By 2040, four times as many trains will pass through Sunnyvale daily on the Caltrain line. This raises the chances of collisions at rail crossings. It will also result in more train horns and more crossing delays. To alleviate these problems, the City of Sunnyvale plans to lower Sunnyvale Ave. and Mary Ave. underneath the Caltrain tracks.
These projects will have a massive impact and cost up to $700 million total, so it is imperative that the city chooses the designs that are most safe and effective.
On August 30th, the Sunnyvale City Council will select their preferred options for Sunnyvale Ave. and Mary Ave., and they want to hear what residents prefer. Please share your voice by filling out the form at the end of this article.
For the Sunnyvale Ave. Underpass, there are 2 options:
- Bicycle & Pedestrian Only Undercrossing: Allows bikes and pedestrians to pass and costs ~$100 million. This option is best for Sunnyvale, as explained below.
- Underpass Tunnel: ~$250 million tunnel that allows bikes, peds, and vehicles to cross the tracks but creates traffic circulation problems downtown and limits access to the Caltrain station.
The Sunnyvale Ave Bicycle & Pedestrian Only Underpass option is best for downtown businesses, pedestrians, cyclists, Caltrain users, and overall livability. It will:
- Provide direct and comfortable routes for cyclists and pedestrians to downtown and the Caltrain Station.
- Decrease cut-through traffic and congestion throughout downtown Sunnyvale.
- Improve safety and quality of life for Sunnyvale residents
- Help Sunnyvale achieve its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled.
The Underpass Tunnel option would have a massive negative impact on the Downtown. It is:
- Dangerous: There are many more bicycle-vehicle and bicycle-pedestrian conflict points.
- Inefficient: Pedestrians would need to walk 400 more feet to cross the tracks compared to existing conditions. Cyclists on Evelyn Ave. would need to travel an extra 1200 ft and pass 3 more intersections to cross the tracks. Vehicles will not be allowed to turn between Evelyn Ave. and Sunnyvale Ave. Instead, they would have to circulate through side streets, clogging Frances St., Washington St., and Carroll St. with traffic. More traffic on these streets will cause more collisions and a decreased quality of life.
- A waste of taxpayer money: This will cost around $250 million while making life worse for residents.
One might argue that the Tunnel option will help cars access downtown. However, vehicles can easily cross the tracks on Mathilda Ave. or Fair Oaks Ave. These streets are already designed to handle high traffic volumes. North Sunnyvale Ave. is mainly a residential street and should be treated as such. We should not sacrifice walkability and bikeability so motorists can congest the downtown. Doing so goes against city policies LT-3.6, LT-3.22, and LT Goal C, which strive to make Sunnyvale bike & pedestrian friendly.
Mountain View has already committed to building a Bicycle & Pedestrian only undercrossing at Castro St. and redirecting vehicles to Shoreline Blvd. We should do the same in Sunnyvale.
Please encourage the City Council to select the Sunnyvale Ave. Bicycle & Pedestrian Only option by signing this letter by Aug 28th. This letter also includes design suggestions to improve safety for the Mary Ave. Jughandle option.
About the Author: Ari Feinsmith is the leader of Bike Sunnyvale, the local chapter of Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.