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State assemblyman solicits public’s ideas for replacement of 63-year-old Richmond Bridge

What should a new Richmond-San Rafael Bridge look like? Should it only carry cars or should bikes, walkers and even trains be able to cross it?

These are the questions state Assemblyman Marc Levine is posing to Bay Area residents and commuters as part of a new website and social media campaign he launched centered on replacing the 63-year-old bridge.

The website — TheRichmondBridge.com — is meant to serve as a forum for residents to voice their views and submit suggestions.

“Nothing lasts forever, including workhorse bridges like the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge,” Levine, D-Greenbrae, said in a statement. “Now is the time for our community to begin a conversation about what type of bridge will meet our long-term needs.”

Terry Schanz, Levine’s chief of staff, said while the planning efforts are in their nascent stages, it’s important to get a head start on what will surely be a long and costly process.

“We shouldn’t be waiting until an unforeseen disaster or another failure to start talking about a future bridge,” Schanz said.

Some topics Levine is seeking the public’s input on include whether to increase vehicle traffic capacity, whether to include transit amenities such as rail service or rapid bus lanes, installation of a permanent pedestrian and bicycle lane and suggestions on the bridge design.

Maintenance of the bridge may reach nearly $900 million in the next decade, Schanz said. Receiving input now will help inform Levine as the state considers how it should spend its transportation dollars as efficiently as possible, he said. Cost estimates on replacing the bridge have varied, with Caltrans estimating an $8.2 billion price tag in a recent proposal to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Levine’s campaign comes as the Bay Area Toll Authority and Caltrans are conducting an $800,000 study on the shelf life of the 5.5-mile-long bridge. The study is still set for completion in March 2020, according to authority spokesman John Goodwin. As of now, agencies expect the bridge has at least another decade of use before plans for replacement should be made.

After concrete fell from the upper deck of the bridge on to lanes below at the start of the year, Levine and his Senate counterpart, Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, have called for more focused planning by agencies to come up with a replacement.

Some local transportation agencies have already proposed some ideas for the bridge replacement as part of their discussions of the proposed sales tax initiative, FASTER Bay Area, that may appear on the November 2020 ballot.

The tax proposal would implement a one-cent sales tax in the nine Bay Area counties to raise $100 billion over 40 years for various transportation projects. Agencies such as the Transportation Authority of Marin have been putting together their wish lists of projects they’d like to see funded. One project brought up during TAM’s meeting last month was a down payment on replacing the bridge and adding rail service.

Levine’s office would be looking at “all potential revenue streams” that would be available at the time replacement is being considered, Schanz said.

As part of its Bay Area-wide long-term planning initiative, Horizon, with the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) called for a list of potential projects that could be funded. One of the 12 finalists that the commission will consider in January includes adding Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit service to Richmond via a new bridge.

While its project was not selected as a finalist, Caltrans had also submitted a project proposal for the Horizon initiative to replace the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Caltrans estimated the price tag at about $8.2 billion, according to MTC documents.

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge has had an eventful 2019, having undergone several major repairs and renovations. These included the $8 million emergency replacement of 31 expansion joints on the upper deck. The emergency work was performed after Caltrans identified the cause of the falling concrete to be a failed expansion joint.

In August, the California Transportation Commission allocated nearly $19.9 million in state gas tax dollars earlier this summer as part of an $85 million overhaul of the bridge. The project set to begin next year will replace another 30 expansion joins on the lower deck as well as repaint the lower deck and towers.

More recently, the $20 million bicycle and pedestrian path on the upper deck of the bridge opened after years of planning. The path will operate as part of a four-year pilot project, but the Transportation Authority of Marin is advocating for a shorter test period of six months due to traffic issues during the morning westbound commute.

Recently, TAM board member Damon Connolly reiterated his stance to make the lane a shared bike and vehicle lane should various ongoing studies show it is feasible.

“TAM’s position remains the same, with the update being that the bike lane opened in November 2019 rather than April 2019, so the proposal would be a ‘deep dive’ review of the operation of the lane six months from now,” Connolly wrote in an email Monday.

Advocates of the four-year test period said agencies should complete other planned projects to reduce congestion such as no-stop tolling before considering changing it to a shared lane.

In addition to website submissions, comments on the bridge can be sent directly to Levine via social media such as Twitter @AsmMarcLevine with the hashtag #RichmondBridge or on Facebook.


Source: East Bay State assemblyman solicits public’s ideas for replacement of 63-year-old Richmond Bridge

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