By Kathy Chouteau
They say if you build it, they will come. And indeed, they did. Hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians came out en masse for the Richmond-San Rafael Bicycle and Pedestrian Path Ribbon-Cutting ceremony on Saturday. The enthusiastic showing celebrated the official opening of a new six-mile Bay Trail segment that’s opened up travel for them between Contra Costa and Marin counties.
As part of the project, the westbound shoulder on the bridge’s upper deck has been converted to a 10-foot-wide path that separates cyclists and pedestrians from vehicle traffic by a barrier that’s moveable via a zipper truck.
On the Richmond side of the bridge, the path begins at Tewksbury Avenue and Castro Street in Point Richmond and then runs along I-580 West across the bay to San Rafael, where it can be accessed at East Francisco Boulevard and Main Street.
Among those arriving by bike for the Saturday morning grand opening was Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, accompanied by his wife, Shirley, who said the project is, “absolutely fantastic, because this has been in the works for 34 years—it’s been a long time coming. Later, the mayor said they had plans to ride on the path across the bridge.
The morning celebration, which took place on a bayside embankment along Stenmark Drive that overlooked the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, included remarks from project stakeholders such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Caltrans, Chevron Richmond, City of Richmond, Rich City Rides, Bike East Bay, Marin County Bicycle Coalition, Marin County and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Amy Worth, MTC commissioner and Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) oversite committee chair, kicked off her remarks noting the enthusiastic crowd.
“We’ve done a lot of ribbon cuttings over the years…and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an event that’s had this many people,” she said to a roar of applause.
Worth expressed gratitude to all of those involved in seeing the project to fruition.
“In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we truly are very, very fortunate to have this beautiful place and this beautiful pathway that will be enjoyed for many years to come,” she said.
Worth also took a moment to thank the City of Richmond, calling the path, “their great victory,” as well as Chevron “for their partnership in making this project happen.” The path runs over the refinery’s land and, when approached about the project, they were willing to help in any way, Worth said. Chevron has additionally granted an easement along more than a mile of shoreline for the future construction of 2.5 miles of additional Bay Trail spanning from I-580 to Pt. Molate Beach Park.
MTC/BATA Chair Scott Haggerty echoed Worth’s expression of gratitude, giving special props to Steve Kinsey, the former chair of MTC/BATA, who was instrumental in getting the project completed prior to his retirement.
Alan Davis, general manager of the Chevron Richmond Refinery, shared how meaningful the path project was to the company.
“On behalf of all of the men and women that work at Chevron Richmond, I want to say that we’re proud to partner with the MTC, the Bay Area Toll Authority and other regional partners to improve mobility along the I-580 corridor,” Davis said.
Later that morning as the fog gave way to the sunshine, project stakeholders gathered to perform a ribbon cutting on a bluff overlooking the bridge, with Haggerty holding the ceremonial giant scissors—an event quickly followed by a jubilant swarm of cyclists and pedestrians heading out to enjoy a beautiful day on the bay traveling upon their new path.
Funding for this project has come from the Toll Bridge Rehabilitation Program.