Every Wednesday for the past three years, Tam Valley resident Kathy McLeod has taken a group of students on an after-school bike ride, teaching them safety tips and showing them the best and safest routes around town.
Depending on the arrival of high tide that day – as was the case last Wednesday – the ride might also involve a quick roll through some shallow water on the path along Coyote Creek that connects Tam Valley to the Sausalito-Mill Valley multi-use path.
By next April, McLeod and her fellow bicyclists and pedestrians shouldn’t have that problem.
The long-delayed Tennessee Valley Pathway, a Marin County Department of Public Works project around Shoreline Hwy. and Tennessee Valley Rd. that dates back more than a decade, is ready for showtime. The approximately $3.4 million project is funded, designed, approved and contractor Maggiora & Ghilotti is ready to begin the work after a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Supervisor Kathrin Sears Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the parking lot.
Coupled with plans to install a traffic signal and related improvements at Shoreline Hwy. and Flamingo Rd., which also languished in funding limbo for many years but has been revived in recent months, Tam Valley is seeing some action on projects long sought by biking and walking advocates in the area.
“Many of the things the county has promised are all coming through, and we’re thrilled about that,” said McLeod, who credits the late Supervisor Charles McGlashan for continuing to push for the safety improvements in the area in the years before his passing. “The funding holdups took a really long time, but it’s great that it’s finally happening.”
Pat Echols, senior civil engineer with the county, said the numerous agencies involved in approving the project also delayed it. Regulatory approval came slow for the path, which the county eventually hopes to extend out to Tennessee Beach, because it cuts through land owned and/or managed by a number of federal agencies, including the National Park Service, as well as that of protected fish and bird habitats around the bike path.
“There have been unbelievable hurdles that we’ve had to go through to even get to the point of awarding a contract,” Echols said, noting that work east of Shoreline must finish by Jan. 31 to comply with environmental protections for the California Clapper Rail bird.
The project has a number of components, including: a raised boardwalk along Coyote Creek that allows for safe passage during high tide on both sides of Shoreline Hwy.; a small bridge crossing Coyote Creek on the west side of Shoreline connecting to Tam Junction; and an offshoot path near connecting the path to Shoreline closer to Hwy.101, near the Manzanita Park & Ride. The project's linchpin is a traffic signal at the intersection, a component without which the whole thing likely wouldn't have been approved, Echols said.
Echols said the project gained some momentum after the county landed the $25 million federal grant to fund the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) in 2007, and regained it when county officials decided to focus on the area around the intersection as a first step to the larger vision of extending it to Tennessee Beach.
“Getting across Shoreline Hwy. is the most acute problem right now,” Echols said.
Richard Skaff, a longtime Tam Valley resident and advocate for disabled access improvements, said he was pleased that the project had regained momentum and was ready to break ground.
“My wife and I love the outdoors, and to now have a safe, accessible place along Coyote Creek is going to be amazing,” he said.
Skaff called out the traffic signal at the intersection and its inclusion of accessible pedestrian signals for the visually impaired.
“How could anybody be against that?” he said.
Alisha Oloughlin, advocacy coordinator for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, said the organization was pleased that continued lobbying by the community and the coalition is paying dividends, but noted there is more to fix, particularly the lack of shoulders and bike lanes along Shoreline all over Tam Valley.
“We’re definitely pleased to see any improvements taking place and this is a significant improvement, but there is still plenty to do to make this area safer for bicyclist and pedestrians,” Oloughlin said.
The 411: The Tennessee Valley Pathway Groundbreaking event is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, in the parking lot of the Tam Valley Community Center.