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Dumbarton Rail Path Saved

SamTrans claims that it needs 65 feet just for two rail tracks along the Dumbarton right of way, and that as a result a ped/bike path won’t fit within the 100 feet available. Photo: Adam Coppola

The San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) approved the $1.2 million Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study on Wednesday December 6, capping 22 months of study by the agency on how to ferry more commuters across the Dumbarton Bridge to access jobs in the mid-Peninsula region. The only major change from the draft version of the plan released in August is the inclusion of a pedestrian and bicycle path along the Dumbarton tracks from Redwood City to East Palo Alto.

“The most common comment we received was the desire for a pedestrian and bicycle path on the Dumbarton right of way,” said SamTrans Principal Planner Melissa Reggiardo at the meeting.

SamTrans has proposed running trains from Redwood City to Union City, and running express buses on a new busway to be built along the Dumbarton Rail tracks from the Caltrain line in Redwood City to University Avenue in East Palo Alto. SamTrans initially claimed that two rail tracks, two bus lanes, and a 12-foot wide multi-use path could not all fit within the 100-foot wide Dumbarton Rail right of way, and therefore, the path shouldn’t be built. But facing a massive wave of public pressure, the agency agreed not to eliminate the ped/bike path from the final version of the plan.

SamTrans still claims that 103 feet are needed to safely accommodate rail, bus, and active transportation. An analysis conducted by transportation consulting firm Alta Planning + Design disputes that 103 feet are needed.

“This review concludes there is adequate room to accommodate all modes of transportation even in the narrowest section,” said Public Access Program Manager Rachel Lopes at the meeting, quoting the Alta Planning analysis.

Eager to show their support for the pedestrian/bike path, the Board added a statement to its resolution adopting the Dumbarton plan that “be it further resolved that the Board of Directors strongly supports and directs staff to identify and pursue safe multi-modal travel options within the Dumbarton Corridor to include a bike and pedestrian facility.”

“The bike path is absolutely essential,” said Director Carol Groom. “We can’t do this type of project with this amount of money and leave the bike path out.”

SamTrans also responded to criticisms that the plan recommends over $1 billion in roadway grade separations and flyover ramps for Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park at the intersections with Marsh Road, Willow Road, and University Avenue.

“While there will be some benefit for solo drivers, these are highway improvements that were shown to have noticeable benefits for transit service,” said Reggiardo.

Next SamTrans staff will author a “technical refinement” that will “take a second look at the pedestrian bicycle path along the right of way.” This study is expected to be finished by September 2018.