$55 million plan Wednesday to create a bicycle and pedestrian access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, but there's a problem: those who operate the bridge want no part of it. The California Department of Transportation says it's too dangerous.
A committee for the Bay Area Toll Authority which funds day-to-day operations of Bay Area bridges heard plans Wednesday morning in Oakland to create a bicycle and pedestrian path by installing a movable barrier on the upper deck of the span.
During nonpeak commute hours, the barrier would be moved into place to create an
8-foot-wide lane for bicyclists and pedestrians. Presently there are three lanes on the span, but only two are used for traffic. The third is an auxiliary lane. The plan was the result of the third study on the access issue; the first was done 10 years ago.
Bicycle proponents thought they finally had a plan to bring access to the bridge, but Friday the California Department of Transportation which has final say rejected the plan over safety concerns.
"Because of those concerns we can't sign off on it," said Bob Haus, Caltrans spokesman. "There is concern if a barrier goes up cars could hit it and bounce off and into other cars."
Deb Hubsmith, advocacy director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, was disappointed by the latest development.
"We were hoping for a day of celebration," she said. "We have been working for 10 years to get to this point."
The Bay Area Toll Authority committee discussed the proposal for 90 minutes Wednesday, but took no action. Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey, a committee member, said the authority will look at other steps to advance the plan, including possible legislation.
Bike backers for the past 10 years have been calling for a bicycle lane the length of the 4.5-mile span.
The latest look at the issue also included two other, much more expensive options. For $400 million a separate pathway could be hung off the side of the road deck, and for
$7 billion a whole new span could be built and include a pathway. Both are deemed safe by Caltrans, but cost too much, officials said.
Caltrans is studying the possibility of creating a third bridge lane making three in each direction to handle increasing traffic, officials said.
The Bay Conservation and Development Commission would have to give an OK for that to happen. As part of the approval, it could require Caltrans to require access to bicycles and pedestrians, Kinsey said.
Also, the Association of Bay Area Governments could put pressure on Caltrans; the agency is keen on finishing the Bay Trail a ring around the Bay and would like to use the bridge to help complete the project.
"It's not over yet," Kinsey said.
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