$8.7M makeover for Marin Headlands is affecting roads 

More than 10 miles of roads at or near the Marin Headlands will be shut down in the next three years, under an $8.7 million construction project that will rehabilitate 30-year-old thoroughfares, improve bike and trail access, expand parking and protect native wildlife species.

The first phase of the project will start next week, when the East Road, a lightly used access route that leads from the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito — and one used by many San Francisco bike rental companies — will be shut down.

Luis Orellana, owner of Bay City Bike, said he tells his customers to use East Road as an alternative to Alexander Road, a busy, narrow thoroughfare that will be the detour route now that East Road is closed.

The next phase of the project will begin April 1, when a large section of Conzelman Road, which leads to the peak of the Marin Headlands, shuts down completely to vehicle and bike traffic until October.

The Headlands are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and are visited by more than 1 million people each year, including tourists, bicyclists and nature buffs. With the closure, areas like Hawk Hill — a breeding ground for local avian species — will be off-limits.

Also starting in April, motorists and cyclists can expect delays of up to 30 minutes on portions of McCullough Road, Lower Conzelman Road, Field Road and other arteries in the Headlands due to alternating one-way traffic restrictions caused by the construction.

The roads are crumbling, narrow and sorely in need of infrastructure upgrades, according to Ricardo Suarez, division engineer with the Federal Highway Administration, which is heading up the project. The $8.7 million project is funded by the federal government’s Park Roads and Parkways Program, a capital improvement protocol aimed specifically at rehabilitating national parks.

The improvements will widen roads by up to 4 feet and provide additional shoulder space of another 4 feet to allow bicyclists greater access. Informal vista overlooks, currently comprised of dirt patches, will be replaced with smooth pavement sections, and improved turnaround sections will allow for greater access for public transit vehicles, which includes Muni’s 76-Marin Headlands bus line.

More parking spaces and efforts to protect the habitats of steelhead trout and the Mission blue butterfly also are part of the rehabilitation project.

Although the ambitious undertaking will completely overhaul the infrastructure of the Headlands, Frank Dean, acting superintendent for the national recreation area, said the changes will be respectful of the area’s history.

“We don’t intend on turning this into a freeway,” Dean said. “But we want to take advantage of this wonderful natural resource. We’re trying to carry this out in the least disruptive way possible.”

The upcoming road closures are the first of a two-phase project that will be wrapped up in 2013.

The second phase will include work on East and West Bunker roads.


Roads closed

1. East Road, weekdays February to May. Alternate route to Fort Baker and the Discovery Museum via Alexander Avenue and Bunker Road, one-lane closures from May to October.
2. Closure of Conzelman Road from McCullough to Field roads April to October, including Hawk Hill and Upper Fisherman’s parking lots.
3. Alternating one-lane traffic on McCullough Road May to October.
- Periodic one-way alternating traffic Monday-Friday on Danes Drive at Baker-Barry Tunnel, Lower Conzelman, Field and Bunker roads.
- East Road and East Conzelman Road closed to bicycles February to October. Parts of Conzelman Road all of McCullough Road closed to bikes April to October.

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Will Reisman

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