When the new Bay Bridge East Span opened in 2013, pedestrians and bicyclists fell in love with the pathway that stretches from Oakland to the iconic single tower.
MTC and Caltrans are currently studying whether we can extend this path that is enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors every year.
With the existing East Span bike/ped path set to reach Yerba Buena Island by the summer of 2016, the goal is to eventually extend the path around the island, and across the West Span of the bridge into downtown San Francisco.
The biggest challenge is financial. Estimated costs for a project of this type run into the the hundreds of millions of dollars.
No source of funding has yet been identified. But MTC has developed several preliminary design alternatives to extend the path to San Francisco.
In addition to providing a continuous bike/ped route from Oakland to San Francisco, the project also would improve access to the West Span for Caltrans maintenance crews, thereby reducing the need for lane closures on the historic bridge.
MTC teamed with both Caltrans and the City and County of San Francisco in 2011 to come up with design alternatives for a West Span bike/ped/maintenance path.
MTC aims to slash costs far below the $300 million to $500 million range estimated at the time. This may involve fine-tuning existing options or developing entirely new designs.
Plans to extend the path face plenty of design challenges beyond the need to cut costs. These include:
- Right-of-way acquisition
- Seismic safety
- Strong winds
- Access for maintenance crews
- Shipping channel clearance
- Access for disabled travelers, including those using wheelchairs
- Planned development in San Francisco and on Yerba Buena Island
- Connections to existing street and road systems
- Environmental impacts
Even if a funding source can be identified, construction of a West Span bike/ped path could be a 10-year project from start to finish.
This includes up to three or four years to complete preliminary designs and environmental review, two years for final design and right-of-way acquisition, and then up to four years of construction.