PINOLE - Capping a saga that has spanned more than 30 years, the East Bay Regional Park District unveiled a $13.2 million bridge over the railroad tracks in Pinole — the agency’s most expensive and complicated trail segment to date — as part of its effort to build a continuous trail around the entire San Francisco Bay.
In a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, officials from the park district, the city of Pinole and transportation agencies around the region praised the newest trail link — which consists of a 1,100-foot bridge and 1,200-foot segment between Pinole Shores Regional Shoreline and Bayfront Park — that will expand public access to the scenic coast in northeastern Contra Costa County along San Pablo Bay.
“I think this will be iconic for the Bay Trail,” said Pete Murray, mayor pro tem of Pinole. “It’ll be a draw.”
Visitors walk across a new pedestrian bridge at East Bay Regional Park District's Pinole Shores park on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in Pinole, Calif. The new half-mile segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail includes the gradually-sloping bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that connects Pinole Shores and the City of Pinole's Bayfront Park. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
East Bay Regional Park District Manager Robert Doyle said the bridge closes a “critical gap” in the Bay Trail that some doubted would ever come to fruition.
Doyle called it the “most difficult and the most expensive project” his agency has completed, one that was threatened along the way by funding challenges, railroad activity at the shoreline and the geography itself.
Union Pacific railroad tracks cut through the narrow space between the bay and steep bluffs where houses are perched. With more than 30 trains a day crossing through the area, Doyle said, it was necessary to build a bridge over the tracks instead of a flat railroad crossing. In 2016 the park district and Union Pacific Railroad made a deal to allow several public access improvements at tracks between Martinez and Richmond — including the bridge at Pinole Shores and another one planned for nearby Lone Tree Point.
Then there was the added complication of properly protecting marshland around the bridge and acquiring the $13.2 million needed from 12 agencies to build the bridge, providing a glimpse of what lies ahead with future Bay Trail segments, officials said.
Though a little more than 350 miles of the total 500 miles envisioned for the Bay Trail have been completed, that’s been mostly the “easy” stuff, said Lee Huo, a planner with the San Francisco Bay Trail Project, which is coordinating the planning of the trail.
Other stretches that need to be completed will involve conflicting land uses, challenging geography and limited funding, much like the hurdles that faced the Pinole bridge segment. A pilot project planned for next year would provide space for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Richmond bridge into Marin County as part of the trail project, and planners are trying to figure out how to close tricky gaps for the trail along the Highway 37 corridor in Solano County.
“Our hope is that it becomes heavily used,” Huo said, adding that he wants people to use the trail for more than just recreation and actually feel comfortable commuting on it by foot or bicycle.
That could get easier in west Contra Costa when Hercules opens an intermodal transportation center that’ll allow bicyclists to get off the train there and pedal along the trail.
The city of Hercules also hosted a ribbon cutting for its mile-long segment of the Bay Trail that links Railroad Avenue and the Pinole stretch of the trail, which city leaders envision as a transit hub for connecting bus, rail and ferry service in Hercules, said Mayor Chris Kelley.
The opening of the two segments almost completes the western Contra Costa County segment of the Bay Trail. Officials are planning an extension from Hercules into Rodeo and another to the north connecting with Point Pinole.
Colin Coffey, a regional park board member from west Contra Costa County, said at the unveiling that he expects the newly opened segment to attract hikers and bikers “from all over Northern California and maybe even the whole state.”
Source: East Bay Times, September 12, 2018, by Annie Sciacca
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor