News

Proposed Niles Canyon Trail would link Sunol and Fremont

Aims to create bike, pedestrian access while preserving historic water, rail infrastructure

The proposed 5.8-mile Niles Canyon Trail would run from east Fremont to unincorporated Sunol, as seen on this map from Alameda County Public Works Agency. (Courtesy image)

Tri-Valley residents may one day be able to travel on foot or bike through Niles Canyon on a nearly six-mile proposed trail that would link the eastern end of Fremont and the unincorporated community of Sunol -- which Alameda County officials also said would ''preserve the historic water and rail infrastructure within Niles Canyon."

In a public update on the project last month, officials said, "Improving access in the canyon is a gateway to open space for Alameda County residents."

Rick Yeung of the Alameda County Public Works Agency, which has also partnered with the Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Regional Park District for the project, told the Weekly that development of the 5.8-mile bicycle and pedestrian connection will use a combination of new trail sections, portions of the former Sunol Aqueduct, and existing railways for a route running from the Niles District in Fremont to Sunol.

"Much of Phase 1 from Niles to Palomares Road uses existing roadways for the trail," Yeung said. "Phase 2, which is from Palomares Road to the Niles Canyon Railway Yard near Brightside, re-purposes the aqueduct as a trail for about 25% of the route. About 70% of Phase 3 from the Niles Canyon Railway Yard to Sunol requires the construction of new trail."

Yeung said planners may need to secure an easement to cross private property, "which would require payment for the full market value of the land," though a private landowner is not required to grant an easement.

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The area in question is small, but Yeung said, "If this becomes an issue, the project will need to adjust the trail's location, which may increase construction cost and complexity."

With some parts of the proposed trail adjacent to the Niles Canyon Railway or Highway 84, or near steep slopes, features like retaining walls and a pedestrian bridge at Palomares Road will need to be built. Parts of the aqueduct will also get a layer of asphalt on the top surface, as well as a second concrete exterior wall and handrail for pedestrians.

Visitor parking at the existing Niles Plaza parking facility and the Alameda Creek Staging Area would be linked to the trail, along with a new parking area at Palomares Road and the future EBRPD Tyler Staging Area.

Because of "a significant increase in people experiencing homelessness within Niles Canyon over the last decade," Yeung said "unfortunately, this has led to illicit activity including the disposal of waste and toxic substances such as spray paint," and will require cleaning the canyon.

However, Yeung said officials believe the trail's development "will create 'eyes on the canyon' that will help to prevent encampments and illegal waste disposal."

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"It is difficult to predict the number of trail users," Yeung said. "However, when looking at other regional trails in the Bay Area, we anticipate a peak of about 400 people on a nice weekend day."

According to Yeung, the entire trail "exceeds $100 million to complete," with the first phase at a total development cost of about $29 million. The Alameda County Transportation Commission, Alameda County, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and city of Fremont have all provided funding for the project.

A source of construction funds has not been identified yet, but Yeung said "a project of this scale will likely receive a combination of funds from local, state, and federal sources."

The county is currently developing an environmental impact report; a scope session will be held in the early summer and open for public comment. To learn more about the project, visit www.nilescanyontrail.org.

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Proposed Niles Canyon Trail would link Sunol and Fremont

Aims to create bike, pedestrian access while preserving historic water, rail infrastructure

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 2:41 pm

Tri-Valley residents may one day be able to travel on foot or bike through Niles Canyon on a nearly six-mile proposed trail that would link the eastern end of Fremont and the unincorporated community of Sunol -- which Alameda County officials also said would ''preserve the historic water and rail infrastructure within Niles Canyon."

In a public update on the project last month, officials said, "Improving access in the canyon is a gateway to open space for Alameda County residents."

Rick Yeung of the Alameda County Public Works Agency, which has also partnered with the Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Regional Park District for the project, told the Weekly that development of the 5.8-mile bicycle and pedestrian connection will use a combination of new trail sections, portions of the former Sunol Aqueduct, and existing railways for a route running from the Niles District in Fremont to Sunol.

"Much of Phase 1 from Niles to Palomares Road uses existing roadways for the trail," Yeung said. "Phase 2, which is from Palomares Road to the Niles Canyon Railway Yard near Brightside, re-purposes the aqueduct as a trail for about 25% of the route. About 70% of Phase 3 from the Niles Canyon Railway Yard to Sunol requires the construction of new trail."

Yeung said planners may need to secure an easement to cross private property, "which would require payment for the full market value of the land," though a private landowner is not required to grant an easement.

The area in question is small, but Yeung said, "If this becomes an issue, the project will need to adjust the trail's location, which may increase construction cost and complexity."

With some parts of the proposed trail adjacent to the Niles Canyon Railway or Highway 84, or near steep slopes, features like retaining walls and a pedestrian bridge at Palomares Road will need to be built. Parts of the aqueduct will also get a layer of asphalt on the top surface, as well as a second concrete exterior wall and handrail for pedestrians.

Visitor parking at the existing Niles Plaza parking facility and the Alameda Creek Staging Area would be linked to the trail, along with a new parking area at Palomares Road and the future EBRPD Tyler Staging Area.

Because of "a significant increase in people experiencing homelessness within Niles Canyon over the last decade," Yeung said "unfortunately, this has led to illicit activity including the disposal of waste and toxic substances such as spray paint," and will require cleaning the canyon.

However, Yeung said officials believe the trail's development "will create 'eyes on the canyon' that will help to prevent encampments and illegal waste disposal."

