Building bridges just got a bit more complicated.
To connect the Googleplex in North Bayshore to its new 1.2-million-square-foot campus in the Bay View area of Moffett Field, representatives from faced a lot of questions about the potential impact of two private bridges across Stevens Creek at the Mountain View study session Tuesday.
"Priority numbers one, two, three, four and five is the trail," said , after he and Councilwoman Laura Macias reminded attendees about the $33 million that went into the construction of the Stevens Creek Trail. "We've worked really hard to get what we’ve got. I’m not sure where we are going with this [bridge proposal]."
Exactly where Google hopes to go with the privately owned bridges—a new one on Charleston Road and another one to replace the one on Crittenden Lane—is to its 42.28 acres of leased federal land at , which it plans to develop into a research park and with some residential properties.
However, both ends of the bridges start and end within city limits, so Google must get approval from Mountain View, which can act as the lead agency for the environmental review process, according to City Attorney Jannie Quinn. This gives the the city the ability to participate, control, leverage and evaluate environmental impact report, Quinn explained.
"We knew all along that council was very concerned with the trail and bridge crossings in the area," said John Igoe, director of Real Estate Design and Construction for Google. "It's a very environmentally sensitive issue."
One possible impact of at-grade bridge crossings would mean that pedestrians, joggers and bikers on would have to stop at stop signs to let Google-approved high-occupancy vehicles and emergency vehicles pass.
If not, the trail would have to be diverted and grade-separated because of the federally required flood control levees along the creek bank, explained Public Works Director Mike Fuller. This means more construction, something Macias said could affect the burrowing owl population in the area.
To be sure, any erection of a bridge over the creek also involves the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which owns the property. Google has been in talks with the district, confirmed SCVWD spokesman Marty Grimes.
"We are early in our discussions," said Grimes, who added that no plans between the two parties have been solidified. "The district’s position will be to assure that any crossings minimize any environmental impact and do not impact our operations and mission, including pedestrian and trail access."
Google assures that the bridges will help reduce traffic and congestion, because instead of looping around through Shoreline Boulevard and Highway 101 to get to NASA Ames, the bridges will carry people on Google shuttles. A gate would prohibit personal vehicles from crossing. However, pedestrians and bikers could still get across.
The fact that it's a private bridge didn't sit well with council.
"My gut feeling is extremely negative," said Councilwoman Ronit Bryant. "I hate private streets and I can’t imagine a private bridge."
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga questioned whether in the future other companies that leased land at NASA Ames will also want a bridge.
"If everyone wants a private bridge, it will be a nuisance along the trail," she said. A NASA Ames representative at the study session, Jeffrey Lee, acknowledged that another tenant could lease in the Bay View area, because space is available.
Councilman Tom Means said he worried about any limitations to duck hunters who use the Crittenden Lane bridge.
The width of the bridge also met opposition, since the initial design showed both bridges with two-way lanes. Councilman Mike Kasperzak said he liked the idea of a narrower bridge. "Seems like a lot of extra concrete," he said.
The need for the width, explained Igoe, would be to allow for emergency vehicles to cross. According to staff, though NASA Ames has its own law enforcement and fire department, Google and NASA Ames want the and to service the area. Both Police Chief Scott Vermeer and Fire Chief Bradley Wardle agreed that a bridge would help the department's response times.
According to the staff report, Mountain View stands to gain $125,000 per year on the undeveloped Bay View land and $600,000-$700,000 once developed. The lease term, which began on May, 14, 2008, runs for 40 years.
The next steps in the lifespan of this bridge project include finalization of the project description this July, project analysis in August, the environmental review in September and October, and public review and comment in October.
"We will look at everything," said Igoe. "Every suggestion that was made today we will give a thorough review."