September 4, 2008

Walnut Creek Drops Shortcut to BART

By Elisabeth Nardi

Citing money concerns, the Walnut Creek City Council Tuesday night derailed a plan for a residential shortcut to the Pleasant Hill BART station, leaving some Walnut Creek residents cheering and some Concord residents angered that a plan in the works for five years has now been axed.

The trail, which falls within Walnut Creek city limits, would have created an almost straight shot from Las Juntas Way to Bancroft Road at David Avenue, linking pedestrians and bicyclist to the BART station. The path would have traveled along a BART right of way on the northwest side of the tracks. The county has been working to get the path approved and funded.

Public comment from neighbors both opposed to and supporting the project lasted more than an hour Tuesday night, and County Supervisor Susan Bonilla and Gail Murray, the BART board president, urged the council to approve the shortcut and recommend it to the County Board of Supervisors.

But council members said while it is a great idea, the trail would be on BART land and will serve many Concord residents, so Walnut Creek should not be the only agency responsible for maintaining and policing the trail. Maintenance costs were estimated between $10,000 and $31,500 a year.

"It seems a natural fit that (this should be brought) to BART as opposed to the city of Walnut Creek," said Councilman Gary Skrel.

With all the encouragement from other agencies, including East Bay Regional Parks, BART and the county, Mayor Gwen Regalia asked representatives from each why Walnut Creek was the only one on the hook to pay for the maintenance.

"We are not sitting here picking money off trees either," she said.

Residents who would have lived near the proposed trail had fought for years to halt the project. Many said the cost of the trail - estimates range from $1.9 to $2 million - was too high. The county had $920,000 from the redevelopment agency and a grant set aside for the project.

Some residents were disappointed that the council rejected the shortcut.

"I think something that is overlooked is that the current path is way too dangerous," said Bob Ericson, a Concord resident. "This is your jurisdiction and you should take responsibility for it and Concord should, too."

As for what happens next, it is unclear.

"The redevelopment agency, which has been funding our efforts on this project, will advise county staff on our next steps, shortly," said Steve Goetz, county deputy director transportation planning, in an e-mail.

Last week, Goetz said if Walnut Creek denied the path then the project would die, because all of the other options for a path had problems.

Originally published by Elisabeth Nardi, Contra Costa Times.

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