Mountain View considers converting section of Castro Street into pedestrian plaza

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- Most people eating outside on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View say it would be nice not to have traffic interfering with lunch, as cars and buses pass by the outdoor dining tables.

Converting a small section of the street into a pedestrian plaza seems to be a welcomed idea.

"It'd be awesome because the kids can go play with their scooter or skating (while the family eats)," says Felipe Albuquerque, who says he and his family walk through downtown a lot.

But unlike cities where pedestrian-friendly streets are often part of revitalization projects, Mountain View's proposal may be more out of necessity.

With the electrification of Caltrain, cars won't be allowed to cross Castro Street. Traffic has to be rerouted -- either by building an overpass or an underpass, which could cost upwards of $100 million dollars, a less expensive option is the pedestrian plaza.

Many business owners also like the idea of a pedestrian plaza, but are concerned about the impact rerouting traffic may have on foot traffic.

Fatih Varul owns the Turkish restaurant Ephsesus, which has been open for 10 years on Castro Street. He likes the proposal, but he has other concerns as well.

"If they open up a couple of more stores, it will be better. But if they just keep it this way, just restaurants, it (could) be bad," says Varul. It's a sentiment shared by others.

Sarah Astles owns the upscale nightclub, Opal. She says the city has to do something to draw people to the area for a pedestrian plaza or promenade to work.

"You know on Santana Row (in San Jose), there is that area with the cute little café, and you can sit in the middle, there has to be something that draws people in.

Fountains, cafes, maybe have live music there occasionally -- something to actually draw people to the city, not just closing off the street," explains Astles.

The city has commissioned a $265,000 study to look into the project, which could be expanded to more than just one block. Once the study is complete, the city plans to hold three public meetings on the issue.

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