Hancock Introduces Bill to Allow Toll Funds for Bay Bridge Bike Path

West_Span_bike_path_rendering.jpgRendering of West Span bike path: Caltrans

State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) has introduced a bill in the Legislature that would allow the Bay Area Toll Authority to use toll revenue to help fund a bike path on the West Span of the Bay Bridge.

Advocates on both sides of the Bay worked with Hancock on the legislation, according to Marc Caswell, the program manager for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

"For years, advocates have been pushing to bridge the gap, and now with the East Span under construction, it is important to line up the funding for the West Span pathway. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) derives its authority to use toll money from the
state Legislature, and they currently aren’t allowed to use toll money
for anything other than earthquake retrofits," he said.

Last month, bike advocates turned out at a BATA meeting to urge MTC commissioners to use new toll money to help fund the path, but the agency’s staff said it had no authority to do so. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who supports the path, has also asked for an opinion from the state Legislative Counsel. Bates could not be reached for comment.

Hans Hermann, Hancock’s chief of staff, said he believes the bill
has an excellent chance of passing. It has not
yet been assigned a committee date.

Caswell pointed out that nearly one-third of all San Franciscans get shut out from using the Bay Bridge simply because they don’t own a car. 

"We know the MTC wants to complete the pathway so all road users have access, and the advocates are working with staff and Senator Hancock on Senate Bill 1061 to give MTC the legislative authority to designate these funds for this good project."

The MTC is currently conducting a Project Study Report (PSR) on the path, which has already been studied by Caltrans. It’s hoped the report, along with an EIR, will be completed late next year. 

The PSR, which Streetsblog noted last year, will help build on the massive Caltrans feasibility study nine years ago that analyzed all the options for constructing the path, which was originally projected to cost between $160-390 million in 2001.

  • Nick

    It’s fitting that the bridge should cost so much and take so long yet there was never any consideration for those who might want to make it part of their lifestyle (be it bike commuting, jogging, or going for a morning walk).

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    I have a question that has been bugging me. I regret it is only tangentially related.

    When they implement the new toll in the carpool lanes of the upper deck, how are they going to keep from hosing up the AC Transit transbay bus services that use the carpool lane, such as the V line? Yes, some buses use the toll bypass on the north side of the toll plaza, but other buses which come into the maze from I-580 use the carpool lanes on the south side.

    Are they going to force carpoolers to use Fastrak? Convert one of the two lanes to Fastrak? Just let the bus get stuck in traffic?

  • @jwb – I have read in many many places that you must have a fastrak in order to get the carpool discount. Amusingly the user comments following the article that says “must have fastrak” go on and on about how painful it will be for the toll takers to be handling coins. Yet another sign of the apocalypse.

    Aside from the money collected, it gets more people onto Fastrak (who will sometimes cross the bridge without a carpool or outside of carpool hours), which is a big money saver/generator for Caltrans.

  • Yeah! Bike rides to Treasure Island might be in my future!

  • Mike B

    It is heartening to see a bill proposed to fund a bike path on the West Span of the bridge. We will likely hear from very “responsible” people how fiscally irresponsible such a project would be to undertake at this time. Ten years ago I received such responses from elected representatives regarding my written requests for just such a path.

    My point would be: We all need to press our representaives to support the bill, because you can be certain the legislative leadership would just as soon drop the whole “expensive” idea.

  • Mike puts “expensive” in quotes, as if there’s any doubt that it will be, but the estimate last year—pending the results of the $1 million dollar study that will be out this year—was $160 million to $390 million.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/08/BAK316UG43.DTL

  • $160 million to $390 million.

    Half of what OAC would cost and probably used by twice as many people. Bargain!

  • Doug Smith

    I sure hope this happens. I have always felt that the west span bike lane would not only be a terrific commute corridor but also a valuable tourist attraction as well, benefitting cities on both ends of the bridge.

  • @Rob Anderson: If you believe $390 million is too expensive for this project, what would be a reasonable price in your mind, Rob? I love that you say your ridiculous lawsuit wasn’t anti-bike, but worried about car and transit flow. Yet, curiously, you oppose this project– even when it has no impacts on either transit or car flow. Interesting.

  • This is a good idea in general but more than a bit extravagant when our public transit system is completely melting down and our city has a borderline-useless bicycle infrastructure (THANKS ROB!). The number of commuters who are athletically able to make the trip across the bridge as a commute is likely to be quite small and, barring increased commercial development of Treasure Island, I suspect most tourists will gravitate towards the GGB.

    This project is ultimately a toy. A very expensive toy that promotes alternative transportation and might boost tourism a bit, but given its limited function it shouldn’t be given the same priority as implementing the bicycle plan, properly funding MUNI, and dealing with Market Street.

  • @SFResident: How do you define this as expensive? Compared to what?

    Let’s put this project in perspective– they are about to start the FOURTH bore of the Caldecott Tunnel– and will cost $420 million for less than ONE MILE of roadway.

    Currently, 33% of SF who don’t own a car– are prohibited from accessing the bridge. This project covers at least 3 times the length for 3/4 the price of a quadruple-redundant project.

    So, I ask again– to both you and Rob– in relation to what, is this project ‘expensive’?

  • @marc: I also think that the Caldecott bore is also a poor prioritization of transportation funding. In fact, if given the option between this project and the 4th bore I’d certainly favor this.

    This project is “expensive” in relation to the value we would get from putting that same $390M into improving the SF bicycle infrastructure, improving conditions on Market street, helping defray the skyrocketing cost of caltrain, BART, or fast passes, or just about any mundane and “unsexy” project that would actually improve people’s daily (non-car) commutes.

    This is a vanity project. A nice and green vanity project, but a vanity project nonetheless.

  • @SFResident: Yes– a $390 million influx of money would be good for San Francisco– but pots of money have allocations, and limits– regional money; operational vs. capital; bridge tolls used for bridge-related projects. There are billions and billions of dollars used for bad highway projects– ‘vanity projects’ as you say– but that doesn’t mean that this cheap $300 million has to be axed for the other cheap bike projects in the SF Bike Plan. It’s not a zero-sum game.

  • All: this is not a vanity project. The only reason Caltrans is remotely considering this is it will allow maintenance to take place during normal hours and save O&M costs. Closing bridge lanes at night to paint and repair is costly in the long-run.

  • Mkelly

    It looks like the bike/pedestrian lane would be on the South side of the bridge.  Why?  The North side has one of the best views in the world.