While Sunnyvale works on a plan to evolve the Lawrence Station Area into a more lively, mixed use place, the County of Santa Clara is working on a parallel plan to grade-separate Lawrence Expressway. But will the proposals for Lawrence Expressway achieve the Sunnyvale’s goals to make the Lawrence area a livelier and more pleasant place?
A public workshop in November described the issues and a set of options. The major arterial is congested, serving 80,000 vehicle arterials per day. Today’s Lawrence makes it difficult to get to the Caltrain station, and is challenging for people to cross on foot and by bicycle. Any option would be a long-term project, potentially taking decades to fund and compete – and would have a major affect on how the Lawrence Station area functions as a place to live, work, and spend time.
Three options for Lawrence Expressway were proposed.
The first option has Lawrence depressed below grade, with local traffic on frontage roads, and bicycle and pedestrian crossings at grade. This option would be more costly and take longer to build.
The second option adds interchanges at the cross streets of Reed/Monroe, Kifer, and Arqes, with Lawrence Expressway elevated above the local streets. This option turns Lawrence into an elevated freeway-like structure, does not improve Caltrain access, and moves Central Expressway access to other local streets, and may take property at intersections. However, it can be implemented incrementally in phases.
The third option also raises Lawrence Expressway above Reed/Monroe and Kifer, but under Arques, and provides onstreet access to Lawrence via newly connected street grid segments connecting Apollo Way through to Kifer. This is the lowest cost option and could also be implemented in phases.
However, none of the design options showed visual treatments helping community members see how this would affect the goal of turning the Lawrence station area into an attractive, lively, pedestrian-friendly place.
The presentation did describe how the each design proposal would physically provide pedestrian, bicycle and transit access. However, there was no analysis regarding the “level of stress” that this design would present for cyclists. Would it be a less stressful option, available to a wider range of ages and skill levels? Or a more stressful option, available to strong, confident and experienced cyclists?
Presentation material from Santa Clara County describes the Lawrence Expressway decisions as a set of tradeoffs. From the perspective of the County transportation agency, the top goal is moving vehicles more efficiently. Other goals to balance including visual impacts, local access, pedestrian and bicycle access, cost and constructibility.
The goals of the Lawrence Station Area plan were to make the area a livelier, more walkable, and more connected place. Residents were asked to weigh in about the the designs, without relevant information about how this project would affect the goals of the plan to make Lawrence Station a livelier and more connected place.
The next public meeting is planned for January, and is expected to include what Santa Clara County considers a final alternative.