Bay Bridge bike path to The City would cost $550 million

The good news is that designers have come up with a few ways to add a pedestrian and bicycle path to the western span of the Bay Bridge.

The bad news is nobody has any idea how to pay for it.

The brand-spanking-new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is scheduled to open in 2013. The new span includes a pedestrian and bicycle path. Current plans call for this path to end at Treasure Island with no direct link into The City.

The unfunded design for the western span includes 12-foot-wide paths on either side of the upper deck. The south path would be for bridge crews and maintenance, while north path would provide spectacular views for bicyclists and pedestrians. The trick will be to avoid crashing into one another, sort of like it is on the Bay Bridge now. How many times have you wanted to pull over and take a picture?

Two thing looks certain. First, you won’t be cruising though a tunnel as a pedestrian or bicyclist. You’re going around. Of the two alternatives, cyclists should hope for the shorter one that goes around the back of Yerba Buena Island, rather than the longer, steeper route down to Treasure Island and then back up Macalla to the eastern span.

Second, even when funding is identified, a completed path is eight to 10 years away. And funding is no slam-dunk. Even if we added a dollar to every Bay Bridge toll right now, it would take nearly six years to come up with the $550 million needed for the project. And, like most projects, you can bet the final cost will be higher than estimated today.