Wednesday: MTC’s $70 million question, plus the return of the Bay Bridge west span bike path


By Rebecca Bowe

Sustainable transit advocates are rallying the troops for two back-to-back meetings tomorrow in Oakland: The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). While they’re technically separate bodies, BATA and the MTC are comprised of the very same people, wearing different hats at each meeting.

Bike advocates packing the BATA meeting will voice support for a bike path on the west span of the Bay Bridge, a possibility that has been studied but not yet funded. (Plans for the new east span include a bike and pedestrian pathway, but it would end at Treasure Island.) Since the toll authority will be discussing raising bridge tolls at tomorrow’s meeting (up to $6 during rush hour on the Bay Bridge), bike advocates want some of the possible new revenue to go toward a bike path. But there’s a catch: BATA has said it might be prohibited from allocating funding for this type of project.

Andy Thornley, program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, says this detail is crucial because until it’s clear whether BATA could use those possible funds, “everything is a little bit paralyzed.” The message bike activists plan to deliver tomorrow, he said, is this: “Don’t forget -- you must finish this bridge for everybody, not just people in cars.”

Those turning out for the MTC, meanwhile, plan on urging commissioners to reallocate $70 million in federal stimulus dollars to cash-strapped Bay Area transit agencies, instead of taking the chance of losing it.

The $70 million had been earmarked for the Oakland Airport Connector, a proposed link between the BART system and Oakland International Airport. But the project, which has gone forward with no shortage of controversy due to the $500 million price tag, was dealt a blow in mid-January that threw the $70 million into question.