Supervisor Kinsey Dodges Richmond Bridge Questions

Supervisor Kinsey Dodges Richmond Bridge Questions

Many may know that Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey is taking credit for fast tracking the restoration of the Richmond Bridge third car lane – a project that will address acute traffic back ups on the bridge that go back onto 101 during the northbound evening rush hour. Supervisor Kinsey has been insistent that millions are spent to progress his vision of completing the “Bay Trail” – a bike / ped trail that encircles the bay.

Recently this exchange occurred. The issue at hand is that to restore the 3rd car lane requires relocating an unused bike path in Point Molate (the eastern side of the bridge) at a cost of $15m and likely further delaying the project’s completion date.

Supervisor Kinsey appears defiant in defending the expenditures, and evasive on the issue of the Point Molate bike lane relocation cost and project timeline impact. He appears unconcerned with expenditures of millions of dollars, or transportation projects with more acute needs.

[From Steve Kinsey]

I am not prepared to encourage BATA to ignore the State Highway Code, and they wouldn’t be able to do so even if I did. As a State mandate, it would be up to State legislative members to consider whether a change is warranted. In reading the Code sections cited, I doubt State legislators would be interested in making a revision, because the intent of it is to insure that highway projects don’t eliminate existing non-motorized facilities. The Code also commits the State to include parallel non-motorized facilities as part of highway projects when the alignment is part of an identified route, which is certainly true in this situation.

The segment leading between Richmond city streets and Point Molate has long been of interest to that community, to Bay Trail advocates, and to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. All of these bodies are concerned about the existing use of the freeway shoulder because of the high speeds of adjacent vehicles and the lack of any barrier. A bicyclist was hit and died on this stretch within the past decade, adding to the importance all parties assign to the improvement.

Given the existence of a substantial public shoreline at Point Molate, it is reasonable to expect use will increase when a safe route is created.


[Supervisor Kinsey is responding to this email]


Map of the existing Bay Trail on the Richmond side of the bridge

Supervisor Kinsey,
For your reference – see paragraph at the bottom of the 2nd page of the MTC response received February 20th which clearly identifies that $15m allocated to the Point Molate bike path connection (read relocation) has been shifted to the cost of the car lane as detailed here.

It seems inconceivable that such sums be spent to preserve a disused bike path, and then even more (at least $43m) on a connection to achieve a lofty goal of a “Bay Trail” leisure path across a 5.5 mile bridge where there is no evidence of usage. Meanwhile basic bike path infrastructure to schools in Marin remains incomplete. To use your words, surely the “price tags [of school bike paths in Marin] are modest when considered in the context of the Bay Area’s total investment in our infrastructure”? It seems like the context of actual usage and demand, and impact on quality of life for many – which should be front and center – is inconsequential.

Does “our region’s longstanding commitment to create the Bay Trail” trump not only acute traffic bottlenecks that remain unfunded (Greenbrae, Novato Narrows) but also the need for basic bicycle infrastructure? i.e. getting kids to schools around Marin.

Do we really have so much money leftover from taxes, and so few needy projects that we have enough money to spend on leisure routes with likely low and unproven usage, or projects achieving a token achievement that may look good in the press but serve to achieve very little?

It would seem as if we would unquestioningly pursue California Streets and Highway Code Section 888, and this Bay Trail “commitment” at the cost of serving the greater good – the quality of life of all the constituents you represent and serve in Marin.

Who you are serving here, and what your priorities are. Clearly completing the Bay Trail makes for a great legacy achievement (will it be named after you?) but there are major unfunded, unresolved transportation issues affecting people simply getting to work and school every day – necessities and essentials.

Will the relocation of the disused Point Molate bike path not add to the time required to add the 3rd car lane? It would seem to be a very sizable cost component, and stands to reason to be a significant time component requiring design engineering as well as construction.

[This additional email was sent to Supervisor Kinsey]

Supervisor Kinsey,
Thank you for your quick reply but you did not answer the question. The RSR bridge bike lane is one thing. The topic at hand is the bike path at Point Molate on the Richmond side of the bridge. I am familiar with the tactic of misdirection but will forgive your oversight if you can answer the direct question.

1) MTC has clarified to me that due to an obscure state law $15m must be spent to move the unused (except by leisure bikers on weekends) Point Molate bike path. Do you therefore support such spending without question?

2) does the preservation of this disused bike lane in any way delay the restoration of the 3rd car lane? There appears to be a strong case that it does. Engineering work and design is necessary. 

burn-money3) You appear dismissive of spending of $15m. Amounts like this could help complete funding of the acutely needed improvements to the Greenbrae interchange delaying tens of thousands of 101 users. Amounts far smaller have merited significant scrutiny and consideration. Do you not care about 8 figure sums – are they a rounding error to you?

