A Big Step Forward for Bike Path on Western Span of Bay Bridge

A rendering of a biking and walking path that would be built on the side of the Bay Bridge's western span (Photo: MTC via Streetsblog SF).

The Bay Area Toll Authority has voted to embark on a $10 million study that will tackle the engineering and financial challenges of building a path across the western span of the Bay Bridge, which would some day allow people to bike and walk across the entire span from Oakland to San Francisco.

"It allows us to enter into this contract to move this idea from concept to a proposal," said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The idea has been talked about for more than 15 years but has picked up substantial momentum since the opening last year of a popular biking and walking path on the bridge's new eastern span.

A 2011 study found that building a 2-mile cantilevered path on both sides of the bridge from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco would cost somewhere between $400 million and $500 million, which transportation officials say isn't realistic.

The study by Arup will propose several designs that Goodwin said would be less expensive ideas "than have been explored on a rudimentary level in the past."

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Bike advocates applauded the move as a big step.

"[It] shows that the Bay Area Toll Authority is going to find a way to make it happen," said Dave Campbell, policy director for Bike East Bay.  "Oftentimes either the cost is too much or the engineering challenge is too great, and the facility doesn't get built because it’s not a priority. But this is a priority."

The engineering challenges aren't just on the bridge itself, said Goodwin, but on designing the touchdowns on Yerba Buena Island and San Francisco.

Campbell said the MTC brought together some respected bridge designers earlier this year, and the consensus was that a path doesn't need to be built on both sides of the bridge to keep it balanced, which would shave off the costs.

The new study is expected to take about a year, but Goodwin stresses a path could still be a decade way. Also, the funding hasn't been identified.

Still, bike advocates remained optimistic.

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" 'It’s going to happen in our lifetimes' is my mantra here," said Campbell.  "We built a path from Oakland to the island. It makes no sense to have a bike path halfway to San Francisco. Everybody realizes that."

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