The areas below elevated BART tracks are not normally known for their picturesque beauty, but Alameda County's transportation agency is hoping to change that.
The Alameda County Transportation Commission is moving forward with a plan to build a 12-mile bike path under the elevated BART tracks between Oakland and Hayward.
The project -- called the East Bay Greenway -- would offer a landscaped, car-free corridor from just north of the Fruitvale BART station all the way just south past the Hayward station. A pedestrian trail also would be included in the project, which cuts through four jurisdictions -- Oakland, San Leandro, unincorporated Alameda County and Hayward.
James O'Brien, the project's manager at the transportation commission, said the project already has received $1 million in funding through Measure B, the county's half-cent transportation sales tax. A small segment of the plan near the Coliseum BART stop also has received about $1.5 million in federal stimulus money.
While not all the funding is in place, the plan is moving along.
Just recently, the transportation commission hired a consultant to do environmental studies on the project.
"Typically a trail does not have much (environmental) impact, but it's still 12 miles," said O'Brien, who hopes to have environmental clearance for the project by the summer of 2012.
The trail would run parallel to some Union Pacific rails, but O'Brien said there are no plans to remove or alter the path of the rail lines.
"We're not going rails to trails," he said. "We're going trails with rails."
O'Brien said the project would do more than just make cosmetic improvements to areas not typically known for their beauty. He said the trail -- which would cut through five BART stations -- would run by some of the most densely and underrepresented areas in the county.
He said an economic benefit could be felt by the countless small businesses near the corridor, as well as larger retails centers like Bayfair Mall in San Leandro. Additionally, O'Brien points out, the trail could improve pedestrian and bicycle access to other transit hubs, including Amtrak or AC Transit connections.
He said current estimates have the project costing $30 million to $35 million. Despite the price tag, he said the trail could be built if the right state and federal money comes through.
"We'll be championing this project," O'Brien said.
Contact Chris Metinko at 510-293-2479.