news North South Greenway in Marin

Marin North-South Greenway

When MCBC formed, our primary goal was to create the North-South Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian corridor 25 miles long, from Marin County’s southern edge at the Golden Gate Bridge through Novato to the north. Over recent years, MCBC has seen the fruits of our steady work come to bear with the opening of the Cal Park Tunnel, the Lincoln Hill Pathway and the Enfrente Pathway, three major north-south connectors, as well as the start of construction of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train and pathway project. The North-South Greenway still has some gaps, which MCBC continues to work on to close. Some of these projects are currently being planned or designed while others are under construction. Recent years have brought great celebration, but the hard work continues.


1 – SMART Train and Pathway

Design concept for the SMART Train and Multi-Use Pathway

In late 2013, SMART awarded a contract for design and construction of four segments of multiuse pathway in Marin- one in Terra Linda and 3 in Novato. SMART is working on completing National Environmental Quality Act (NEPA) clearance for the remaining segment of the pathway between San Rafael and Santa Rosa, which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2014. Completion of this NEPA process will allow SMART to use federal funds (if available) to help complete the entire multiuse pathway. Over the coming design/construction period, SMART will be replacing tracks from Petaluma to downtown San Rafael, building several pathway segments and designing and building SMART stations. MCBC is working with SMART to ensure that circulation and bike parking/storage is properly and adequately constructed at all stations.

On February 5th, 2014, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) released its Regional Measure 2 (RM2) Strategic Delivery Plan. This document included recommendations to give $20 million to SMART for the Larkspur to San Rafael rail and pathway segment. MCBC supports this recommendation and is working with SMART and other partners to ensure that the multiuse pathway between 2nd Street and Andersen Drive is built as part of this project. Funds from MTC will be conditional and will only be available for this segment if SMART successfully gets the $20 million in federal TIGER funds for which it has applied.

In November 2015, MCBC brought pressure upon SMART make good on its obligation to dedicate proportionate Measure Q funding to the pathway in San Rafael. We will continue to fight for those funds.


Enfrente Pathway

2 – Enfrente Pathway

This beautiful, completely separated-from-cars facility, connects the path along South Novato Boulevard with Enfrente Road along the west side of Highway 101, linking Novato with central and southern Marin communities. Prior to this segment’s completion, north-south routes  through this corridor involved cycling on the southbound shoulder of Highway 101, or steep climbs and indirect detours.

In addition to its regional significance, the path provides a connection for Hamilton, Bel Marin Keys, and Ignacio residents and workers to the rest of Novato.  For residents near the southern end of South Novato Boulevard, the path will also provide easy access to retail shopping to the south. Funded primarily with Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) funds, the Enfrente Pathway opened in December, 2012.

Lincoln Hill Pathway near the crest, looking north.3 – Lincoln Hill Pathway & Puerto Suello Transit Center Connector

The Lincoln Hill Pathway connects Terra Linda with downtown San Rafael. It includes a connection to Linden Lane for community access to the Lincoln Avenue and Dominican neighborhoods, and a mini-tunnel at the top of the hill to allow riders and pedestrians to avoid the dangerous on-ramps and off-ramps on Lincoln Avenue. The pathway connects to the Los Ranchitos bike lanes, which provide access from North San Pedro Road to the top of the Lincoln Hill pathway. The $12 million pathway project, funded by Measure A and federal stimulus funds, was completed and opened for use in December, 2010.

Highlights include video monitoring cameras at key sections, a path wide enough for regular sweeping and maintenance, lighting from beginning to end, and a centerline stripe to encourage orderly riding and walking.

This project was one of MCBC’s first big efforts, and it was literally years in the making. Along with the opening of the Cal Park Tunnel, this project represents a significant gap closure in the North-South Greenway. Additionally, it was a true multi-agency effort to get the project funded and constructed, including the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM), Caltrans District 4, and the City of San Rafael.

In April, 2014 the City of San Rafael got final approval for issuing construction bids for the Puerto Suello Transit Center Connector, which will extend the pathway to 4th Street in San Rafael. This multiuse pathway will run along the west side of Hetherton Avenue, providing a connection from the Lincoln Hill Pathway at Mission Avenue to the SMART station on Fourth Street.


4 – Cal Park Tunnel & Pathway

Cal Park Tunnel EntranceThe Cal Park Tunnel is a cornerstone of the MCBC experience, part of our vision outlined in the County of Marin Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan adopted by the county, and shows the effort of strategic planning toward our North-South Greenway.

