With New Trail Addition, San Jose Continues to Grow Smart

Posted 07/25/12 by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Building Trails, America's Trails

Photo © City of San Jose

A bird's-eye view of San Jose, Calif., through our trail-finder website, TrailLink.com, reveals a busy network of trails and bike paths, lines snaking through the city like healthy arteries. During the past decade or so, the managers of this growing metropolis have understood that as the population grows, so too must the transportation system, particularly options for walking and biking.

The latest addition to that growing network is a new section of San Jose's five-mile Highway 237 Bikeway, which was opened to the public on June 28.

Although not as scenic as most of the 54 miles of trails in San Jose, the nation's 10th-largest city, the trail is a key commuter route for workers at important Silicon Valley employers like Cisco Systems, Cadence and Tivo.

The newly paved section of about .8-mile improves what for years was an "unofficial" connection. The public had long perceived that a former construction access road along the north side of State Route 237, built 15 years earlier, was also part of the system. Even in is deteriorated state, commuters appreciated its location and linkage to the Coyote Creek Trail, and its alignment permitted bicyclists to avoid a busy highway off-ramp intersection nearby.

"For years, city staff received periodic calls seeking an improved facility," says city of San Jose Trail Manager Yves Zsutty. But there was technically no agency responsible for the maintenance road, and property ownership questions and funding prevented any work being done.

But during the past five years, city trail staff worked to resolve the property issues, sought financial contributions from the contractors that had further damaged the pavement, entered into a management agreement with the state of California for the overall bikeway, and secured the financial resources for design and construction of the proper paved 0.8-mile addition.

Zsutty says the Highway 237 Bikeway project was an opportunity for the city to investigate a number of innovative construction techniques.

"The project represents the first use in the South San Francisco Bay Area of warm mix asphalt," he says. "This pavement uses a more viscous oil to bind stone, which in turn requires less energy to mix and produces fewer hydrocarbons."

Existing asphalt pavement was recycled on site and poured into the new surface, and compostable blankets and other materials were used to meet stringent stormwater measures. A light-weight bollard was developed to reduce the danger of heavy lifting injuries, and the centerline striping used highly reflective and low-profile thermoplastic markings to permit winter commutes. A new, smaller informational sign includes a QR code to direct interested users to construction updates on the city's website. 

The new bikeway section now becomes part of the region's San Francisco Bay Trail and the multi-state Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. 

"An annual count and survey indicates that over 50 percent of north San Jose trail users are commuting to and from work," Zsutty says. And that pattern is behind the city's drive to develop a 100-mile trail network by 2022.

For more information about San Jose Trails, visit www.sjparks.org/trails/

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