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Bridge for pedestrians, bikes could link SRJC commuter rail station

Santa Rosa bike enthusiasts and city officials are moving forward with a study for a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 that could link Santa Rosa Junior College and a proposed westside commuter rail station.

The city held its first public forum last week as part of a $117,000 feasibility study for the bridge. The work is being conducted by the designer of the $6.4 million cycling and pedestrian bridge over Interstate 80 in Berkeley.

The junior college set aside $1 million for the freeway overcrossing as part of settling a 2004 lawsuit over the multi-story parking garage in front of Bailey Field. The money comes from a $251 million bond measure approved by Sonoma County voters in 2002.

Both city officials and leaders of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition said they were encouraged by the wide support from more than 110 people who showed up for the meeting Thursday at the Odd Fellows Hall on Pacific Avenue.

"A lot of people want this built," said City Councilman Gary Wysocky, a past president of the bicycle coalition.

The 1,000-member bicycle coalition reached the settlement with the junior college.

Supporters hope the bridge will be located on the west side of the freeway near a proposed Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station, tentatively slated to be built along the rail line off Frances Street.

Such a connection could allow rail commuters to walk or cycle to eastside locations such as the junior college and the Sonoma County administration and courts complex. A bridge also could allow eastside cyclists and pedestrians easier access to the Coddingtown shopping center and the Santa Rosa Business Park.

The rail officials want to start Cloverdale-to-Larkspur service in 2014. The rail cars are expected to accept bicycles, allowing rail commuters to reach more distant destinations, said Christine Culver, the bicycle coalition's executive director.

"This overcrossing could make or break SMART," Culver said.

As part of the feasibility study, a second public meeting is tentatively scheduled for April. The City Council is expected to review the completed study this summer. If the council agrees to pursue the project, city staff would undertake an environmental impact report and a special study as required by Caltrans.

The feasibility study is being conducted by Steven Grover Associates of Berkeley, a firm that specializes in such bridges, including the freeway crossing in Berkeley.

Early cost estimates for the Santa Rosa bridge ranged from $5 million to $9 million.

The study will consider the costs and benefits of locating the bridge at three possible sites on campus: Elliot Avenue on the north, Bear Cub Way on the south and Scholars Drive in the middle.

Santa Rosa Public Works Director Rick Moshier said completing the feasibility study and forging consensus on a project will improve the city's chances of obtaining matching state and federal funds for the bridge.

"It makes you a contender," Moshier said.

The junior college offer of the $1 million is good only through 2012.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat

.com.

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