Walking and biking win big funding

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates are applauding a major infusion of federal funds that will more than double what many Bay Area counties spend on biking and pedestrian improvements in the next two years, including San Mateo County.

Five county projects, chosen from a list of 30, will receive a combined $2.5 million over fiscal years 2007-08 and 2008-09.

That’s on top of about $1.4 million the county has received every two years for some time, said Sandy Wong, transportation system coordinator for the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County, which chose the projects.

A similar boost is expected at the end of 2009, Wong said. The funds come from the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act signed into law in August 2005.

“It’s a big increase,” Wong said. “Nowadays, we’re placing more emphasis on pedestrian and bicycling projects.”

In an area where the typical commuter spends about 72 hours a year stuck behind the wheel, transportation experts saying increased bicycle and pedestrian funds are needed to encourage people to walk, bike or take public transit.

“Anything we can do to encourage alternate modes of transportation is better for the region,” said Sean Co, bicycle and pedestrian planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “Biking and walking are zero pollution ways of getting around.”

The county projects include improvements to the Linear Park trail in South San Francisco for $538,000; $500,000 in crosswalk and real-time bus schedule upgrades on Mission Street in Daly City; paving improvements to a mile-and-a-half stretch of San Pedro Terrace trail between Linda Mar Valley to Pacifica worth $1 million; bicycling and pedestrian upgrades to Delaware Street in San Mateo between Bermuda Drive and 25th Avenue for $283,000; and $625,000 in improvements to the California Coastal Trail in El Granada, according to officials.

“We’re certainly glad that there’s more money available because only a percentage of our needs get funding,” said Gladwyn D’Souza, vice-president of the Peninsula Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. While only a fraction of the $10 million it would cost to complete all 30 priority projects in the county, the money could still make a difference, D’Souza said.

One goal of the funding infusion is better access to downtowns and transit centers that will allow easier public transit transfers, Wong said.

San Mateo County isn’t alone. San Francisco, Alameda County and other Bay Area counties will receive similar fund increases, adding to the Bay Area’s 532 miles of existing bikeways, according to John Goodwin, of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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