"It is difficult to predict the number of trail users," Yeung said. "However, when looking at other regional trails in the Bay Area, we anticipate a peak of about 400 people on a nice weekend day."

According to Yeung, the entire trail "exceeds $100 million to complete," with the first phase at a total development cost of about $29 million. The Alameda County Transportation Commission, Alameda County, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and city of Fremont have all provided funding for the project.

A source of construction funds has not been identified yet, but Yeung said "a project of this scale will likely receive a combination of funds from local, state, and federal sources."

The county is currently developing an environmental impact report; a scope session will be held in the early summer and open for public comment. To learn more about the project, visit www.nilescanyontrail.org.

Comments

Duncan
Registered user
another community
on Apr 27, 2021 at 10:04 am
Duncan, another community
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 10:04 am

This trail is a great idea. A safer route than the road will let more folks enjoy the canyon.


Mike Vandeman
Registered user
San Ramon
on Apr 27, 2021 at 1:59 pm
Mike Vandeman, San Ramon
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 1:59 pm

1. We've been misled. We were told that the trail would be elevated (using the "secret sidewalk"), and that no habitat would be destroyed. It's not true. The preferred option destroys a huge amount of habitat with a 14' wide clearcut including 10' wide pavement, especially at the start and end of the road (10' of pavement is a road, not a trail).

2. The proposal touts a "wildlife friendly fence", but I doubt that all deer, for example, can jump over it. It (and the presence of humans on the road) would prevent animals from getting to the creek to drink.

3. The proposed railroad fence would block all animals larger than a lizard. No deer could jump over it. The huge vertical cuts would interfere with animals' need to travel.

4. The proposal claims that Niles Canyon is the only east-west travel option. That's, frankly, a lie! Calaveras Road runs roughly parallel to Niles Canyon and provides access from Milpitas (just two BART stops from Fremont - the west end of the canyon) to Sunol. Bicyclists and anyone else can use it safely, since there is no high-speed traffic. I drove the road this morning, to see for myself. There were dozens of bicyclists riding the road, in both directions, including many gray-haired men and ladies and one guy on a recumbent bike. I attached a couple of photos. The cars and motorcycles were going from 10-20 MPH, due to the many curves. The scenery was just as lovely as Niles Canyon, including the huge Calaveras Reservoir, and because of everyone's slow speed, you could actually enjoy it.

5. No one needs a paved "trail". Pavement is bad for horses and unpleasant for hikers. Horses and hikers could be accommodated by a 2'-3' wide unpaved trail, without wildlife-blocking fences. Stepping off the trail would allow anyone to pass. There is no good reason to allow bicycles on any unpaved trail. Any bicyclists who want to go there can, of course, walk - just like everyone else. Bicycles generate erosion and endanger hikers and equestrians.


Mike Vandeman
Registered user
San Ramon
on Apr 27, 2021 at 2:00 pm
Mike Vandeman, San Ramon
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 2:00 pm

Mountain bikers love to claim that they are being "excluded" when bikes are prohibited, but it's an obvious lie.

6. The maps (deliberately?) don't show the location of the creek, but it appears that the road would be very closet to the creek, destroying a 14' wide swath of priceless riparian habitat - the most valuable habitat that exists. Why would any organization that claims to support conservation make such a huge mistake - and lie about it?

7. There isn't high demand for travel through the canyon, or there would have been bus service through it long ago. Anyone who wants to travel to the "micro-town" of Sunol can drive, walk, or ride a horse through the canyon on a narrow trail, or take Calaveras Road.


Jo
Registered user
Del Prado
on Apr 27, 2021 at 3:20 pm
Jo, Del Prado
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 3:20 pm

Calaveras Rd spits you out in South Milpitas. Quite a detour if you happen to be going to Fremont or Newark. Niles is very dangerous for cyclists and has a deadly track record. I never ride it alone as I fear to named just another cyclist that swerved in front of a car driver by someone on their cell phone at 60mph.


Mike Vandeman
Registered user
San Ramon
on Apr 27, 2021 at 7:59 pm
Mike Vandeman, San Ramon
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 7:59 pm

Milpitas is just two BART stops from Fremont. Calaveras Road is much safer than Highway 84. The day I rode it, it was full of elderly cyclists. If they can ride it, so can you. No trail is safe when cyclists share it with hikers or equestrians. Mountain bikers frequently hit & run.


Gee
Registered user
Amador Valley High School
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:48 am
Gee, Amador Valley High School
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:48 am

Sounds like a wonderful idea! Although I can’t comprehend how a 6 mile trail costs $100M. It seems at least one to two zeros too high.


Jo
Registered user
Del Prado
on Apr 28, 2021 at 9:20 am
Jo, Del Prado
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 9:20 am

calaveras is north/south
Niles is east/west

roughly parallel ... hardly.

Build it like promised years ago. It will be used.


Mike Vandeman
Registered user
San Ramon
on Apr 28, 2021 at 10:48 pm
Mike Vandeman, San Ramon
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 10:48 pm

There's no need for a bike road through Niles Canyon, since Calaveras Road serves that "need" - if such a need even exists. Every new road or trail we build destroys more wildlife habitat. We've ALREADY destroyed far too much, which is why we're in the Sixth Extinction crisis. We ignore it at our peril!


Jo
Registered user
Del Prado
on Apr 29, 2021 at 3:43 pm
Jo, Del Prado
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 3:43 pm

I'd settle for a proper bike lane... forget the "trail"


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