Town sees concept plan for Iron Horse Trail bridge | May 30, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - May 30, 2008

Town sees concept plan for Iron Horse Trail bridge

Cost and visual impact are huge concerns

by Meghan Neal

A plan exploring the feasibility of building a bridge for the Iron Horse Trail to cross over Sycamore Valley Road was presented to the Danville Town Council at last Tuesday's meeting.

For over a decade the town has received suggestions from the public that an overcrossing be put in at the intersection, Transportation Director Tai Williams said. The hope is it would improve traffic flow for people on the trail as well as cars on the street.

Danville, San Ramon, Contra Costa County and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority were awarded a $100,000 federal grant to explore the idea. The group hired a consultant to draft a concept plan outlining the potential project, which includes overcrossings at Crow Canyon and Bollinger Canyon roads in San Ramon.

"It really seeks to answer the question that has been asked for a very long time, which is (a) is it feasible to have a pedestrian/bicycle overcrossing across San Ramon Valley Boulevard and (b) if there were to be one, what would one look like," said Williams.

Iron Horse Trial users in Danville have been frustrated with the long wait during red lights at the intersection, she said. The wait causes some people to simply turn around at the street; others will jaywalk across it, which poses a safety risk.

"People start to think, 'Wow, rather than waiting at this long light ... maybe an overcrossing is the best thing,'" she said.

The plan predicts an overcrossing would reduce congestion at the thoroughfare, which tends to be crowded with traffic exiting the freeway, Camino Ramon and the Danville Park and Ride. The plan cites other benefits, too: It would promote health, recreation and nature appreciation, and provide greater alternatives to driving.

"But, there are a number of concerns that need to be addressed in the future - not the least of which is cost and visual impact," Williams said. "Overcrossings are unfortunately very expensive."

The estimated cost of a bridge at Sycamore Valley Road is roughly $8 million. Funding would come from grants at the regional, state and federal levels, with some local contribution as well.

"I think it's fabulous - it's something I would love to do but it's very, very expensive," said Mayor Candace Andersen.

She said she's not sure if Danville would qualify for the grants available and isn't in a position to say the town could pay for it yet. However, from a safety standpoint it could be a great benefit to the town, she said.

As far as aesthetics, town council members said they wanted to make sure the project would fit in with the character of the community, and wouldn't take away from Danville's scenic beauty.

According to the plan the 17-foot-high and 950-foot-long bridge would be made of reddish-brown steel with wood or concrete decking. The columns supporting it would be designed to look similar to the columns at the main span over the roadway.

The plan references the trail overcrossing at Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek as a case study. Roughly 1 million people use the Walnut Creek bridge each year, it states. Though the Sycamore Valley Road bridge wouldn't necessarily look the same, experts expect it would have similar benefits of increasing accessibility and safety.

The project is in the preliminary stage at the moment, emphasized Williams, though steps are being taken to move it forward.

Next, input from the Danville and San Ramon councils will be folded into a final concept plan. The town will receive community input on the project late this summer or in the early fall, she said.

Additional funding will need to be secured to move forward, then environmental studies would be conducted and then final design drawings. The process is expected to take a number of years.

"We're going to continue through the process," Andersen said. "I hope we can do this someday but I don't see it really soon just because of the great cost involved."