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In search of funds for SR bike bridge

On Thursday, two elected officials and I got into the weeds — literally and figuratively — over the proposed bike bridge spanning Highway 101 in Santa Rosa.

When Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Susan Gorin and Rohnert Park Vice Mayor Jake Mackenzie and I took a walk along Armory Drive to Steele Lane, we had to walk single-file at one point to wade through the waist-high weeds lining the sidewalks.

“Now we get into the weeds of traffic,” said Gorin as she motioned west where Steele Lane passes under Highway 101 near Coddingtown.

Gorin recounted her tale of biking to a meeting on the west side of town one morning and nearly losing her life with trying to maneuver through the area to turn south on Cleveland Avenue. “I will never, ever, do that again,” she vowed.

No question. It’s a hazardous and uninviting area to anyone having to travel by foot or bike. Traveling with kids? Forget about it. But, aside from the Highway 101 crossing at Bicentennial Way, which isn’t much better, it’s the only way to get from one side of the highway to the other in that part of town. Which is why so much political energy is being invested in building a bike bridge connecting the Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood with the southeast corner of Coddingtown Mall. With a SMART train station to be built up the block on Guerneville Road, it makes all the more sense. But does it make financial sense, given the projected cost of somewhere between $10 million and $20 million?

Gorin and Mackenzie, both avid cyclists, invited me on the field trip because of our editorials raising questions about whether this is the best use of gas tax, redevelopment and other funds. The cost of just doing initial studies has jumped from $200,000 to $500,000.

They argue its still worth the investment, particularly given that transportation projects can take years to move foward. Remember how long it took to widen Highway 101?

Mackenzie, chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, says it’s possible that Santa Rosa could be reimbursed for some of the study costs through funds from Measure M, the quarter-cent sales tax county voters passed in 2004 for transportation.

After that, they hope to build the bridge through grants, federal transportation funds and possibly through some local fund-raising. But will local residents be willing to contribute to a bike bridge?

If the Measure M funds come through, it may help persuade the majority of City Council members to keep the idea alive for now. But there remain a lot of thorns on this issue.

- Paul Gullixson





15 Responses to “In search of funds for SR bike bridge”

  1. Juvenal says:

    My understanding is that the high cost of the bridge has mostly to do with meeting Americans with Disability Act guidelines. I have sympathy for those who are disabled, but when I see elaborate construction to accommodate them I often wonder how many disabled actually avail themselves of the accommodation–in other words, how much it costs for one disabled person to be able to do X. Would it be cheaper to build an old-fashioned overpass and transport the handicapped across town by van?

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  2. joe right says:

    If built, would the overpass really see more usage than the empty bike lanes on the east side of Santa Rosa?

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  3. Or go under 6th street says:

    You could clean up and open up the passage under 6th street for about $5000 and avoid all the effects on the environment from the contruction of a bike bridge. Good for our wallets, good for the environment. What about that? Or does the SoCoBicyleArmy want a shiny new bridge to ride on?

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  4. Phil Maher says:

    “If the Measure M funds come through, it may help persuade the majority of City Council members to keep the idea alive for now.”

    This is a local issue with no benefit to Sonoma County as a whole. Measure M funds are raised on a county-wide basis- for the implementation of larger scale, regional transportation solutions that will benefit us all. This should be Santa Rosa’s funding problem alone.

    Is anybody else getting sick of these fantasy factory hacks rejiggering the sources of funding that voters approved to meet their own interpretations of where our priorities should lie?

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  5. Sarky Fish says:

    Build half a bridge, and invite critical mass for the inaugural ride.

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  6. Jeffrey says:

    Paul Harris wrote: “In addition, the name ‘bike bridge’ implies its built out of bicycles, when it will probably be built of steel and concrete.”

    I find the majority of your post to be informative and educational, though I do disagree with your main point. But I believe the above sentence is incorrect. The term “bike bridge” adequately describes the proposed bridge. After all, it is a bridge that it being touted by its proponents as one that will make it easier for bicyclists to cross the freeway. When we hear the term “pedestrian bridge” and “pedestrian crossing,” we don’t assume that the aforementioned objects are made out of pedestrians. What term would you suggest that we use? The “steel and concrete bridge”? I can’t think of another term as descriptive and concise as “bike bridge.” If you can think of something better, I’ll be delighted to consider it.

