"I'd call it the 200-less cars bridge," said Mountain View resident Chris Carpenter of the extension's most prominent feature, a bridge over Highway 85 to Heatherstone Way.
The 1,500-foot extension from Sleeper Avenue brings the 5-mile trail to a large swath of Mountain View and nearby Sunnyvale east of Highway 85.
Carpenter noted that Mountain View High School students who live east of the highway will no longer have to contend with El Camino Real to get to school and will instead find an almost non-stop, bike-friendly route to school, thanks to the bridge.
As the crowd walked over the bridge, several people noted the attention to design was much more apparent than other bridges on the trail, and most other pedestrian bridges over highways. The long sloping ramps are probably the most accessible of any bridge on the trail for those in wheelchairs.
As part of the $4.2 million extension, the city is also planting 1,600 shrubs and over 100 trees native to the creek's watershed.
After over $30 million spent, city officials reminded everyone how much the 5-mile trail is a "crown jewel" of the city, used for "commuting, exercising and socializing," as City Manager Dan Rich put it.
It has taken 22 years to build the urban trail across the city to the Bay. The first segment stretched from Shoreline Park to La Avenida Avenue and opened in 1990.
"We have accomplished quite a bit," said public works engineer Robert Kagiyama.
Public works now has its sights on that final Mountain View segment, which would extend from the Heatherstone Way bridge along the east side of Highway 85 before crossing back over the freeway at Mountain View High School.
"This latest segment opening is especially significant as construction of the final segment of the Stevens Creek Trail is suspended indefinitely due to the funding challenges that the city is currently experiencing," says a press release from city staff.
It is estimated to cost $10 to $12 million to design and construct the final segment.
"Given that challenge, we're going to aggressively go after federal and state grant funds," Kagiyama said. "It will be a while before we get that kind of budgetary commitment."
Last week the Sunnyvale City Council approved a study of future extensions of the Stevens Creek Trail into the cities of Sunnyvale, Los Altos and Cupertino, which shared the study's cost with Mountain View. Kagiyama said the study would examine the relocation of a portion of the Highway 85 sound wall to allow the final Mountain View segment to get around an apartment building just south of the new Heatherstone Way bridge.
Sunnyvale City Council member Chris Moylan, who attended the opening on a bike, said some of the trail in Sunnyvale would have to go on city streets because of residential property along the creek. But fears in that city about increased crime have been disproved by Mountain View's experience, he said. And as the trail extends further along the creek, he says Sunnyvale is inheriting homeless encampments from Mountain View.
The latest extension was made possible with $1.7 million in grants, including $800,000 from the California Natural Resources Agency, a $418,000 from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, $400,000 from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and a $145,000 grant from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.