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

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

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.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    What makes the Stars and Stripes segment particularly hazardous? I ride it every day from Great America Amtrak. Although it is a blasted hellscape, it doesn’t really stand out among all the other local hellscapes.

  • mx

    In place of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for construction costs, surely it would be cheaper to hire a small army of security to patrol the trail for whatever terrible things they think people will do there during football games (yet pose no hazard at any other time)?

  • thielges

    An easier solution would be to grade separate the short walking route between parking and the stadium from the trail traffic. A wide but short east-west bridge spanning the creek and trail. That would result in zero detour along the trail.

    The currently proposed 1.8 mile detour is expensive and really does not accomplish much. We would be better off doing nothing.

    And yes, the Niners should be on the hook to fund this fix. Finish the project.

  • thielges

    I stand corrected. The city’s document does state that the $3M ultimate plan is indeed a grade separated crossing where the creek and parking-stadium traffic intersect. This is the right approach and ideally nothing should be spent on an interim routing of dubious merit. And the Niners should fund this mitigation of the problem that the stadium created.

  • You have clearly never attempted this during a game. You take your life in your hands. Gridlocked traffic, mostly gigantic buses, all of it honking and attempting to ram themselves into each other and any idiotic cyclists stupid enough to attempt this grim gauntlet.

    I tried it once, got hit twice (I’m OK and my bike is OK, there was some damage to the bus and Escalade that hit me LOL) and I vowed NEVER AGAIN.

    49ers, you make untold millions from this stadium. Please keep your promise to do what it takes to keep the trail open. It is a tiny drop in the bucket of your profit, but it would mean the world to the poor souls who live and work nearby.

  • Frank Malloy

    “Please keep your promise to do what it takes to keep the trail open.”

    Haha! The 49ers and the NFL haven’t kept any promises, especially on that nagging minor issue of who actually paid for building the stadium, what makes you think they care about a MUP?

    The plan from the start was to squeeze Santa Clara for as much as they could. Now they want to take over the soccer field for parking.

    The stadium was supposed to bring all this money into the city – now it’s COSTING us millions. This is just another problem WE have to deal with.

  • Frank Malloy

    Right, you can drive right into the parking lot with a trunk full of who-knows-what (as long as you pay the exorbitant parking fee), that’s not a problem.

    But us non-ticketed cyclists and runners and walkers – we’re a dangerous bunch of terrorists, I guess.

  • RobertN

    The old trail is basically inside the stadium perimeter. The 49ers figured out that if they could move the entrances across the trail, they could rent out space on the trail to vendors to sell beer. They make money, trail users get the shaft.

    Everything the 49ers do is about them making money for themselves, whether it is sticking it to season ticket holders on resale of tickets, trying to take over community assets like soccer fields and trails, or withholding rent payments.

    They should pay to fix this, along the original alignment. Unless Santa Clara plays hardball, they won’t.

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