Originally constructed in 1884 for rail use, with significant renovations taking place in the mid-portion of last century. it was sealed shut in 1978 after a series of fires and structural collapses. Today it carries bicyclists and pedestrians between Larkspur and San Rafael, opening officially in December, 2010 to much justified fanfare and excitement.

The Cal Park Pathway leading up to the Tunnel connects Anderson Drive in San Rafael and the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur.  To the south, it connects directly with the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project.  Bicyclists and pedestrians are completely separated from the future train, and the tunnel includes cell phone access, security cameras, and emergency access points, garnering several awards to the County of Marin for this state-of-the-art facility.

 5 – Central Marin Ferry Connection Project

Design Concept of the Central Marin Ferry Crossing over East Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

South of the Cal Park Tunnel, the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project (CMFCP) will provide a traffic-separated crossing of East Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Corte Madera Creek, linking up with the existing path at Wornum Drive. The project will be segmented, with Phase 1 crossing East Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to connect the Cal Park Tunnel with the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, and Phase 2 crossing Corte Madera Creek.

Phase I, funded primarily with Regional Measure 2 and Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) funds, has resulted in a new bicycle/pedestrian crossing over East Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the former train trestle, adjacent to the Larkspur Ferry terminal. The Phase I construction groundbreaking was celebrated on April 28, 2014.  This project allows cyclists and pedestrians to safely cross Sir Francis Drake Boulevard without having to navigate the torrent of cars that uses this busy stretch of roadway.  The new bridge provides easy non-motorized access between Larkspur/Corte Madera and San Rafael via the Cal Park Tunnel.  It will also allow for a safe and separated connection between the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and the future Larkspur SMART station.

Phase II of the CMFCP will provide a crossing over Corte Madera Creek as part of the Greenbrae/Twin Cities Corridor Improvement Project (read more about the Greenbrae/Twin Cities Corridor Project below).  As of May, 2014 the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has recommended $20 million for this phase of the project.

 FullCorridorAerialGreenbrae Corridor Improvement Project (Area South of CMFCP)

Though lacking a number on the above map, MCBC has been focused upon maximizing bike/ped safety and connectivity in the Greenbrae Corridor.  We celebrated a significant win at the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) meeting September, 2013.  Key decisions were made regarding the expenditure of $40 million of Regional Measure 2 toll funds for the Greenbrae Corridor. TAM’s decisions must still be approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; only then will TAM’s recommendations be final.

We’ve been working on this project for many years to ensure that the Greenbrae Corridor Improvement Project (GCIP) included substantial safe and separate-from-cars facilities to support biking and walking in the area.  This corridor is particularly important as it connects the Larkspur/Corte Madera area with the Larkspur Ferry, the future SMART station, locations to the north of the Cal Park Tunnel and many schools in the Larkspur/Corte Madera area.

With amazing member support in advance of the September 2013 meeting, MCBC delivered a petition with 680 signatures in support of building key segments of the North South-Greenway through the Greenbrae Corridor.  At the 7 hour meeting,  several key bicycle/pedestrian project elements were proposed and passed by the TAM Board. Votes taken at the TAM Board meeting included a suite of excellent projects that will help move forward MCBC’s long sought goals for that area.

Sandra Marker Trail intersection.

6 – Sandra Marker Trail

The Sandra Marker Trail serves as a critical east-west connector between the cities of Larkspur and Corte Madera. The Sandra Marker provides access to the North-South Greenway, as well as to nearby commercial, shopping and recreational areas. The pathway connects several residential neighborhoods and serves several nearby schools, including Redwood High School, Hall Middle School, Neil Cummins Elementary School and the new Paradise Cove School.


7 – Alto Tunnel Rehabilitation/Reopening

Design Concept for the Alto Tunnel south entrance and multiuse pathway.

Reopening the Alto Tunnel, located between Mill Valley and Corte Madera, will provide a safe and level non-motorized route suitable for all ages and abilities, and will significantly reduce traffic congestion and pollution. The tunnel will provide an emergency route for ambulances and service vehicles and an evacuation route when roads are gridlocked. Reconstructing the Tunnel will also stop ongoing collapse and will stabilize adjacent homes and improvements.

Since the 1970s, the County has had plans for the North-South Greenway along the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of- way, spanning Marin County from north to south, providing access to transit centers, businesses, schools, and town centers. A well-used multiuse pathway extends for three miles from Sausalito through Mill Valley leading to the south portal of Alto Tunnel. Another pathway extends from the north portal through Corte Madera and Larkspur, connecting the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, the Cal Park Tunnel, and bike and pedestrian facilities and communities to the north.

