Construction delays on McClellan

Unexpected underground utilities issues push back bike lane completion date


Construction vehicles crowd McClellan Road due to bike lane construction. Photo by Anish Vasudevan

The City of Cupertino is installing new bike lanes on McClellan Road, a project that was scheduled to be completed on July 30 but has since been delayed due to previously unmarked utilities, including underground pipes and electrical systems.

Construction workers are in the process of installing class IV bike lanes that are separated from the main road with physical barriers, therefore deterring collisions between cars and bikers.  The project comes after the student death of Ethan Wong in October of 2014.

The construction of these new bike lanes are a result of a key component of bike lane safety developed in 2016. Project Engineer John Raaymaker is in charge of the McClellan construction.

“It’s the first phase of the work. It’s broken into two parts, 1A and 1B. 1A is mostly civil work away from the intersections or between them,” Raaymaker said. “That project was roughly 1.8 million [dollars], which does not include design or construction management. The work out there is 1.365 million [dollars] for [McClellan/Stelling] and [McClellan/Bubb].”

Despite the price, The Cupertino Bicycle Safety Advisory Commission helped design the safest routes for cyclists in order to reduce the number of cars on the street. Director of Public Works Roger Lee views bike safety as a pressing issue the city needs to address.

“You look at the needs throughout the whole city and that goes to the bicycle safety advisory commission, our consultant helps up come up with a list to help the safe use of bicycles and help people get out of their cars,” Lee said. “We have these two plans. The common project was identified as something to promote bicycle safety.”

According to Raaymaker, the discovery of multiple undetected underground utilities caused the schedule for the completion of the lanes to be delayed to the end of September. Lee believes that the delays are reasonable, considering the problems.

It’s like you want to tear into a wall and you use all these plans saying what’s behind the wall, but as soon as you start to tear the wall down you find a bunch of things that you didn’t expect. All the delays we see today have been acceptable or reasonable, since they are things that are out of control of the contract.”

— Roger Lee


Redgwick Construction, the contractor responsible for the creation of the new bike lane, declined to be interviewed. 

The timing of the construction came as a surprise to FUHSD Superintendent Polly Bove, considering many kids will travel to and from school on McClellan, but she welcomed an open dialogue with the city about the construction project. 

“We are getting to work with the city across all kinds of issues that come up between schools and the city,” Bove said. “We have had that relationship for years in Sunnyvale, and we’re really glad to start developing that relationship more fully in Cupertino.”

While the new changes are intended to make roads safer for both bikers and drivers, the $2.1 million construction project has made a challenging commute for both adults and students travelling to MVHS. Sophomore Ajit Chamraj is one of many students who has noticed the construction. As such, he makes an active effort to avoid the construction when biking. 

I can’t bike to school now because there is no way.”  Chamraj said. “Even if you go on the sidewalk, there’s construction [there] too.  It’s tough for my parents because they now have to drop [me off] at school everyday.”

Currently, some students like Chamraj, have had their parents drive them to school.  However, Raaymakers encourages bikers to try to find an alternate route on their way to school. 

For bicyclists, if an alternate route is available, using it would be beneficial to help lower the amount of traffic moving through the construction area,” Raaymakers said in an email.  “Otherwise, bicyclists should follow signage and direction from flaggers to either use the bike lanes or share the road with motor vehicles.”

The concern of biker safety dates back to the death of an MVHS student.  Superintendent Bove said the death of MVHS student Ethan Wong in October of 2014 did factor into the city’s decision to remodel the bike lanes, but there were other community factors.

Lee agrees with Superintendent Bove, but adds that all the plan’s future improvements to the city will inevitably be linked to the tragedy from five years ago. 

“There is going to be a connection to that student death for all the routes that are improved throughout the city,” Lee said.

The safety and wellbeing of bikers is at the forefront of the McClellan bike lane project.  Chamraj sees the extended commute until mid-September as a small price to pay for the safety of biking later on.  

“[For now], it’s making the commute a little bit tougher,” Chamraj said. “But when it’s done, I think [the bike lanes and roads] will be a lot safer for everyone.”