[Supervisor Kinsey sent this email – which carefully evades the question] 

Thank you for expressing your concerns and ideas. I am fully focused on getting BATA to open a third lane eastbound on the RSR Bridge, and pressing Caltrans to complete its preconstruction studies and permits as quickly as possible. I also support extending the Bay Trail to connect the east bay with our county. These are two independent projects on the same bridge.


The Bay Trail – showing more usage than is typical

We have made significant progress in the year since BATA agreed to assist Marin and Contra Costa counties in alleviating a serious commute bottleneck. The project has been fully funded using regional funds, feasibility and scope have been confirmed by both Caltrans and BATA, a design team is under contract, and authorization to proceed is secured. When the third lane project was approved by the BATA Oversight Committee in February 2015, staff was directed to come back within 2 months and report on how the timeline can be compressed to get the lane open well before the currently projected 2018 date.

At its February meeting, the BATA committee also authorized the Bay Trail extension across the upper deck of the RSR Bridge to proceed. The project has no impact on the time required to open the third lane. I support this 4 year pilot for several reasons. Most importantly, MTC, BATA, and Caltrans are all committed to developing a multi-modal mobility network that includes streets and highways, rail, bus, ferry, biking, and walking facilities. All recently improved Bay Area bridges have included public access across the spans. To be effective, the system cannot leave gaps unaddressed.

In addition, the Bay Trail is an important regional facility that has been incrementally developed for over two decades. At buildout, it will be a continuous public path circumscribing the shoreline of the bay and crossing it at all bridge opportunities. The RSR Bridge has long been designated to be part of the Bay Trail.

You are concerned about both the cost of extending the Bay Trail across the bridge and the mandated pathway in Contra Costa. You also doubt whether these improvements will be used, citing an earlier count showing low use.

These facilities’ price tags are modest when considered in the context of the Bay Area’s total investment in our infrastructure. The Bay Area currently spends about $2B annually on transportation. Caltrans recently completed a nearly $1B seismic retrofit of the RSR Bridge, as part of a $9B program on six bridges. Tens of millions were included in both budgets for the Carquinez and new east span of the Bay Bridge. Studies are also underway to design a bike/Ped connection between Treasure Island and San Francisco on the existing west span. That effort is anticipated to cost hundreds of millions.

A movable "zipper" bridge barrier in Auckland New Zealand

A movable “zipper” bridge barrier in Auckland New Zealand

The cost of the barrier being installed on the RSR Bridge is not a sunken cost. At the end of the pilot, if it is determined that the number of users doesn’t justify taking the space it requires, whichever barrier product is used, either moveable or traditional K-rail, can be re-positioned elsewhere within the statewide road network. During the pilot period, if a moveable technology is utilized, it also expands the potential to perform maintenance more safely on the bridge.

Given our region’s longstanding commitment to create the Bay Trail, as well as the significant public use that has occurred when other bridges have been opened for bike and pedestrian users, a demand study is not warranted before proceeding. Computer modeling programs are not able to accurately forecast future use once improvements are made. In addition, past counts are not indicative of demand, because of the lack of safety associated with traveling on unprotected freeway shoulders. Regarding the separated pathway incorporated into the third lane project, it will allow residents and visitors in Richmond to safely get to their public shoreline park, something the city has long sought without success.

While our transportation preferences are not aligned, I appreciate you taking an interest in our regional mobility policies.

Steve Kinsey

[Original Email sent to Steve Kinsey]

 The Richmond San Rafael Bridge costs include $15m to preserve the bike path on the Point Molate side due to state law (California Streets & Highway Codes Section 888).

According to this document (page 18) a Caltrans study found the bike path count was zero on weekdays and 2 on weekends. This is on a non-rainy day, time monitored 7AM to 5PM (dusk) in Nov 2010.

Do you believe that we need to adhere to state law that spends $15m on a bike path used by hardly any cyclists?

Source: page 18

Please can you ask TAM / MTC:

1) To conduct a demand study of the Richmond Bridge Bike Path, that takes into consideration this Caltrans bike count for the Point Molate path.

2) Can we bypass California Streets & Highway Codes Section 888 and not spend $15m to preserve a disused bike path and delay the RSR 3rd car lane because it is absurd to spend $15m on a bike path used by zero riders on weekdays and 2 on weekend days?

OR do you believe that millions should be spent and the third car lane delayed by years in order to preserve this near disused bike path?