Belmont seeks $1 million for bike bridge over Highway 101

Local cyclists and pedestrians could soon be closer to having a safe, independent pathway over U.S. Highway 101, if the city is once again able to secure $1 million in grant money for the construction of a new bicycle bridge.

On Tuesday, the Belmont City Council will discuss an application for a 2008/2009 Bicycle Transportation Account grant of $1 million. If awarded, the grant will join $2.96 million in funds from the Federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users and $585,000 from a separate Bicycle Transportation grant.

Civil engineer Gilbert Yau estimates the final cost of the project at approximately $5.5 million. Although the project has already been designed and nearly half of the funding has been gathered, he said the city will not invite construction bids until the majority of the money is available.

In creating a separate bicycle bridge — north of Ralston Avenue over Highway 101, connecting to the Belmont Sports Complex — Belmont is following in San Mateo’s tire tracks. Belmont’s neighbor to the north is building a similar bridge south of Hillsdale Avenue meant to move residents to either side of the city without needing to brave heavily trafficked vehicle routes.

“We need to encourage safe and comfortable public transportation,” Councilmember Bill Dickenson said. “This is just the beginning for Belmont, just one step. We need to focus on more of these comfortable ‘quality-of-life’ linkages.”

Dickenson — who has made no secret of his concerns with the project and its cost — said that the city needs to be careful with how it uses public money, regardless if it is gathered in the city’s own coffers or provided through state and federal grants.

As construction costs continue to rise, he says the city should look at “intermediate solutions,” which could include better bike lane markings on Ralston Avenue and other busy thoroughfares.

“Even when we do pull the trigger on this, my guess is that it will be at least a year’s worth of construction,” he said. “So I’m going to do my best to try to facilitate this, because it’s such a huge project and I don’t want to see it burn up money.”

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