Bikepath instead of Rail

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San Ramon to Martinez Rail right-of-way becomes successful Bikepath, instead of Light Railway.

District stepped in when residents rejected light rail Aug 14th 2004 SF Chronicle

Some of the district's projects aren't bosky woodlands or recreational sites they're critical public infrastructure. Foremost among these is the Iron Horse Trail, a bike route between San Ramon and Martinez.

"This was originally the right of way for the areas main railway, and a lot of public works folks wanted to build a mass transit light rail system on it," said Steve Fiala, the district's trails development manager, on a recent bike ride down the Iron Horse.

"But folks who lived along the right of way and there are a lots of them weren't necessarily thrilled at the prospect of rail traffic rolling up and down their backyards," said Fiala. "They just felt the area would be a lot better served by a paved bike and foot trail.
They began organizing seriously, (EBATC), (  Rail-to-Trails :    Funding excel,    Funding html )    ( Redlands Rail to Trail )
about 20 years ago, and eventually the district got involved."

Ultimately the region's municipalities all signed on to the bike trail idea, cashiering the light rail option. Paving on the right of sway began in piecemeal fashion in 1986. Now, 18 years and $15 million in federal, state and local funding later,
the trail is paved from Concord to Dublin, with the exception of a minor gap around the Pleasant Hill BART station. That will be addressed later this year, said Fiala. making the trail a single 22 mile ribbon of asphalt and concrete wending past shadowed creeklands, pleasant suburbs and upscale malls.

But a funny thing has happened from concept to execution. The trail was originally envisioned as a leisure activity resource something that would be used by locals looking to get a little exercise on their road bikes or settle their meals with a postprandial stroll. Instead, said Fiala,
"It has become a major biking commute route, a way for people who live between Martinez and Pleasanton to get to and from work During rush hour, a lot of people tell us, it's quicker to bike 10 or 15 or 20 miles on the trail rather than fight the traffic jams on Interstate 680."

The completed trail will span the distance from Livermore in Alameda County to the shoreline of Suisun Bay in Contra Costa County, a distance of 33 miles, connecting two counties and 12 cities.
An informal survey of riders and hikers seems to concur,
"I use it every day," said Pete Nunes, who bike commutes between his home in a Concord trailer park to a Home Depot training class. "Without it, 1'd have to go miles farther;' said Nunes. 'It'd take me more than 30 minutes. With the trail, it's less than 10 minutes. It's essential to my life."

Joanne Rusca, who lives in central Walnut Creek, employs the trail to get to local supermarkets and malls.

"Everyone around here uses it for shopping," she said. "With the trail handy, it doesn't make sense to use a car. The traffic and the parking are terrible. If you walk or bike, you can avoid all that."