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  7. GAJ says:

    Yes Laura W. you are absolutely correct in your recommendations.

    West 9th is a quite street, perfect for bicycles, gets you under the freeway and to SRJC within 15 minutes or so from the Coddingtown area.

    But perhaps the proponents of this boondoggle would rather push their bicycles over a $20 million bridge rather than face the horror of actually pedaling a couple of miles!

    “What, me exercise” they’d scream. ;)

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  8. Paul Harris says:

    The PB might not be loosing so many readers if they would stick to news and not play politics with words. The east/west connector bridge will have lanes for bicycles with a raised curb and sidewalk on both sides for pedestrians. In addition, the cycling portion will be wide enough for emergency vehicles to use it if the approaches are designed correctly. That would be a public safety benefit when there is an emergency where surface streets are clogged with traffic. The bridge will help sew together a city that was badly split by a poorly placed freeway, a location demanded by the business community in the 50s. In addition, the name ‘bike bridge’ implies its built out of bicycles, when it will probably be built of steel and concrete. Get educated PD.

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  9. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Ah, two of our most prominate ‘Smart Growth’/ Agenda 21 operatives working side by side. Warms the heart. Project by project building the infrastructure for kind of high density community needed to contain/control/monitor the serfs right out of the Local Agenda 21 Planning Guide. More impoverishment of OUR coffers, more grant money for THIER job security. Is that what they mean by Sustainability? Sustaining thier jobs?

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  10. Fiscal Conservative says:

    Caltrans just built a new overcrossing at 5th street. The city of Santa Rosa has let it sit fenced off rather than build the city streets under it.

    Give the community development money back to the state to help our school children.

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  11. Rob says:

    Lets keep cutting City services and build the bike bridge. Then we won’t have to worry about cutting the weeds down. The bike bridge will solve all our problems. I just can’t think of 1 thing the bike bridge won’t fix. I’ll bet it even fixes Wysocky and Gorins attitudes. Oh wait, now everyone knows I’m kidding.

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  12. Laura W. says:

    You can also get under at Ninth Street very nicely. OR, you can get off of your bike and safely walk it on the side walk for the two blocks it takes to get under the Steele Lane viaduct. I have been doing it for years and it is not that bad.

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  13. Phil Maher says:

    It’s high time we had a closer look at Jake Mackenzie’s various roles in our local transportation future. Seems more than a little conflicted- RP councilman, SMART board, SCTA board, MTC board… Seems like he’s the go-to guy for pet-project money- got a problem?- call Jake. Awfully free with making promises using lots and lots of other people’s money.”Avid cyclist” (could’ve fooled me), or rampant political operative with a personal agenda and lots of developer friends?

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  14. Dave Madigan says:

    It sounds like the City should spend a few hundred dollars and cut the weeds down on the sidewalk. That would make much more sense than spending $20 Million for a bike bridge.

    “Hazardous and uninviting to anyone traveling by foot or bike”? There are crosswalks at the busy intersections. Is Susan Gorin, a City Council member, stating that a marked crosswalk isn’t safe enough?

    Perhaps we should just take out the crosswalks then? No. The crosswalks are there for a purpose. Use them as intended!

    Once again, in the immortal words of Gary Wysocky, “Cars need to pay their full share of costs”. Ok. Then bike riders ALSO need to pay their FULL share of costs for a bike bridge.

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  15. Jeff Elliott says:

    “…aside from the Highway 101 crossing at Bicentennial Way, which isn’t much better, it’s the only way to get from one side of the highway to the other in that part of town…”

    Not true. Less than a mile south is College Ave. A cyclist from SRJC can reach this underpass via Mendocino Ave. (bike lane) or by cutting through the bike-friendly neighborhood that connects with Armory Drive. Once through that underpass, both Cleveland Ave. and Dutton are streets with considerably lighter traffic than Steele.

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