Path design Comments due August 10 Your Comments Needed for San Rafael SMART Path Options
Throughout the development of the SMART Rail and Pathway, MCBC has strongly represented the needs of people who will bike and walk in the county. Over the past several months, MCBC and others participated in a Working Group to provide input and feedback during the development of the SMART Rice Drive to Second Street Pathway Feasibility Study which was made available to the public last Tuesday.
We are quite pleased to announce that all the alternatives in the Feasibility Study confirm that the Multiuse Pathway does indeed fit alongside the proposed rail extension south of San Rafael. However, with each alternative there are certain trade-offs, such as a wider or narrower pathway, a wider or narrower roadway, and/or more or less encroachment on the adjacent waterway. There is a short window for public comment, and we need to make sure there is active support for an appropriate design.
Of the alternatives provided in the study, Alternative 3 is the only design alternative that allows for a ten foot, two way bike path and a separated six foot sidewalk. This would allow for mode separation between bicyclists and pedestrians, and both the bike path and the sidewalk would be designed at an adequate width to safely accommodate the expected high levels of use along this busy transportation corridor. With mode separation, there is less opportunity for user conflict, collision or serious injury resulting from widely varying speeds and activities of the different users in a shared space. Furthermore, mode separation makes biking and walking more comfortable and attractive to pathway users.
The Second to Andersen SMART Pathway, which is also a key segment of Marin’s North-South Greenway, has the potential to be one of, if not the, most heavily used pathway in Marin due to its location in an urban center and its connections to Marin’s busiest transportation hubs, downtown San Rafael, and densely populated and transit-dependent communities. Marin is currently working to address existing user conflicts and safety issues on some of our other shared pathways which receive high volumes of mixed use traffic, and which are not at a recommended width to accommodate this use. It’s especially important that we learn from this experience and design the Second to Andersen Pathway correctly.
The SMART Rice Drive to Second Street Pathway Feasibility Study is available for public review and comment through August 10, 2016. Comments should be sent to Senior Project Planner Carey Lando – firstname.lastname@example.org.
In your comments, we encourage you to recommend that Alternative 3 is advanced toward final design and environmental clearance, resulting in the safest, most accommodating facility possible that will benefit generations to come.
How We Got Here
MCBC was very disappointed when SMART released its environmental impact report for the Downtown San Rafael to Larkspur extension in December of 2015. At that time, we discovered the Multiuse Pathway had not been included as part of the future project. We became extremely concerned that if SMART were to move forward with their rail extension minus this Multiuse Pathway, that act would forever preclude construction of the path alongside the rail. Specifically, a “pinch point” in the right-of-way just south of Irwin Street (near Best Buy) would make any later work nearly impossible – unless it was included in the EIR.
MCBC and our partners recognized that fitting the pathway, the rail, and West Francisco Boulevard within the limited right of way at the pinch point would require careful design consideration. Our engineering research and due diligence indicated that it was indeed possible; however, the path needed to be designed into the project at that time and constructed concurrently with the rail portion of the extension.
We immediately launched a campaign to save the Second to Andersen Pathway. As a result of our steadfast advocacy efforts and your strong backing, we gained the City of San Rafael’s support in helping to secure funding from the Transportation Authority of Marin for a feasibility study to consider design alternatives for the SMART multiuse pathway between Rice Drive and Second Street.
Since SMART’s environmental document for the rail extension had already concluded that the pathway would fit alongside the rail between Rice Drive and Andersen Drive, the Feasibility Study only looked into the section of pathway between Second Street and Rice Drive – with special attention given to the pinch point.