Sonoma County to update ambitious bike path plan

  • The Santa Rosa Creek Bike Trail near Willowside Road is used by bicyclists, Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014. The trail, paved in 2009 was part of plan by the county that was last updated in 2008. The county will be updating it's bike plan. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

For the hefty price of $340 million, Sonoma County could one day have an unrivaled bike path system, though transportation planners concede that the hard reality of tight funding could put that goal a long way down the road.

The entire 1,060-mile proposed bike network would cost about as much as adding 12 miles of carpool lanes to Highway 101 through the Sonoma-Marin Narrows. If the whole network were ever built, it would quadruple the number of bike-path and bike-lane miles in Sonoma County, making it one of the most cycling-friendly places in the nation.

But transportation officials have identified only a tiny fraction of the needed funding and acknowledge that there is little chance the whole network will be completed anytime soon.

Instead, they say, making a wish list that includes each segment in the proposed network -#8212; there are 977 segments countywide -#8212; helps secure funding when the opportunity arises.

"Bike projects are different than other projects," said Janet Spilman, deputy director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "They are largely opportunistic. It's a good idea to keep the list fresh."

The transportation authority is updating the countywide bike plan for the first time since 2008. Back then, the county had 241 miles of bike infrastructure, mostly in the form of on-street bike lanes.

The update comes as cycling has boomed in Sonoma County, with triple-digit growth and an increasing array of recreational and competitive events such as the popular Levi's GranFondo and the Tour of California.

In the past six years, the county and its cities have built a total of 73 miles of bike lanes and paved bike paths, according to the updated Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The blueprint combines the independent plans of the county and its nine cities.

"It's a guiding document for each one of our jurisdictions," said Eydie Tacata, vice chair of the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. "We want to make sure all the plans connect."

The committee met Tuesday to finalize the plan and could approve it at its next meeting in March. The transportation authority could adopt the plan in May.

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