Guadalupe River Trail Christening – March 26, 2008

Guadalupe River Trail, downtown San Jose

Guadalupe River Trail, downtown San Jose

There’s an opening ceremony for the north reach of the Lower Guadalupe River Trail on Saturday, April 5, near the San Jose International Airport at Airport Parkway and Airport Boulevard.

Ken Yeager, District 4 Santa Clara County Superintendent, and a former member of the San Jose City Council, invites you to join him for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. The trail opened in late December 2007, so this is more of a christening than an opening. The trail is a joint project with the city of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

I’ve looked forward to this day for years, and more so in the past two years since I started commuting to work at Montague Expressway and Trimble Road from Santa Clara. My only alternative, without going a mile out of my way, has been to take the De La Cruz Boulevard / Highway 101 overpass. It’s no fun mixing with cars and trucks on that narrow stretch of road with two freeway on-ramps.

Rough around the edges

So why am I not jumping for joy? Anyone who has ridden the new section would probably agree that it’s a half-done project. If you want to see a local creek bike trail done right, ride the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail. Santa Clara city officials and the bike committee deserve credit for some fine work.

Unfortunately, good intentions can’t make up for the cost of doing things right and San Jose is cash-strapped. I’m sure there’s a mix of government funding — city, county, state, federal, but the bottom line is that the trail lacks amenities that cost money. San Jose maintains the trail, so it needs to step up and get it right.

The new section isn’t paved, it  has a muddy section in serious need of repair (promised, but we’ll see how that goes), the newly paved underpasses aren’t lit, some have holes, the Highway 101 underpass and others to the north are covered in mud and gravel, and they have blind corners.

That’s not all. Mud flows off the banked slopes and covers the paved underpass sections with a thin layer of slime when it rains. My bike commuter friend fell.

Not for commuters

Commuters heading east on the North Runway road will want to use the first bridge, if heading north to work, which unfortunately is the parking lot for car rentals. It has a lot of traffic.

What if someone is coming home on the river trail and needs to get off at Airport Road to get to the North Runway road? It means looping around up to the bridge and facing a three-way intersection usually jammed with rental cars coming and going in the evening rush hour.

I’m looking for alternatives to the De La Cruz overpass. This isn’t much of an option.  The trail should not be ridden during heavy rains, as the river may flood the trail at low spots. Same goes for San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail.

Scenery also a mixed bag

That said, if you’re a weekend cyclist looking for a quick getaway, there’s a 20-mile out-and-back waiting from downtown San Jose to downtown Alviso. The route has everything you’d expect in an urban setting — meadows and trees lovingly landscaped, a noisy airport, offices,  sewer smells, a river littered with garbage, egret, heron, hawks, occasional fields waiting to be built on, homeless and encampments, a lot of dirt. Imagine riding 20 miles pretty much non-stop through Silicon Valley. Can’t beat that.

The trail will be paved in sections, so one of these days we may have a first-rate trail and maybe even a clean river. It’s just going to take time, and money, and people who care.

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