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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Bikes have replaced locomotives on Iron Horse Trail

Uploaded: May 7, 2015

Having observed the valley's political and government scene for more decades than I care to remember starting before Danville, Dublin and San Ramon were incorporated, I am a bit amused by the machinations surrounding the Iron Horse Trail that runs from Pleasant Hill down the San Ramon Valley and over into Pleasanton.
The name reflects its past as railroad tracks that ran on the same path. Over time, the railroad abandoned the spur line and Contra Costa County bought it with the idea of utilizing it as a light rail line from the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station to downtown Walnut Creek or beyond.
Potential light rail also is why there are huge median strips on Bollinger Canyon Road in the Dougherty Valley. It was preserved as a different routing between BART and Bishop Ranch Business Park.
The light rail idea eventually died because the route runs very close to homes in neighborhoods near downtown Danville and Alamo and there was no space to available on Interstate 680 without building an entire elevated railroad—a very expensive proposition.
When the government broadened the definition of transportation routes to include trails that opened up the possibilities of much greater funding streams. There's also a worthy effort to encourage folks to bicycle or walk. With that change, any thoughts of light rail vanished.
The trail has proven so popular now that the city of San Ramon is planning to isolate trail users from motorists by building trail overpasses at Crow Canyon Road and Bollinger Canyon Road. Both are major arterials that serve neighborhoods located miles off the freeway.
The San Ramon City Council recently narrowed potential designs to two for more detailed engineering. The city is planning to apply for grant funding from Contra Costa County's half-cent sales tax revenues to offset the costs—between $15 million and $30 million for the two structures. The numbers will be refined much more once a final design is selected and engineering is completed. The county and the East Bay Regional Park District are partnering with the city on the project.
That's a stunning number, but it reflects inflation and just how costs have climbed. If I recall correctly, the Bollinger Canyon interchange was built for $2 million back in 1982 and that's six lanes wide.
The city is billing this as a safety project for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians and, given the traffic volumes on both roads coupled with the speeds, that's a wise approach.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 7, 2015 at 1:30 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


You always seem to be just ahead of me. I am planning to write a blog on the Rails to Trails organization that raised money in the 1980's to convert abandoned railroad tracks to bike paths. I just received a fundraising letter from them but I haven't opened it yet to see where their latest proposals are. Ironically, and here's a preview of my blog, I contributed to their first plan which turned out to be the Iron Horse Trail. I was unfamiliar with the location of this first trail at the time, and now I live right next to it.


Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on May 10, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Doug Miller is a registered user.

Great story about the history of this rail line can be found here:
Web Link

Posted by Mike Millbrae, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School,
on Sep 25, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Why not build light rail on the Iron Horse trail? Marin just launched their own smart train.

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