Two studies – the Mill Valley to Corte Madera Bicycle and Pedestrian Corridor Study and the Alto Tunnel Study – were funded by Marin’s $25 million federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The NTPP projects serve people of all ages and abilities, and provide safe, convenient places to walk or ride. In addition to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, Marin benefits with traffic congestion relief, low-cost travel alternatives and improved public health.

In November of 2015, the County of Marin released its Alto Tunnel Property Ownership Study which concluded that the County holds all necessary rights to construct and operate a public pathway/trail along the old railroad lands with the exception of two section retained by the Railway within the portal. The Railway has previously offered to transfer its rights to the County. Reopening the tunnel will also necessitate the purchase of an easement under the side yard of the property at the south portal.

The County of Marin intends to award a contract in late 2016 for a geotechnical investigation of the tunnel to better understand its physical condition and to gain a firmer estimate of the costs associated with rehabilitation and reopening of the tunnel.

To learn more about the Alto Tunnel and ways you can become involved in helping to get the tunnel reopened, visit the Friends of Alto Tunnel’s website at


Mill Valley Pathway with Mt Tamalpais in the background.

8 – Mill Valley-Sausalito Pathway

The Mill Valley-Sausalito Pathway, one of the County’s busiest and most scenic pathways, lies on the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad line connecting the cities of Sausalito and Mill Valley. The County of Marin continues to work on obtaining environmental clearance from resource agencies for repairs and upgrades to this pathway. The project was delayed due to the resource agency permitting process, the need to complete federal environmental clearance and the consideration of proposed changes to the project which includes widening of the pathway. MCBC supports widening this popular pathway, but such changes will significantly complicate the process of acquiring resource agency permits as a wider pathway would produce greater environmental impacts. This project is at least a couple of years away from being completed.


Climbing up from Bridgeway in Sausalito.

9 – Sausalito/Bridgeway Drive/Gate 6 Intersection

In 2013, Sausalito completed the Bridgeway to Ferry Landing Improvements project, funded through the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program, which provided a pedestrian and cyclist path of travel between Bridgeway and the Ferry Terminal – an area previously separated by a large parking lot. The new pathway improves access to the Ferry Terminal, and provides an attractive link to nearby shops, restaurants and other public amenities.

Currently in the design phase, the City is working with the County of Marin and Caltrans on the Gate 6 Intersection Improvements Project (at Gate 6 and Bridgeway, near Mike’s Bikes). After receiving public comment on this project, the City of Sausalito accepted the option that MCBC had sought and that the vast majority of workshop attendees and commenters supported. The project design underway currently includes a striped bike lane through the middle of the intersection with a dedicated signal phase for cyclists so that there are no automobile movements while cyclists are crossing through the intersection, including measures prohibiting “free” right turns by drivers. The design also includes special bicycle signal heads to ensure safe movement thought this very dangerous intersection.


10 – Alexander Avenue

Alexander Avenue in Sausalito.

During the peak cycling season, estimates indicate that as many as 1500 cycling tourists on rental bikes cross the Golden Gate Bridge per day, traveling down Alexander Avenue to explore Sausalito and the rest of Marin County. However, despite its popularity, Alexander’s high traffic volume and speeds, narrow roadway width and lack of shoulders and bicycle lanes, presents extreme safety hazards to cyclists. In an effort to alleviate this dangerous situation, the National Park Service (NPS), in cooperation with the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD), completed the Alexander Avenue and Danes Drive Intersection Improvements project in 2013. The project’s extent was from roughly the Highway 101/Conzelman Road undercrossing to just south of Danes Drive. It corrected deficiencies at the Alexander Avenue left-turn lane to Danes Drive, improved the Alexander/Danes intersection functionality, and enhanced multi-modal opportunities along Alexander Avenue. The project included widening the shoulders and providing bicycle lanes along both sides of Alexander Avenue within the project area.


Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point.

11 – Vista Point Road

MCBC worked diligently with the National Park Service (NPS), Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (GGNPC) and the San Francisco Bay Trail to re-open and pave Vista Point Road which provides access from Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) at the northeast side of the Golden Gate Bridge, just north of Vista Point Parking Lot, into Fort Baker. This roadway not only provides spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, it has the potential to divert a significant percentage of bicycles and pedestrians wishing to reach Fort Baker and Sausalito off of the narrow and hazardous Alexander Ave.



The continued progress on the North-South Greenway has made MCBC very excited about Marin’s expanding, non-motorized transportation network. As we move forward on reopening the Alto Tunnel, constructing the SMART train and pathway and completing the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project, MCBC is closer than ever to completing the North-South Greenway. These projects take patience and time, and MCBC values our members’ support that allows us to be involved in the decision-making processes to build a great bicycle network for all of you and for future generations of Marinites.

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