[Also see main web page for San Tomas Expressway]

17-year fight to restore bicycle-pedestrian facilities

Pedestrians were forced to walk the in traffic lane between eliminating shoulders (1982) and constructing sidewalks (2000) on southern San Tomas Expressway, formerly called Camden Ave.

MTS wrote many letters to staffs and officials over the years, of which the below is an example. The drawings of the bridge over Los Gatos Creek, where pedestrians walked in the traffic lanes, and the unsafe double-right-turn-only lane on the other side of the freeway are shown below.

Oct. 6, 1994

Supervisor Rod Diridon

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

Subject: Camden Ave./San Tomas bridge: Roadway violates Supervisors policy on expressways (1991): 15 foot wide outside lanes and a sidewalk on all expressway bridges.

Action requested: Require that former shoulders on the Camden Ave./San Tomas bridge over Los Gatos Creek be restored until which time the policy is complied with. (They were repainted as right-turn-only lanes in the 1980s.)

Dear Rod,


Pedestrians have always been allowed to walk on Camden Ave. Camden Ave. extends to Winchester Blvd., both historically, and today. There even was a streetcar line on this portion of Camden Ave. that ran between Los Gatos and downtown San Jose via Campbell. The County, in conjunction with constructing San Tomas Expressway, has used one block of Camden Ave. and renamed it as part of San Tomas. Camden Ave. continued to retain its name at either end of this one block, which is basically the Camden Ave./San Tomas bridge over Los Gatos Creek.

Pedestrians have never been prohibited on this one block. Pedestrians have continued to use this roadway, not only because there never have been prohibitions, but also because there is no practical alternative. The nearest route to cross the freeway and river involves a 3 mile detour, about one hour of walking time.

In the 1980s, SCCTA eliminated the shoulders by changing them into right-turn-only traffic lanes for vehicular traffic. This was done without informing the public. Thereafter, and to date, pedestrians must walk in the traffic lane on the bridge, which is 45 mph.

SCCTA has made many promises in the past on this section of roadway, including promising to fix the problem by the end of 1991. While the plan for action had to be revised due to unexpected bridge structure (or lack thereof), there was nothing to prevent SCCTA from complying with its own promise by the simple act of restoring the shoulders that were made into right-turn-only lanes, i.e., the situation that existed previously.

Support of other groups

On or about Jan. 1991, the Santa Clara County Trails and Pathways Committee voted unanimously that shoulders/sidewalks need to be restored on the Camden Ave./San Tomas bridge. The Cambrian Council also voted unanimously that shoulders/sidewalks need to be restored, about the same time.

Violation of Board of Supervisors Policy (Dated August 13, 1991 and adopted shortly thereafter):

The Policy states: "a shared-lane [bicycles and automobiles] of a minimum width of 15 to 16 feet will be provided." The existing right-turn-only lane (the former shoulder) is 14 feet wide, and the through lanes are 11 feet. The proposed plan continues the same lane widths.

The Policy states: "Expressway crossings of barriers (freeways, rivers and railroads): A sidewalk/path on at least one side of the expressway will be provided to the adjacent public street intersection in both directions from the barrier." The proposed plan provides no pedestrian facilities across the river, only across the freeway.

County traffic engineers apparently expect pedestrians to detour from Camden Ave. and walk into a gorge, which is extremely dark and contains no lighting whatsoever, on a steep trail. This is unacceptable because no pedestrian will do that after dark, and most during the day will not make the detour. Instead, pedestrians will continue to walk on the Camden Ave./San Tomas bridge over Los Gatos Creek, as they always have.

The County traffic engineers have acted as if their elimination of sidewalks and shoulders would eradicate pedestrians and bicyclists. It never has, here and at other locations.

Costs, Jurisdiction, and Engineering:

The costs required to implement the addendum require about one day of work, and only paint. Caltrans does not have jurisdiction on the bridge over Los Gatos Creek. The bridge is County owned. Negligible engineering work is required. Simply restore the shoulders on the bridge that were previously in existence. See enclosed map.

Action requested:

Require SCCTA to change the two right-turn-only lanes on each side of the Camden Ave./San Tomas bridge over Los Gatos Creek back into shoulders until which time the Supervisors policy of 15-16 foot shared lanes and a sidewalk on the bridge is complied with.

This is a critical, frequently used bridge by pedestrians and bicyclists.

-Akos Szoboszlay, Past-President Al Spivak, PE, President
Modern Transit Society

Note: the map below is physically located to the right of the map above.

San Tomas Expressway page

Or see: Expressway topics, links page.

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