Bay Bridge Walking & Biking Path Coming Soon by Steve Bodzin

The biggest, most expensive, and most influential bike and pedestrian infrastructure project in California history could soon be built over San Francisco Bay. Critical decisions hang in the balance, though, and far more San Franciscans need to get involved to make a Bay Bridge bike-ped path a reality.

Biking the Bridge won't be an act of civil disobedience in a few years once the path is complete.
Bike advocates from the East Bay led the charge to get a 15.5-foot-wide, mixed-use path included in the new East Span. In that $1.4 billion project, the bike path is adding about $50 million to the cost, with the money coming from motorist bridge tolls. Though the design of the East Span path still has detractors, it is at least politically and financially secure. On the other hand, the West Span path's future is not so secure.

"We're in jeopardy," says Jason Meggs, East Bay coordinator for the Bike the Bridge! Coalition. "We could see the East Span get dumped if we don't get the west span approved."

Caltrans is hiring contractors who will design a path to connect the East Span path to San Francisco. The study will first determine the approximate costs of three options: a single, wide path on the north side of the existing bridge; a pair of paths, one on the north and one on the south side of the existing bridge; and a path over the existing roadway.

The West Span study is happening in consultation with the Bay Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. BBBPAC is an all-volunteer group of bicycle and pedestrian advocates that meets every one to three months to help design and lobby for human-powered (and battery-powered wheelchair) access to the Bay Bridge.

BBBPAC needs increased involvement from San Francisco supporters. The West Span project is entirely within our city limits. It could easily be another $50 million bicycle and pedestrian project. Linking tens of thousands of existing and planned housing units in Oakland with 40,000 jobs in San Francisco, it will be even more popular than the Golden Gate Bridge for commuters. With Treasure Island a mere ten-minute and car-free pedal away, the path will provide a much-needed recreational amenity to SoMa. It will provide the only human-powered access to Treasure Island, which is being redeveloped into a city park.

"It's the critical commute corridor for the region. It could double the number of cyclists coming into downtown San Francisco," says Meggs.

Unfortunately, BATA doesn't have a bottomless purse for Bay Bridge projects. It has a 10-year toll increase on the bridges, enough to provide about $850 million. The money is split between design improvements on the East Span, the East Span path, the Transbay Terminal retrofit or replacement, and, as the lowest priority, a West Span path. There is only about $85 million currently available for the West Span path and the reconstruction of the Transbay Transit Terminal, combined.

The terminal work could easily use all that money. Because Caltrans dragged its feet on the West Span study, while moving ahead with the terminal study, there is a chance that the remaining $85 million goes to the terminal before the West Span path study is even complete.

Fortunately, BATA will probably consider the two projects at the same time, at the request of Steve Heminger, Deputy Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. All the same, people who want a path need to lean on MTC/BATA and Caltrans to get the study done fast and to hold off on allocating money until the Terminal and path options can be looked at side-by-side.

Get involved! The next BBBPAC meeting is February 8th. Contact Steven Bodzin, SFBC's bridge access contact, at 415-922-6197 or walkthebay@hotmail.com. If you are involved in any civic groups, you should immediately send letters on their letterhead to your MTC/BATA commissioners demanding that the West Span path receive full funding. See the Bike the Bridge! Coalition website at http://xinet.com/bike. by Steven Bodzin