Sep 17, 2015
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A community-led project to install a number of traffic-calming measures and other street enhancements in the Iron Triangle neighborhood is a significant step closer to receiving a $6.2 million Caltrans grant, according to Mayor Tom Butt.

The so-called Yellow Brick Road Project is one of 617 applications submitted to the Caltrans Active Transportation Program, which combines state and federal grants to pay for projects that encourage walking, cycling and emissions reductions.

Of those 617 applications, just under 14-percent (86 projects) were recommended by Caltrans staff for funding, and the Yellow Brick Road was among them, Butt reported in his e-forum newsletter Thursday. If the funds are formerly approved by the California Transportation Commission in late October, the Richmond project would be the third largest award from the state grant program.

“This is huge news for the Iron Triangle neighborhood, and for Richmond,” the mayor said.

Proposal for 'Yellow Brick Road' in Iron Triangle gets City Council supportThe $6.2 million would go toward constructing the first portion of Yellow Brick Road, which includes streets surrounding Peres Elementary and Elm Playlot; 8th Street from Triangle Court to the Richmond Greenway; and all crossings on the Greenway including 2nd, 4th, 8th and 20th streets and Harbour Way.

The map below shows the path of the Yellow Brick Road (click image to enlarge).

The project includes safety enhancements to crosswalks and sidewalks, additional bus shelters and trash cans, traffic calming measures and decorative additions such as yellow-brick crosswalks, art projects, wayfinding signs, landscaping and lighting. See a detailed list of proposals in this report.

The project has been a unique exercise in urban planning. The concept emerged from a group of Iron Triangle youths during a summer project in 2008. Their idea to stencil yellow bricks on the ground connecting families to schools, churches, parks and cultural institutions led to a Caltrans planning grant and the staging of a live, full-scale preview of street improvements based upon community input.


During the initial planning stages, Toody Maher, founder and executive of the local nonprofit Pogo Park, sent out some 30 local residents from children to grandparents to walk every last street in the neighborhood over a 14-day period. Residents documented barriers to walkability. Their work helped guide the recommendations currently being considered for funding.

Maher, who has played a major role in this project, listed a number of people to thank for their contributions, including:

  • Kirsten Negus at Pogo Park, who worked night and day to write the bulk of the narrative and to put all the pieces together (Note: Kirsten if now 4 for 4 in grants she wrote for Pogo Park on behalf of the city. If the CTC approves the $6.2 million ATP grant in October, she will be responsible for bringing roughly $14 million in capital funds into the Iron Triangle neighborhood)
  • Carrie Neilson at Fehr + Peers, who worked hours and hours to provide the detailed budget and the forecast of the bike and walking counts – and answered all our endless phone calls day after day
  • Chad Smalley for patiently overseeing the collective efforts of the entire team to work together and submit three ATP grants on behalf of the city
  • Lina Velasco who has been a steady champion and trusted shepherd of the Yellow Brick Road project from the very beginning
  • Patrick Phelan who provided multiple iterations of very good and detailed maps at a moment’s notice time and time again – and provided insightful comments about bike and walking routes that no one else had thought about
  • Gabino Arredondo who went out of his way (as usual) to secure signatures of the letters of support that were critical to this grant (and to Shasa Curl for getting Tony Thurmond to sign a letter in Sacramento!)
  • Coire Reilly and his team from CC Health Department for writing the narrative and providing the data we needed to answer the question in the grant about health impacts
  • Adrian Maher at Pogo Park for spending days and days meticulously crafting individual letters of support to provide to each partner – and following up to ensure they got them signed
  • The entire Pogo Park local resident team for getting up at dawn for two weeks straight to conduct neighborhood surveys and collect data on bike and walking counts at multiple locations all over the Iron Triangle neighborhood – data that was critical to this grant
  • Bruce Beyaert at TRAC for his never-ending positive help and insights about the minutest of details of the grant
  • Josh Meyer of Local Government Commission who wrote the successful grant application to Caltrans to fund the planning portion of the Yellow Brick Road project
  • Dan Burden for all the insights and wisdom he brought to the project
  • Diane Aranda at The California Endowment for providing a rapid response $10,000 grant that helped Pogo Park to fund the cost of the surveys and data collection – pieces that were critical to the success of the grant application
  • Tom Butt for providing a grant to help fund the surveys and data collections – and being continuous champion of Yellow Brick Road project
  • Ron and Maren, founders and owners of Richmond’s Scientific Art Studio for providing the magnificent artwork that was used on the cover of the grant.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.