How frustrated drivers inspired 2.5 miles of shoreline trails in Richmond

How frustrated drivers created 2.5 miles of shoreline trails in Richmond

Drivers fed up with congestion inspired the upcoming construction of a third eastbound vehicle lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

But their call for traffic relief has also come with an unintended benefit for Richmond, providing millions of dollars in transportation funds for a long-stalled community plan to create a number of trails for pedestrians and cyclists that will not only cross the bridge (as pictured), but provide 2.5 miles of shoreline access that never before existed.

For Bruce Beyaert, chair of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC), the fact that the evening bridge traffic was deemed intolerable by transportation agencies was “pure serendipity.”

TRAC has worked since 1999 to create a shoreline trail connecting Point Richmond and Point Molate, but found the plans to be too expensive, particularly when it came to building a safe trail linking Castro Street, which is south of I-580, to Stenmark Drive, north of I-580.

Thanks to throngs of frustrated drivers, regional transportation agencies including the Bay Area Toll Authority opted to fund a third eastbound lane on the Richmond San-Rafael Bridge to ease congestion. That inspired funding for the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian path on the western span of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, a crucial link to the 500-mile-long San Francisco Bay Trail.

It also created a need to fund trail links in both Richmond and San Rafael, which directly assists efforts to complete an expensive portion of the Richmond Bay Trail. On Nov. 10, the Toll Authority approved a $27.2 million contract to construct a 1.1-mile Bay Trail separated from I-580 between Castro Street and the Stenmark Drive exit.

srbridge1But that’s not all that has TRAC members cheering. At the same time, the East Bay Regional Park District has partnered with Chevron and the City of Richmond on the design and construction of 2.5 miles of trail from the Stenmark Drive exit until Point Molate Beach Property.

Chevron has donated an easement of about 1 mile of land to create the trail, along with a portion of land to complete the bridge lane project.

“What this means for the Bay Trail: It will open 2.5 miles of shoreline access that never existed before to a stunning area,” Baeyert said.

And that 2.5 miles is yet another large chunk out of TRAC’s ultimate goal to complete about 42 miles of the Richmond portion of the SF Bay Trail. So far, over 32 miles have been built, more than any other Bay Area city.

Currently, six active projects in Richmond will complete six of the last 10 unfinished miles, Beayert said.

On Thursday, transportation agencies are holding an open house in Richmond for public members who want to learn more about the projects involved. The meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Richmond City Council Chambers. Click here for details.