The Lafayette City Council has unanimously endorsed a plan that would create a pedestrian and bicycle path down the center of Pleasant Hill Road, from the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard to Acalanes High School.
Lafayette resident Eric Law — who leads the innovation team at the San Francisco-based commercial construction firm Swinerton — got the idea in July 2017 while bicycling from his home near Stanley Middle School to Briones Regional Park near the high school.
Crossing multiple freeway on- and off-ramps, he had a revelation.
“Not only was I scared with the cars racing by, but I realized I was going to have to drive my two boys to high school,” Law said last week.
Law reached out to the city and, nearly four years later, the Safe Route to Acalanes High School Project got the conceptual endorsement of the Lafayette City Council on Monday night, after getting the support of the city’s transportation and circulation committee.
“It’s a presentation I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time now,” said Councilmember Cameron Burks. “They’ve done a really good job in organizing and coming and presenting this.”
The council didn’t commit any money to the estimated $3.2 million cost of the project. Law said he wanted to get the council’s endorsement before starting an all-out fundraising campaign. Law’s group has requested $238,000 for design and environmental review costs from local State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s office. He said they would also go after federal funding, as well as private donations.
Funding could also come from local developer fees and money designated for city art projects, should the path include an art component.
Pleasant Hill Road is a major arterial from state Highway 24 to Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, Martinez and state Highway 4. There are also freeway ramps on both sides of the street.
The relatively short stretch of road also includes Acalanes High School and its more than 1,300 students, many of whom walk and bicycle to school. The controversial 315-unit Terraces of Lafayette development is coming to the corner of Pleasant Hill and Deer Hill roads, first bringing construction traffic, then hundreds of more cars passing through. Springhill Elementary School is also just a few blocks to the north.
According to a city staff report, that stretch of Pleasant Hill Road serves as many as 36,000 vehicles per day.
“Crossing the ramps can be dangerous, and even dissuade(s) experienced riders,” says a report to the council from Mike Moran, Lafayette’s director of engineering and public works. “In fact, the city has heard from numerous parents that they will not allow their children to walk or ride to school if they need to traverse this one unprotected pathway on Pleasant Hill Road.”
Bicycle lanes currently extend through the area, near the freeway ramps, but they are squeezed between vehicle traffic lanes.
Law said Monday that design work would need to be completely done before Caltrans would even look to approve the project — an 8- to 12-month process, he said.
The Safe Routes Project is “already viewed by Caltrans and CCTA (Contra Costa Transportation Authority) as an ideal project, as it does not impact on/off ramps,” according to a city staff report.
More information on the Safe Route to Acalanes High School Project is available online.