California’s East Bay cycling community has a reason to celebrate after the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) awarded a $10.2 million grant to improve and connect existing pedestrian and cycling trails in the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD).
The East Bay Regional Park District’s board members convened with congressional delegates and cycling commuters at the Oakland Airport-Coliseum BART station at a celebratory conference to discuss the US DOT Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II award.
“The Obama administration and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood have been strong supporters of walking and bicycling as legitimate modes of transportation,” said Jim Townsend, Manager of Trails Development Programs at the East Bay Regional Park District. “The program requirements included increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of US transportation facilities and/or enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections."
The TIGER II funds currently support more than 70 projects across the nation. Recipients of the awards show innovative transportation plans that address economic, environmental and travel issues such as the East Bay Area Green Transportation Initiative.
By working to get people out of their cars, we're supporting not only walking and bicycling as "Active Transportation," but core District values of environmental stewardship and resource protection as well. We're doing well by doing good,” Townsend said.
The 10.2 million in funds will go toward the East Bay Pedestrian and Bicycle Network that is part of the Green Transportation Initiative Project, close to 320 km of paved trails between seven communities including four gap closures on the San Francisco Bay Trail, one gap closure on each of the East Bay Greenway, Mokelumne Trail and Iron Horse Trail. The funds will cover 57 percent of the project’s total cost of $43.3 million.
“We are currently in discussions with the Department of Transportation on how best to allocate the $10.2 million awarded,” Townsend said. “There are strict and tight DOT timelines to meet for the TIGER II funds, but we're confident we can deliver completed projects within the Federal timelines.”
Once complete, the networks will provide alternative commuting options for roughly 2.5 million residents that connect to public transit such as buses, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, Capitol Corridor, Amtrak and the commuter rail service. The completed project is expected to reduce traffic congestion on the roads in the Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
“They are all major sections of regional trails that need to be connected,” said Rick Rickard, Acting Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. “The TIGER II award contributes a certain percentage to each of the seven projects.”
“We are very excited about receiving this grant because each node is critical and difficult and expensive to bridge,” he added. “They all lead to an interconnection between bike and pedestrian lanes and transit. They are particularly useful to commuters because they can get around more safely and effectively to regional transportation sites.”