Toll money may link bike path on new Bay Bridge 

It’s been an 80-year wait, but bicyclists and pedestrians will finally have a way to cross the Bay Bridge thanks to a new pedestrian path planned for the eastern span. The 8.4-mile Bay Bridge was built in the 1930s for trains and cars, but motor vehicles received exclusive access after lower-deck rails were replaced with bitumen — a black, tarlike substance — during the automobile-dominated 1950s.

But the new eastern span, linking Oakland and Yerba Buena Island, will include a bicycle and pedestrian path when it opens in roughly four years.

Construction of a similar path on the western span, which links San Francisco and the island, has long been a goal of cycling activists, lawmakers and others.

Such a path could hang off the side of the existing span to provide unprecedented cycling access between the most heavily trafficked Bay Area cities.

A study completed a decade ago found that the path would cost up to $350 million, and updated estimates are expected in May.

“The technical work of the new feasibility study is largely focused on connections to the San Francisco street system,” Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said. “The One Rincon tower now sits where the connection would have been made.”

The new eastern span is being built largely with tolls that were reintroduced in the late 1990s to Bay Area bridges, including the Bay Bridge, to fund seismic improvement and replacement projects.

Legislation by State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, would allow California to use toll funds to build the path.

“The idea of a bicycle path to nowhere on the eastern span has many people thinking that the time may have come to be a little visionary and extend it across the western span,” Hancock said.

Senate Bill 1061 comfortably passed the state Senate last week and is awaiting Assembly review.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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