Loose rock and gravel and a rusty steel railroad line: that's what pedestrians and cyclists will find under the elevated BART tracks through much of their course from 18th Street in Oakland to the downtown Hayward station. But with a new Alameda County transportation project in the works, all this might be about to change.
The East Bay Greenway project seeks to add a landscaped, 12-mile bicycle and pedestrian only trail that will run underneath or along this segment of the tracks.
The new corridor will connect Oakland, San Leandro, unincorporated Alameda County and Hayward, cross five BART stations and offer local communities healthier and safer transportation alternatives when traveling between surrounding area schools, businesses, retail centers and residential neighborhoods.
“We’re trying to emulate the Ohlone Greenway and create a non-motorized corridor that is safe for pedestrians and cyclists," said Tess Lengyel, programs and public affairs manager to the newly-formed Alameda County Transportation Commission.
Alameda CTC, which is currently lead agency on the project, took the helm from Urban Ecology, the organization credited with masterminding the plans for the space.
According to Lengyel, the project is gaining momentum and the countywide transportation organization is working hard to obtain additional funding needed to cover the 12-mile route’s estimated $30 million price tag.
The Alameda CTC has already secured $1.3 million from the half-cent transportation sales tax Measure B, which is currently being used to conduct environmental analysis and technical studies.
Last November, the East Bay Regional Parks District was awarded a federal Tiger II Grant that, combined with matching funds from the EBRPD, is expected to make between $1.5 and $1.7 million available to work on a 1.7-mile stretch near the Oakland Coliseum BART station.
“While receiving the grant is, no doubt, a cause for celebration, it also came with a bunch of federal strings, said James O’Brien, Alameda CTC project manager.
Those strings require the federal grant money to be obligated by September 2012, meaning Alameda CTC will need to have all environmental and health issues addressed and a project design firmly in place in order to begin construction, O’Brien said.
Alameda CTC hopes the East Bay Greenway will usher in a new age of environmental consciousness to underrepresented communities in Oakland, Hayward and San Leandro, and encourage residents to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle less dependent on cars.
Candice Corniel, who works at the Morton Bakar Center skilled nursing facility, 494 Blossom Rd., Hayward, looks forward to the trail as a new spot to enjoy her daily workout routine during lunch breaks.
“I would definitely use the East Bay Greenway,” she said. “Most of my coworkers are from Oakland and would enjoy riding their bikes to work.”
The new corridor’s impact would stretch well beyond the average afternoon jog.
“Pedestrian and bicycle paths are always a great asset to any community and even brings people together. It gets people active and exercising,” said Rita Shue, who has served the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District for over 30 years. “A healthy lifestyle is what it’s all about.”