The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $600 million dollars  in TIGER II grants  today and the only project in Northern California to make the cut was the East Bay Regional Park District’s proposal to fill in seven key gaps on the 200-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail system that runs across Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
“We’re really happy,” said Jim Townsend, the trails development program manager for the park district. “We think that this is going to go a long way toward advancing bicycling and walking as legitimate transportation modes, not only in the region but nationwide.”
The district’s Green Transportation Initiative will get $10.2 million from U.S. DOT for gap closures along the Bay Trail  in Hercules, Berkeley, Albany, Union City and Martinez. It will help to build out the East Bay Greenway in Oakland, extend the Iron Horse Trail in Pleasanton and Dublin through the Hacienda Business Park and a planned transit-oriented development, and reconnect Brentwood and Antioch along the Mokelumne Trail in eastern Contra Costa County, a path that was severed by the new Highway 4 bypass. All the trails will feature Class I separated bike paths.
In its application [pdf ], the district pointed out that Alamada and Contra Costa counties are home to some of the most congested roads and highways in the country. With the East Bay’s population expected to double over the next three decades, filling in the missing links along these trails will make it easier for people to bike or walk to work or school in areas where the infrastructure has kept them stuck in their cars.
“We think this will promote significant mode shift from single occupancy vehicles to transit,” said Townsend. “The plan is to help complete those ‘last mile’ connections to transit nodes, which will allow people to both walk and bike to transit and employment centers and schools, to leave their cars in the garage, which is where they belong.”
The East Bay Greenway, a pedestrian and bicycle path that will run under the BART tracks, will be built near some of the poorest neighborhoods in the Bay Area. The district says the project “will result in a well-lighted, landscaped bicycle and pedestrian path connecting to the BART station, AC Transit bus service and local schools.”
“The East Bay Greenway will build out a safe and continuous east-to-west corridor through the city of Oakland for both bicyclists and pedestrians,” said Kassie Rohrbach, executive director of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. “This funding will build a critical pathway that connects Oakland’s neighborhoods and cities across the East Bay.”
East Bay Parks had originally requested $24.5 million for the East Bay Pedestrian and Bicycle Network, so it leaves the district about $14 million short of the total $43 million cost. The funds are being tapped from a variety of sources, including the voter-approved Measure AA and WW. Townsend said the district would work with its many funding partners, including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, to secure the rest.
The project is also expected to create up to 500 jobs, including positions for engineering, trades, design and environmental review and compliance.
“Almost all of these projects have two things in common,” said James Corless, the director of Transportation For America. “They all will create desperately-needed jobs while building critical transportation infrastructure, and they have a hard time getting funded under the outdated structure of the current federal transportation program.”
All of the projects that received TIGER II grants are expected to be completed by 2014.