Transportation planners are supporting a collection of initiatives to assist ease gridlock over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, however to the dismay of discontented drivers, that gained’t, for now, contain opening a 3rd westbound commute lane.
Critics and supporters of the freeway growth effort confronted off Wednesday as planners mentioned the destiny of the bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian path that has come to the top of its four-year trial run.
The Bay Space Toll Authority Oversight Committee mentioned it agreed with a workers advice to await the outcomes of a pilot examine last report earlier than taking motion.
Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, a member of the committee, mentioned it’s a steadiness between being environmental stewards, chopping emissions and supporting the commuting workforce.
“After they have a look at a possible third lane, it’s straightforward to get enthusiastic about how that might present some aid,” he mentioned. “However we additionally acknowledge that there’s a course of that we’ve got to undergo to make it possible for if we do one thing, it’s completed proper.”
Within the meantime, planners on the Metropolitan Transportation Fee and Caltrans will pursue a number of initiatives that have been cooked as much as shave off as much as 17 minutes from the westbound morning commute into Marin County.
One of many initiatives is to take away the toll cubicles to make method for open-road tolling and an prolonged carpool lane at an estimated value of $24 million. That challenge is anticipated to open within the winter of 2026.
Different near-term initiatives embody a $5 million Richmond Parkway interchange, transit enhancements and extra bicycle infrastructure enhancements.
The $20 million path opened 4 years in the past this month. The controversial pilot challenge transformed the bridge’s westbound emergency and upkeep lane right into a path that’s separated from car site visitors by a moveable barrier.
Cyclists mentioned the trail challenge has fulfilled a decades-old imaginative and prescient to create the primary route connecting the North Bay and East Bay. Critics, together with East Bay residents and the Bay Space Council enterprise affiliation, say the trail must be opened as much as autos through the mornings to supply aid to the tens of hundreds of commuters caught in site visitors versus a handful of weekday cyclists.
Over the previous 12 months, a mean of 115 cyclists use the trail on weekdays and a mean of 325 cyclists on the weekends, in accordance with fee. The weekday pedestrian common is 15, whereas the weekend common is 30.
By comparability, greater than 80,000 autos cross the 5.5-mile bridge on weekdays. Westbound drivers can expertise delays of almost half an hour throughout peak commute instances.
Transportation planners say that site visitors counts are at about 90% of what they have been pre-pandemic, however drivers query the figures.
“I recognize presenting the information however let’s discuss lived expertise,” mentioned Lisa Tsering, a resident of El Cerrito.
Tsering mentioned the bicycle faction is well-organized and has many voices. She requested whether or not bicyclists have sat of their automotive throughout a jam on the bridge after a crash.
“The fact of the state of affairs is that bike path is a luxurious for the elite,” she mentioned. “Working class individuals like me want the bridge and we want entry to as many lanes as doable.”
A well-liked proposal is to create one other moveable barrier on the eastbound decrease deck, which has three lanes open to car site visitors. For the morning commutes, cyclists can be diverted onto the decrease deck to permit crews to reopen a 3rd westbound lane, with the reverse taking place through the afternoon commute within the eastbound path.
“The individuals which are caught within the backup matter, and the notion is that it’s getting worse,” mentioned John Grubb, chief working officer of the Bay Space Council, the enterprise group pushing the proposal.
Joanne Webster, chief govt officer of the North Bay Management Council, mentioned her group additionally helps that plan.
“This isn’t simply an environmental challenge, that is an fairness challenge too,” Webster mentioned. “North Bay Management Council want limitations eliminated to assist us appeal to employees from the East Bay.”
Transportation planners mentioned it might value $70 million to $310 million in enhancements to accommodate a 3rd westbound lane. Any such challenge would require overcoming environmental hurdles lasting a number of years.
One other argument towards the bike path is that the morning commute is resulting in a rise in greenhouse gasoline emissions, creating poorer air high quality and affecting the well being of Richmond residents.
“To have all of us delayed and sitting in burning fossil fuels so a couple of wealthy individuals can journey throughout the bridge once they really feel prefer it, and put extra junk into the air in Richmond and make me use my inhaler extra usually, it sucks,” mentioned Mike Martinez, a Richmond resident.
Lisa Klein, discipline operations and asset administration director for the fee, mentioned planners are working with air high quality officers to measure the consequences of site visitors. She mentioned car miles traveled is the principle contributor to air pollution, and including a 3rd lane might in reality improve the variety of cars driving by the hall.
It’s a indisputable fact that bicycle and pedestrian activists have been reporting as effectively.
“One other site visitors lane would improve not lower air pollution, and congestion enhancements, if any would possible be quick lived,” mentioned Dave Rhoads, chair of Stroll/Bike San Rafael, a division of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.
Rhoads mentioned his group is asking for twenty-four/7 bicycle and pedestrian entry.
“The cash it could value so as to add a lane to the hall is critical, and importantly, it’s unfunded,” he mentioned. “A extra impactful use of the funds can be to enhance transit entry on the hall.”
Bruce Dughi of Castro Valley mentioned the feedback of elitism trouble him. He mentioned he chooses biking and public transit as a result of it’s extra reasonably priced.
“BART, biking and having these bridges open actually broaden the place individuals can go within the Bay Space with out driving a automotive,” he mentioned. “With out BART and with out this bridge entry, we’re severely restricted. Bridges are for bikes not only for automobiles.”
Sean Camden of Novato mentioned he was joyful when the trail opened.
“We’ve been including lanes throughout our nation for about 100 years to take care of automotive congestion and it doesn’t work,” Camden mentioned. “If it did, Los Angeles can be a transportation paradise and who desires to make Marin County extra like Los Angeles, proper? We want extra bike paths.”
The examine on the trail is anticipated to be prepared for overview in the summertime of 2024. For now, the trail will stay in place, however its destiny will finally rely on the choice of the toll authority subsequent 12 months.