Union Pacific Railroad Trail Update

In November of 2014 I wrote a short blog post titled Union Pacific Railroad Trail for Bicycling and Walking.  This infrequently used railroad track owned by the Union Pacific Railroad runs a considerable distance through Cupertino.   The railroad runs to the Lehigh Cement Plant just outside Cupertino where about once a day on weekdays it bring in petroleum coke to use as fuel for its huge rotary furnace.  An unofficial trail called the Union Pacific Trail runs from Prospect Road and Stelling Road to the South next to Saratoga 3.4 miles to North Foothill Blvd. to the North ending at the Lehigh Cement Plant.  It comes close to connecting to Joe’s Trail along the railroad tracks, another nice well developed bicycle-pedestrian trail, to the south in the city of Saratoga which runs along the tracks from near the junction of Stelling Road and Prospect Road a little over 2 miles to Saratoga Ave. near the Hwy 85 overpass where Joe’s Trail ends.  The track itself then continues besides Hwy 85 to Winchester Ave. 2.8 miles away into San Jose and continues on through the greater San Jose area.

Saratoga was able to make improvements to their section of Joe’s trail next to the tracks in spite of the Union Pacific’s lack of cooperation to give permission to use their land because there was a long narrow strip of land along the track which PG&E had the right of way where a power line ran.  PG&E was far more cooperative in giving Saratoga permission to share the right of way.  However there are no PG&E lines on the track access along the segment of tracks in Cupertino.  But I have learned that there are possibly two large water pipe buried alongside the tracks in Cupertino running to Saragoga which may be owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  A small section of it is exposed as it traverses a creek (see photos below).  There are also access covers every couple hundred yard along the track (see photos below).  If this is true and they own the right of way as well then there is hope that Cupertino might be able to negotiate an agreement with the water district that will allow the city to put in an improved bicycle pedestrian trail on top of the pipe and along the tracks away from the danger and noise of car traffic.

So there is still hope for a formal trail.  I have suggested this to the City through the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission.  If the City gets permission from the water district it would be a major asset and trail for our city which is so lacking in trails.  It is also very accessible by many residents living nearby the tracks and runs right by the troublesome traffic congested try-school area of Kennedy Middle School, Lincoln Elementary School and Monta Vista High School.  It also runs near Regnard Elementary School near the Sevens Springs development next to the track where it crosses Rainbow Rd.  So it could be a very safe route to several schools for many children.  And if it could connect to Joe’s trail in the city of Saratoga it could potentially be a 4-5 mile long trail through a very long narrow strip of undeveloped land away from the noise and distractions of traffic except where it crosses various streets and where a train usually runs once each weekday.

Water Pipe on UP Trail 3Water Pipe on UP Trail 1

About Frank Geefay

Sustainable Bicycle and Smart Growth Advocate
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5 Responses to Union Pacific Railroad Trail Update

  1. Pingback: Union Pacific Railroad Trail for Bicycling and Walking | Biking Cupertino

  2. Nathaniel says:

    Do you know when the train runs on the track next to the trail? Do you have any more info about the tracks or where i could find info?


    • Frank Geefay says:

      Hi Nathanial,

      The Union Pacific train to the Lehigh Cement Plant runs once around noontime on weekdays. It averages about 15-20 mph and can easily be heard a couple of blocks away. It sounds its horn on approaching each intersection which is quite loud, so there is plenty of warning that it is coming. L

      The Cupertino Bicycle Pedestrian Commission would likely have more information on this trail. It would be part of the Cupertino Transportation Plan approved by City Council in 2017.

      I hope that answers your question.


  3. Rb says:

    The last time this trail was considered in 2oo1 byVTA the railroad required a fence next to the trail which did not allow access to the trail from Cupertino residence who live along the rail way line We live next to the RR line and would not be able to access the trail We do not support this type of trail


    • Frank Geefay says:

      Br, some residents are planning to place locked gates in their back fences leading to the trail. Some residents already have lockable gates there. This gives residents living along the tracks a very convenient means of getting though to the trail.

      Of course there will always be residents who will object to the trail due to a perceived loss of privacy and security even though the area has always been open to everyone and with more people there it will be that much more difficult for people to cause trouble.


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