Mountain View downtown transit center project moves forward, but safety improvement questioned for Castro/Moffett/Central

On Tuesday March 19, Mountain View City Council supported moving forward with the project to close Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks, extending Evelyn with an onramp onto Shoreline for drivers (and people bicycling), and building tunnels for people walking and bicycling under the tracks and under Central Expressway.

With several options for the tunnel exit/entrance near the historic Adobe Building, City Council chose the narrowest pedestrian/bicycle ramp in order to maintain all of the vehicle parking for the building which is used for public events. Council was supportive of easing the process to get neighborhood parking permits, to help residents on streets that are used by visitors for event parking (this was discussed further at a later discussion that night about downtown area parking.) Council members were also interested in considering elevators for people with mobility needs who would find the long ramps challenging.

Some community and Council members were interested in potentially improving the public space in the station area; and potentially pedestrianizing the first blocks of Castro. These options something that can continue to be worked on in future phases of the project, according to Mountain View staff and consultants.

Put the brakes on Central/Castro/Moffett safety improvements? Council to reconsider on 3/26 with Capital Improvement Plan

The first phase of the transit center project will be closing Castro Street to cars, leaving the crossing open in the meanwhile for people walking and bicycling before the tunnel is completed.

Because the project is now moving forward, however, some Council members wanted to pull the plug on a project in progress to implement pedestrian safety improvements for the gnarly intersection where Central Expressway is crossed by Castro and Moffett.

A proposed alternative is to remove west side pedestrian crosswalk, assuming that pedestrians will then cross the complex intersection three times at lights.  Community member video shows that crossing in a single leg of the intersection can take up to five minutes.

However, completion of the pedestrian/bike tunnels might take 3-5 years in a scenario where things go well (see schedule illustration below).  Delays on large projects such as the transit center reconfiguration and bike/pedestrian tunnels are not uncommon.
Looking only at financial risks and not considering a strategy focused on safety and “vision zero,” a strategy to eliminate serious traffic injuries and deaths. Links to several news articles show $6M to $12M in liability costs for deaths and severe injuries of pedestrians attempting to cross El Camino Real, a comparable multi-lane arterial in the region with high-speed car traffic.
In the interest of protecting life and health, and also financial prudence, the Castro/Moffett Central safety improvements seems good project to move forward and not stop, even though the surface crossing will be replaced in the foreseeable future.

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