Bay Bridge Bike Path Takes Forever

One day it will be a bridge to somewhere—Treasure Island, which beckons with a popular flea market, urban wineries, and other coming attractions.


For now, the pedestrian-bike path stops short of Yerba Buena and Treasure islands, where attractions await. Caltrans expects closing the gap this summer.

photo CC-cpo57

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East Bay bicyclists and pedestrians still can’t get to Yerba Buena and Treasure islands.

In January, Caltrans again pushed back the expected completion date of the Bay Bridge bike path due to safety concerns regarding its design. The project on the bridge’s eastern span is now scheduled for completion this summer.

The 15.5-foot pathway currently stretches roughly two miles from Oakland, with one lane going in each direction for bicyclists and pedestrians. This portion of the span has been open since September 2013. But it ends about 1,200 feet from Yerba Buena Island. Completion of the 2.2-mile trail was delayed after leaks were discovered in the eastern span’s support structures. After months of costly maintenance and testing, construction was again delayed so that contractors could demolish a portion of the original bridge that would interfere with the new span.

Parts of the bridge manufactured in South Korea arrived in the Bay Area in January and were being prepped for steel modification and painting, Caltrans spokeswoman Leah Robinson-Leach said. Installation was expected in late March.

Yet even once the path reaches Yerba Buena Island, it will require further work to connect it with Treasure Island. Robert Beck, director of the Treasure Island Development Authority, said the final access point for bikers getting off the bridge will be Macalla Road. But when the ramp first opens onto the island, Macalla Road will be under reconstruction. So bikers will be diverted onto a temporary path on Hillcrest, which Beck said would not necessarily be accessible to the average cyclist.

“We would not encourage it except for the most experienced riders because of the grades involved,” Beck wrote in an email.

David Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay, said that the delays are disappointing for cyclists who have been campaigning for bicycle paths on the Bay Bridge for years. “We’re not frustrated or upset at anyone,” Campbell said. “We understand that we had to wait for the old bridge to get torn down to make room for the bike path on the south side of the new bridge. But we still hoped to be on the island by now, so we’re disappointed.”

Cyclists aren’t the only ones who are disappointed. Charles Ansanelli Sr., founder of the Treasure Island Flea—a monthly flea market that routinely draws thousands of visitors from around the Bay Area—has been eagerly awaiting completion of the $8 million bike path. He noted that while most of the visitors who attend the Treasure Island Flea come in cars, many of them have expressed an interest in alternative forms of transportation.

“People are dying to take their bicycles on that path,” Ansanelli said. “It was so disheartening to hear that they stopped three-quarters of the way; I couldn’t believe it.”

Travis Lund, who runs a community sailing center on Treasure Island, said he welcomes any project that increased awareness of the island’s attractions. “Unfortunately, it’s a little-used resource for most of the people on either side of the bridge,” Lund said. “Most people drive across the bridge and never bother to stop on Treasure Island.”

To be fair, Treasure Island has only recently started to develop attractions for casual visitors. Built in 1936 for the Golden Gate International Exposition, the island was used as a naval station for decades and languished under a reputation for harboring hazardous waste.

But the island has space, which made it valuable in the densely packed Bay Area. In 2007, the Treasure Island Music Festival hosted its first concerts on the island, bringing in hordes of visitors. In 2011, Ansanelli founded the Treasure Island Flea, which immediately drew throngs of antique-seeking residents.

The island has also developed a specialized industry. In 2010, The Winery San Francisco opened up the island’s first winery. Since then, six other wine companies have opened warehouses, tasting rooms, and event venues across the island. According to winemaker Bryan Kane, the island has rapidly developed into an enjoyable alternative for wine-loving Bay Area residents who don’t want to spend two hours driving to Napa Valley.

“It’s become kind of an icon,” Kane said, noting that The Winery alone hosts more than 100 events each year and brings in thousands of visitors. “It’s really established itself as one of the anchors for why people come to the island.”

The festivals, markets, and wineries are only one aspect of Treasure Island’s gradual makeover. In 2015, San Francisco received 290 acres of the island from the U.S. Navy. Starting in 2017, developers Lennar Urban and Wilson Meany will begin laying the foundation for 500 units of housing around Clipper Cove. Over the next decade, the developers plan to install 8,000 units of housing, hotels, retail stores, entertainment venues, and 300 acres of open space on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island.

There are also efforts underway to increase the island’s cultural offerings. This summer, the San Francisco Art Commission will unveil its master plan to develop public art programs on Treasure Island. Once the plan is released and the commission receives funding from the developers through San Francisco’s Art Enrichment Allocation, it will begin soliciting public feedback on art programs and projects for the island.

“We hope to bring in artists from near and far, and as they say, new and known,” said Jill Manton, the director of the SFAC’s Public Art Trust and Special Initiatives program. “We envision it to be a program that has national prominence as an objective.”

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