Mountain View Voice

Opinion - December 20, 2013

City should at least study Google bridge

No one can dispute that the city has a tremendous problem accommodating the runaway growth that has permeated every facet of the local economy.

For example, many residents say there has been a huge increase in traffic on main arterial streets, which often are gridlocked for during the morning and evening commutes. And the huge increase in jobs, with many more to come when all the office projects in the building pipeline are completed, will make the situation even worse.

Much of the growth is coming from the North Bayshore, home of Google, which is expected to make some ambitious development proposals once the city's "precise plan" for the area is complete. Google is already planning a huge, 1 million-square-foot office building at NASA Ames with enough space for over 4,000 employees. And Intuit will add 1,300 jobs not far from Google headquarters when its new building is built. And then there's the hundreds of thousands of square feet in the pipeline for the Village at San Antonio and Whisman area, including a Clyde Avenue office project recently approved for 1,200 Samsung employees.

When all of this development is built out, not only will it make life miserable for North Bayshore commuters, it will put even more pressure on the city to find better solutions for moving people in and out of the area north of the Bayshore Freeway.

And that is why it is inconceivable that four members of the City Council are blocking attempts by their own Planning Department and Google to study the impact of building a bridge over Stevens Creek at Charleston Road. The proposed bridge would carry pedestrians, cyclists and shuttle buses to a new 1 million square foot Google office building on Moffett Field that is expected to begin construction next year. The bridge also would provide shuttles filled with other Google workers an alternative route to downtown and Highway 101, using Moffett Boulevard, avoiding the gridlock at Shoreline and Charleston roads intersections with the Highway 101.

The request to proceed with an environmental impact report on the proposed bridge came up last week for the third time, and was again scuttled by a 4-3 vote with members Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga and John McAlister on the prevailing side. Mike Kasperzak, Mayor John Inks and Chris Clark supported the EIR, to no avail.

Bryant said, "My vision for North Bayshore is nature and high tech together in a campus-like environment. The mode share (traffic reduction) is a tool. If that tool degrades the environment, even if it's the most efficient tool possible, it's not for me." She also said she worries that if a bridge is authorized, it will lead to more intense development of the Bayshore area.

Council member Chris Clark called it "a mistake to not study the bridge. A study would find out how effective it would be," he said. "And if it's going to be effective, what are the environmental costs?"

We have to side with Clark, Kasperzak and Inks on this one. It is foolhardy to think that pressure won't continue to mount to push some shuttle buses over a bridge to give them access to Google's new building and an alternative route to downtown and Highway 101. In this case Planning Director Randy Tsuda urged the council to approve a study of the bridge.

We believe the council should vote to authorize an environmental impact report (EIR). The study could answer questions such as:

• How many trips a day would Google shuttles need to use the bridge? Can the trips be limited?

• Is it possible for Google or other providers of shuttles to deploy buses that are hybrid or electrical-powered?

• What species of bird or animal would be directly threatened by the shuttles, pedestrians or bikes that would use the bridge?

Surely a compromise could be found that would appease the foursome who are blocking an EIR on the bridge. It truly makes no sense to block the EIR, which holds the key to at least alleviating some of the impact that is making life difficult for thousands of commuters every day.

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