How to pay for the Bay Bridge Bike Path to San Francisco?

Proposed Bay Bridge commuter path by Arup engineering.

A presentation hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on November 19 in San Francisco made it clear that all the technical hurdles in building a bike path from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco on the Bay Bridge can be overcome.

It’s financing that’s the hang-up. Does anyone have $400 million they’d be willing to part with? The cost is projected to be $341 million, but that’s in today’s dollars. It will surely go up.

There’s a compelling reason to build the path — traffic congestion mitigation. Rich Coffin, principle engineer with Arup engineering, said the Bay Bridge is going to be well beyond capacity in a few years. Isn’t it already?

His company and city planners built the ebike into their calculations for boosting commuter traffic. Coffin revealed a compelling slide that shows how most commuters in Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville and San Francisco could make the commute on an ebike in 45 minutes or less.

The path would also be useful for doing bridge maintenance without disrupting traffic.

With so many new businesses and more housing being planned, something has to be done soon. Treasure Island will have 24,000 residents by 2040. San Francisco and Oakland are growing like crazy.

A Path to Somewhere

Right now the eastern span of the Bay Bridge has a fabulous bike/pedestrian path to Yerba Buena Island, but that’s where it ends. The western span only needed a retrofit, so there’s no bike path to San Francisco.

Rafael Manzanarez, Arup bridge designer, showed the path on the north side of the span, bolted on. He said the bridge, 80 years old, cannot be welded.

The added weight could lower the bridge such that ships couldn’t pass under safely. Their solution comes with a repaving project planned for the bridge, which will use lighter asphalt.

The path would be 15 feet wide, with a couple feet added at the first tower, where tourists are sure to congregate.

The plan calls for an off-ramp at Essex and Harrison streets in San Francisco. Bike lanes and other accommodations are planned at that location, which presently is not bike friendly.

Who pays?

Coffin said that all ideas for funding the project are being entertained, including crowd funding and corporate sponsorship. The speakers left the impression that going with the usual local, state and federal funding sources would drag out the project beyond their 10-year plan.

One audience member suggested that he would gladly pay another dollar for the bridge toll.

I don’t visit San Francisco all that often, but there’s no doubt that this is a worthy project. I think of all the senseless expenditures going toward foreign wars, exotic military hardware.

If you believe the projections, the path could reduce traffic on the Bay Bridge by 3 percent, at least. That sounds possible. New York City’s bridges into Manhattan have upwards of 7,000 bike commuters daily during the summer.


KPIX 5 coverage

PDF of presentation

4 Responses to “How to pay for the Bay Bridge Bike Path to San Francisco?”

  1. jimboweezer Says:

    This is an expensive proposition. I think the issue of getting people that have their own last mile transportation vehicle (ie, bike, scooter, skateboard) across the bridge would be better served by a specialized bridge shuttle service that efficiently loads people and their transport vehicle at the entrance(s) to the bridge and unloads them at the exit(s) of the bridge. Similar in principle to a ferry service but for people and their personal transport device to get across the bridge. This reduces both bridge and city traffic, accommodates more modes of personal transportation, and could serve to increase the number of people who commute this way given the bridge crossing is the portion of the commute most exposed to inclimate weather. The cost of the shuttles would be much less than adding a full bike path and could be done as a pilot to estimate true commute demand.

  2. Raymond Hosler Says:

    There is a shuttle service for bikes during commute hours. The negative is that it can get caught up in a traffic jam.

    • jimboweezer Says:

      Thanks for the link Ray. The bike shuttle seems like a good idea. Seems like they could extend a shuttle service to Treasure Island without much extra cost. Seems like the best way to justify a separate path on the old part of the bridge is for maintenance. I wonder if a bridge shuttle over the Golden Gate would increase bike commuter traffic from the north bay, even though that bridge already has a bike lane. Seems like the bridge micro climates can be coldest, wettest, foggiest, and windiest part of the commute. As a recreational rider I’d definitely prefer the bike lane, but commuting for a job is a different story.

  3. Jon Blum Says:

    Thank you for this interesting report and your thoughtful perspective.

    I’d certainly rather spend the money on this path than bombs, but on the other hand if someone offered me $400 million dollars for bicycle infrastructure, I’m not sure this is where I’d use it. Of course, it doesn’t really work that way.

    I am a little skeptical about the analogy to New York City. The Bay Bridge is far longer than any of the NYC bridges, and for many people that would make for a very long commute (though as you point out, an e-bike might mitigate that). The other difference is that there are not many practical ways other than the bridges to get a bike over those rivers in NYC, whereas San Francisco has BART as a reasonable option to cross the Bay, particularly if one is starting from a location farther out than Oakland.

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