By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Chanting “Build it Now,” a group of North Bay activists rallied Tuesday morning at the site of the proposed bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 in Santa Rosa.
Members of the North Bay Organizing Project, which includes labor, immigration, conservation and bicycle advocates, said the proposed bridge has the potential to create jobs and bring together the east and west ends of the city.
Advocates also framed the construction of the bridge as a vital link between the two communities once the SMART commute train service is running. The preferred location of the bridge is at Elliott Avenue near Santa Rosa Junior College on the east side, and just south of Coddingtown mall on the west, near the possible location of a rail station.
“We see the bridge as an important part of the SMART project,” said Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action. He said the bridge would bring jobs to Santa Rosa “during a down economy.”
Some city council members have expressed concern about the cost of the project, which could reach $20 million. But advocates said Tuesday the bridge could be constructed for about $11 million.
No money has been identified or allocated for construction of the overpass but the city has committed grant funds for the next phase of study, a CalTrans review that is estimated to cost $400,000.
Chris Snyder, district representative of the Operating Engineers union, called the bridge a “pathway to good middle class jobs” and emphasized the need to go forward with the SMART train project.
“Let’s get the SMART train built, because that’s going to be the backbone of the local economy,” Snyder said.
The event was one of many held throughout the country to showcase the results of a national study of how states rank in on-the-job-training and apprenticeship programs that boost job access for minorities and women in the federal highway construction field.
The study, conducted by the Transportation Equity Network, an advocacy group based in St. Louis with affiliates around the country, found that California ranked third highest in the country in the use of training and apprenticeship programs.
Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, also attended the rally and said there “is no better way to create jobs” than the bridge and train project because of the impact it will have on the 101 corridor.