. Photo: Andrew Boone
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On Tuesday, the Santa Clara City Council approved a proposal [PDF] to build new detours of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, over two years after the construction of Levi's Stadium has resulted in ongoing closures of the trail "to limit security breaches" on days with stadium events over 20,000 attendees. Despite objections from both the public and council that the stadium should pay for the improvements, city staff intend to seek up to $4 million in public grant funds instead.

"Fixing this problem should not be shouldered by any taxpayers. It should be shouldered squarely by the 49ers," said Santa Clara City Clerk candidate Deborah Bress at the meeting. "This is a residual part of the construction of the stadium."

The trail closures have forced people walking and bicycling on a confusing two-mile detour on city streets and through parking lots that includes heavy bus traffic. Now the city is proposing to construct a slightly shorter detour including a new path on the east side of the creek as a short-term fix for $1 million and a new undercrossing of the trail under the stadium's pedestrian access bridges as a permanent solution for $3 million.

"One of the options is to [construct] another trail on the east side levee of the San Tomas Aquino Creek from Agnew [Road] travelling north... then continue east along the Hetch Hetchy pipeline right of way," explained Santa Clara Assistant Public Works Director Gustavo Gomez of the proposed detour. The paved trail would require the approval of both the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).

The new route would shorten the total detour length around the stadium only slightly, from 2.0 to 1.8 miles, but one mile of that distance would be on a new paved trail rather than neighborhood streets. The route would still include the existing detour's most hazardous segment--along Stars and Stripes Drive north of the stadium.

Santa Clara has proposed a new shorter detour (red line) around Levi's Stadium during events and a new undercrossing (yellow line) under the stadium's pedestrian access bridges. Image: City of Santa Clara
Santa Clara has proposed a new shorter detour (red line) around Levi's Stadium during events and a new undercrossing (yellow line) under the stadium's pedestrian access bridges. Image: City of Santa Clara
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Santa Clara city staff also proposed rebuilding a 1/4-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail underneath the pedestrian bridges that cross the creek connecting the Great America parking lot with the stadium. Such an undercrossing would keep all trail traffic physically separated from stadium attendees during events and out of the security perimeter established by the stadium.

"We strongly believe that once the SFPUC [approves] it, funding can be provided through the Measure B program," said Acting City Manager Rajeev Batra, referring to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)'s proposed transportation sales tax hike. "For the undercrossing alternative we have applied for what's called the One Bay Area Grant and it's very likely to be funded under that as well."

But such a financing plan is likely to delay both the detour and undercrossing projects, perhaps indefinitely. Even if Measure B is approved by (at least two-thirds of) Santa Clara County voters in November, just four percent of those funds will be available for bicycle and pedestrian projects countywide. One Bay Area Grant funds, distributed to cities and counties by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) every five years, are highly competitive.

"The Environmental Impact Report for the stadium said that the trail was going to be left open," said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. "Applying for grants or hoping that a sales tax passes in November is just too iffy and it's an obligation of the Stadium Authority and not an obligation of the [city's] General Fund."

The city council approved the detour and trail undercrossing proposals unanimously but directed staff to report back again in October with more details on project funding and schedule.

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