Those dreaming of walking or biking across the Bay Bridge have new hope, though they won’t be pedaling from San Francisco to Oakland any time soon.
Planners are narrowing in on the final designs for a pedestrian and bike path on the western span of the Willie Brown Bay Bridge.
Implementation may be decades off, but designs may be settled and funding sought in as soon as a year, the Bay Bridge Toll Authority said.
As KQED first reported, design teams from Arup and HNTB groups showcased designs for bike paths on the Bay Bridge at a Jan. 20 open house. The Bay Bridge is actually two spans, connected at Yerba Buena Island. The brand new eastern span has a bike and pedestrian path originating in Oakland — with no way to connect to the older bridge span to San Francisco.
Designers estimate the total time to bike across the two bridge spans would be 44 minutes, and it may take 2 hours and 25 minutes to walk across, a 7 mile journey.
Initial cost estimates to modify the 10,000 foot-long western span of the Bay Bridge were deemed too high by the authority. The design teams, then, were tasked with finding ways to reduce the cost to under $300 million.
The cost is high because to modify the existing Bay Bridge is complex, said Randy Rentschler, Director of Legislation and Public Affairs at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“This won’t be a tomorrow thing, it will take a while for us to find a plan that’s affordable,” Rentschler said.
The designers reduced 19 initial plans to six. In those alternatives, three approaches from San Francisco to the north side of the bridge are now being considered: a long path from Essex Street, a circular and multilayered path from the Caltrans Paint Yard and another winding approach from The Embarcadero.
South of the bridge entrance on Interstate 80, designs include a lengthy path from Beale Street, an alternate path from the Caltrans Paint Yard, and an oblong approach from the Embarcadero.
Elevators to carry pedestrians and cyclists to the bridge are also being considered.
Once on the bridge, options for the bike and pedestrian path abound: from a “pinned boomerang” deck, to an outboard deck held by existing suspension cables, to a deck suspended many feet above auto traffic.
“You’re doing it on the side, or you’re doing it on top, those are your choices,” Rentschler said.
Constructing a path on the bottom of the bridge may be infeasible, he said, due to necessary height clearance for ships under the bridge.
Bicycle advocates are heavily involved in politically pushing forward on the project. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy said most at the meeting preferred access to the bridge from the north side.
“This would provide the 10,000 people expected to use the path daily spectacular views of the San Francisco city skyline and provide yet another remarkable tourist attraction that we can proudly offer the world,” Cassidy said.
Rentschler said raising bridge tolls would be a likely source of revenue for the pedestrian and bike project.
According to the design presentations, the authority will host a second workshop to take feedback on the two of their best designs, from end to end, this fall. Final design phases, funding procurement and construction could stretch well into the next decade, according to the presentation.
Cassidy added, “engineering and building something as breathtaking as this, like Rome, just can’t be built in a day and will prove well worth the wait.”