Sign for Columbia Middle School in Sunnyvale, listing dates for school events, showing the school's drop-off driveway and the street in front of the school
Sunnyvale City Council will review a contract for safety improvements in the North Sunnyvale along school routes. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Walking and biking in two Sunnyvale neighbors is about to become safer for children going to school. 

The Sunnyvale City Council is slated to award a $3.9 million contract for pedestrian improvements in the Sunnyvale Neighbors of Arbor community, which includes La Linda and the San Miguel neighborhood. Residents in these north Sunnyvale neighborhoods have been raising traffic safety concerns for years. The area borders Highway 101, with long, straight roads that safety advocates say encourage speeding, and result in crashes into homes, property damage, injuries and even one death. If the city council approves the contract, FBD Vanguard Construction will install a variety of safety features that include high visibility crosswalks and speed indicator signs.

These neighborhood improvements cost an estimated $6 million, of which $4.8 million is coming from a state Active Transportation Program grant and $1.2 million from the city’s capital projects funds. Rep. Ro Khanna, whose congressional district includes Sunnyvale, helped secure $880,000 in federal funding for the project.

Sunnyvale Councilmember Richard Mehlinger, whose district includes both neighborhoods, said because the area borders Highway 101 it creates various traffic concerns. Residents have told him their main worry is drivers speeding and doing donuts on residential streets.

“A number of these streets in these neighborhoods are very wide, very straight, (and) kind of encourage people to push the gas,” Mehlinger told San José Spotlight.

A major priority is making these neighborhoods safe for children to get to school, Mehlinger said. There are multiple schools in the area, including Columbia Middle School and Bishop and San Miguel elementary schools. The city council’s proposed plans would focus on pedestrian and cyclist safety in the vicinity.

Sunnyvale resident Rosy Alvarez, whose daughter is in sixth grade at Columbia Middle School, said there isn’t much car traffic but the roads near the school can become congested. Alvarez said when her daughter first entered middle school she asked to bike to school, but Alvarez didn’t feel it was safe. She’s hoping these proposals will bring lasting change.

“Bike lanes would be great, I can see the crosswalks being advantageous, too,” Alvarez told San José Spotlight, pointing out how the bike lanes in the area end about a mile away from the middle school.

Alvarez’s daughter previously attended San Miguel Elementary School, where Alvarez said crosswalks with flashing lights on Duane Avenue would make it safer for children.

The neighborhood associations representing residents have been voicing safety concerns for years, according to a 2020 letter from Valérie Suarés, chair of the Sunnyvale Neighbors of Arbor including the La Linda neighborhood association. In the letter, Suarés identified more than a dozen traffic incidents in the neighborhood, including two crashes that resulted in injuries and a fatality in 2013.

Mehlinger helped Suarés put together a video presentation for the city council in 2020 with an overview of the neighborhood’s traffic concerns, which mentioned some of the instances where cars drove into houses.

“This is a long standing concern for residents and I’m glad we’re going to be able to deliver some improvements,” Mehlinger told San José Spotlight.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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