Among the sweeping societal changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic volumes have greatly diminished as many office employees continue to work from home. This traffic reduction was noted among Sunnyvale residents who live along Tasman Drive between Fair Oaks Avenue and Lawrence Expressway, who for years have lamented the 1,600 foot gap in sidewalks on that stretch of road. The missing sidewalks are due to a cramped four-lane vehicle corridor that shares space with a light rail line that bisects it in the middle, leaving little space for pedestrians and cyclists.
“When the Tasman Light Rail Line was extended into Sunnyvale to its current terminus in Mountain View in the late 1990s, there was insufficient width along the Tasman corridor to install complete sidewalks and bicycle lanes without purchasing and demolishing existing mobile homes that back onto Tasman Drive and removal of all mature trees for long segment,” Sunnyvale City staff explained in a report. “Today’s roadway configuration reflects the compromise, with large gaps in the sidewalk along both sides of Tasman Drive and lack of bicycle facilities.”
Ari Feinsmith, who’s lived at the Casa de Amigos mobile home park on Tasman Drive all his life, said that the lack of sidewalks has been an ongoing issue resulting in many near accidents between motorists and pedestrians.
“Consistently, people in my neighborhood have been wishing that there was a continuous sidewalk,” said Feinsmith.
Feinsmith said that at one particular section, pedestrians trying to cross all four traffic lanes as well as the two light rail tracks have great difficulty because there’s no advance warning of when a train may come, and if the road is full of vehicle traffic when a train is present, there’s no safe place to wait until it passes. He said it’s not an uncommon sight to see pedestrians walking alongside the roadway gutter with cars whizzing past at 45 mph.
A civil engineering student at Mission College who wants to specialize in transportation engineering “to make streets safer and more enjoyable for all,” Feinsmith began speaking with his family and neighbors about the issue before deciding to broaden his efforts by creating a website devoted to advocating for a temporary lane closure that would allow for safe walking and biking on Tasman. Through that and other forms of outreach he was able to gather 30 letters of support for the lane closure.
Although Feinsmith said that most residents he spoke with were supportive of the lane closure, some said that there’s generally too much traffic on Tasman Drive to lose a lane. Others hope that the lack of one lane will promote walking, biking and use of VTA.
City Council had approved the temporary eastbound Tasman Drive lane closure on June 30 for purposes of implementing the temporary sidewalk for a 10-month period, and Public Works plans to execute the closure on Aug. 24. The project will cost $30,000, which includes an ADA curb ramp and the ongoing maintenance of lane barriers. Dennis Ng, transportation and traffic manager, said alert signs of the pending lane closure had been put up to warn motorists, and that a subsequent electronic board will be added to remind drivers to move out of the lane.
“We’ve been collecting data before the closure to have a baseline and will be monitoring throughout the process,” said Ng. “We’ll be conducting counts of cars, drive times and the number of pedestrians and cyclists that are using it.”
Council voted in favor of the measure 6-1, yet one point of contention was deciding what exactly was meant by “temporary.” Although traffic remains lower due to COVID-19, that reality is subject to change. Some residents such as Feinsmith hope that the closure will ultimately become permanent after the 10-month period.
“We’re talking about adding a service to what goes on right here and it’s extremely difficult to remove a service,” said Councilmember Glenn Hendricks.
Ng said that the ongoing monitoring will be reported to Council and staff will advise whether the 10-month period should be extended due to continued low traffic conditions. The implementation of a permanent pedestrian lane would require CEQA analysis, and additional funding.
“I think it’s good that’s it’s temporary,” said Feinsmith. “I think that people are going to really like it and there will be a lot of community support to keep it there. I hope that something permanent will be implemented in the future.”
This section of Tasman is extremely dangerous for pedestrians and bikers. There are several blind curves in places where there is no sidewalk. However, I am not a big fan of taking lanes away from cars. This road is very busy at “rush hour” times. There are many large businesses in the area. Too bad there wasn’t better planning from the start. Instead of taking away a lane, why not get rid of the trees so there is room to walk. I live on Tasman between Fairoaks and Lawrence. Not looking forward to the “temporary” lane closure but will be nice to know I won’t have to dodge pedestrians along the way. No good solution here.
The first paragraph is a bunch of nonsense! I live on that stretch of road, and yes there was a bit of a reduction in road traffic when SIP was is place. Just because some companies are still practicing stay at home working, doesn’t mean it will last forever. And as business start to go back to business as normal, and traffic becomes a nightmare again. Those of us who live on this street will be left to struggle to get in and out of our homes. Build a sidewalk! There is enough room for a sidewalk without tearing out the beautiful trees.
I agree with Tami, all that needs to be done is to finish constructing a full-length pedestrian/bicycle pathway on both sides of Tasman, from Fair Oaks to Lawrence Expressway. When commute traffic returns to normal capacity, both lanes are needed in each direction, especially given how many people turn right from Tasman onto both the back entrance of Plaza Del Rey near Fair Oaks and onto both sides of Vienna Drive. Further, when Levi Stadium is used again for football games and other events, traffic on Tasman will again be an absolute nightmare, and one lane will be completely inadequate to accommodate the 800+ homes in Plaza Del Rey and however many more there are in Casa de Amigos, not to mention cars traveling on Tasman beyond Lawrence Expressway. In addition, to make the thoroughfare safer especially for bicycles and pedestrians, the street lighting along that section could use improvement; there has been a significant increase in both over the years since the retail/grocery center went in at the intersection of Fair Oaks and Tasman, and some areas are much too dark to easily see people walking or riding.
Make it a one way Street on
each side to have enough room for a sidewalk and a Bike Lane!
Good work, Ari Feinsmith. You’re going to be a first-rate traffic engineer some day.
This is a farce. Ari Feinsmith was very selective to choose letters from mostly people that do not drive often. What about safety? Was there an official traffic study of what would happen in an emergency such as a park fire? I think this is absurd, and I want to know how many of the board members were living here on this stretch of the road? A majority of working people are against this ridiculous “Temporary Measure and waste of $30,000 of taxpayer money for a Students idea of an ideal future. We dont need to pander to these ideas without a full consenting vote of the population that lives on that street.
I want to call on ALL residents to form a coalition and meet, to discuss a sit in at the city council. I disagree that council members should have a right to do this without first performing more than a traffic assessment but a full legal report of the ramifications based on “normalized” data and an Emergency Assessment case on what would happen if there was an emergency and people needed to evacuate the park. Everyone that is interested in makig your voices heard, speak up now.
I agree completely with Mr. Boyanich. A poorly thought out, stupid idea.
I live in this area and I would not want a lane closed to add a side walk.
I don’t agree with the lane closures, however, some safety measures should be instituted, such as lowering the speed limit for that stretch of road on both sides, perhaps even several speed bumps on the lanes closest to the mobile homes on each side and more cautionary signs to drivers to slow down and share the road with pedestrians and bicyclists.
What if you just eliminate the Light Rail so you could leave all the lanes AND have a bike lane and sidewalk? For the amount of money Light rail is spending per passenger per year just for operating expenses – not Capitol Expenditures, we could buy every current rider a nice electric bike and still come out ahead. The riders could then get where they want faster, when they want with greater flexibility in where they can go. And we wouldn’t have a traffic obstruction every time a train crosses Central Expressway where oftentimes 40 or more cars can back up waiting for a dozen riders on (the very slow) train. And this before pandemic. To see what a waste of money VTA Light Rail is, you might start with this link: https://www.vta.org/sites/default/files/documents/board_correspondence_071219.pdf.