Homestead Safe Routes to School project moves forward

Los Altos Hills town hall
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
A cyclist rides across Homestead Road in Cupertino. The first Homestead Safe Routes to School community engagement meeting, held Nov. 26, gauged local residents’ opinions on how to improve the Homestead Road corridor. The thruway stretches from the intersection of Grant Road and Foothill Expressway in Los Altos to the intersection of Homestead Road, Hollenbeck Avenue and North Stelling Road in Cupertino.

With the first Homestead Road Safe Routes to School community meeting held last month and the next one set for January, the project to improve the thruway for cyclists and pedestrians is moving forward.

Most of the more than 50 residents who attended the Nov. 26 meeting at Homestead High School provided input on traffic problems in preparation for road improvements planned for sections of Grant Road in Los Altos, South Bernardo Avenue in Sunnyvale and Homestead Road, which runs through both cities and Cupertino. There are three schools in the area: Homestead High, Cupertino Middle School and West Valley Elementary School.

Those who attended the two-hour meeting received a report on existing road conditions and an overview of the plan from members of the project task force, which includes city and school officials. Later, attendees were given a chance to ask questions as part of a formal Q&A, share how they use the corridor and offer comments and concerns about it. They also could talk with Adam Dankberg of Kimley-Horn, the consulting firm advising on the project.

“While there are some facilities (along the corridor) – there are sidewalks, there are bike lanes – they aren’t necessarily well connected,” Dankberg said. “There are gaps in the sidewalks, there are gaps in the bike path.”

He added that his consulting firm aims to identify ways to close the gaps in students’ path to and from school. By incorporating small, near-term improvements, Dankberg said the project team hopes to make an impact more quickly.

Establishing a timeline

However, “quickly” is a relative term, as Santa Clara County District 5 Supervisor Joe Simitian explained at the meeting.

“I’m not being flip,” he said. “When I say ‘near-term,’ in transportation planning it is never as fast as we’d like it to be. When someone says it’s going to be done in a couple of years, that can be disappointing if your kid only has a couple more years at their local elementary school, but I hope that’s part of the conversation as well.”

Dankberg noted that the timeline depends on the specifics of the project. An example he gave as a potential quick solution may be restriping a bike lane for greater visibility. He said restriping might be cost-effective, especially if that city is planning to repave the road in the near future. But even a project like that would not be finished until late 2019 or early 2020, according to Dankberg, and larger-scale projects would likely take two to three years.

In his presentation, Simitian said the project addresses three main questions: “What’s the problem? What’s the solution? Where does the money come from to implement the solution that will fix the problem?”

The meeting marked a shift in the project focus from identifying existing conditions to suggesting possible solutions, according to the project timeline.

Public feedback

There was time for only 10 public comments before the open-house session for residents to provide feedback to the consulting firm one-on-one. A wide range of topics was covered, from the scope of the study itself to factors in the return-on-investment calculation, uses of the corridor and possible solutions.

During the open house, residents expanded on public comments made earlier. A request for a new Valley Transportation Authority bus route that would serve students from Los Altos who attend Cupertino Middle and Homestead High gained positive traction, while other suggestions – like placing no-parking signs on Homestead Road – sparked debate.

The project team plans to use the comments, as well as information from the open house, to develop the final report. The goal is to have the report completed by February, which would allow the team to apply for grants that Dankberg said his firm would try to help the project secure.

In August, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors allocated $100,000 toward the project.

The next community meeting is tentatively scheduled Jan. 31. Until then, residents may weigh in by emailing comments to the project team or visit the study website to learn more about the plan.

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