Freedom Bridge spanning San Tomas Aquino Creek in peril

Freedom Bridge spanning San Tomas Aquino Creek is on notice for removal.

Freedom Bridge spanning San Tomas Aquino Creek is on notice for removal.

Intel employees who ride (or walk) to work on San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail were none too happy to learn that Freedom Bridge, which provides a convenient connection between campus and creek path, is slated for removal.

I don’t blame them. The wooden bridge supported by steel beams isn’t much to look at, but it eliminates the hassle of riding down to busy Mission College Boulevard and then backtracking on Juliette Lane through the main campus. It saves several minutes for northbound riders, where most people live, and avoids traffic.

Here’s what Barbara Keegan, District 2 director for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, told a concerned bridge user, and she gives the bridge history:

Barbara Keegan

Barbara Keegan

“This pedestrian bridge was originally permitted for temporary access to facilitate the construction of the Intel campus, at a time when Intel owned property on both sides of San Tomas Creek. The opposite side of the creek was never developed, and Intel is selling the property to another entity. The modifications made to the levee to accommodate the temporary construction bridge and the access points to the levee do not meet established criteria for permanent public trail connections.

“Bridges in general pose an ongoing maintenance issue for us and can exacerbate flooding. However, when there is a strong public interest being served, the District does occasionally approve bridges. For this bridge to remain, a couple things would need to happen. The bridge and access ramps do not meet established criteria for construction on a levee, so there would be a need for some modifications on Intel’s campus and the property on the west side of the creek. The bridge and access locations need to serve the greater public, which would likely mean making changes to Intel’s campus and perhaps the property on the west side of the creek, to have a dedicated pedestrian/bike path that would promote full public access. Concurrence by the city would also be necessary, as public trails are operated under agreements with local municipalities, in this case the city of Santa Clara.

“Plans for the removal of the bridge and restoration of the levee were received in late June and are being reviewed at this time. In the meanwhile, staff is reconnecting with Intel representatives to see if a solution that provides access while meeting our criteria is feasible.” [Note: Anyone can use the bridge.]

While the loss of the bridge isn’t the end of the world for cyclists and the noon-walk crowd, I’m reminded of the expression “death by a thousand cuts.”

Intel, one of the world’s most innovative electronics companies, needs to work with the city of Santa Clara and the water district to keep Freedom Bridge, or am I to believe that all this talk about fixing our traffic problems is nothing more than lip service?

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