Sara Rubin here, thinking about how the speed at which government moves can feel unbearably slow. For instance, Monterey City Council tomorrow will hear results from a community survey regarding opinions on cannabis, and talk about a “cannabis roadmap”—four years after recreational cannabis became legal in California.
Another project creeping forward is the Fort Ord Recreational Trail and Greenway, or FORTAG. It’s an ambitious project, with 28 miles of trails, mostly paved Class 1 bike path, with space for pedestrians. It will fundamentally change the way OK-but-not-great bicyclists like myself can get around in a practical commuter way, create safe walking paths, and a feeling of connectedness between communities from Marina to Monterey.
But a big project like this happens in small increments. And then there are adjacent projects, the crucial connection points that will make FORTAG relevant. One such adjacent project is the North Fremont bike lane in Monterey, one of those impressive pieces of infrastructure that looks like it belongs in Amsterdam more than on the Central Coast. Except the beautiful bike lane—a $9.1 million project—is in effect a bike lane to nowhere.
Once you find your way to the Bike Lane to Nowhere it’s a glorious ride—smooth, a rail to divide you from passing cars, no need to make sharp turns to contend with curbs. But it’s a pain to get on it, and a pain to get off. If you’re biking from, say, In-Shape to CVS on Fremont, it works great. But if you work at the Monterey County Weekly office two blocks further away, it’s not easy access.
That’s where the North Fremont Gap Closure project comes in. The idea is to build a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians parallel to North Fremont, that will run from Canyon Del Rey Boulevard to Casanova Avenue. (It’s a treacherously narrow stretch of fast-moving road now, with no pedestrian access either.) It’s expected to cost somewhere in the range of $1 million to $2 million.
The design alone costs upwards of $300,000. The Monterey Neighborhood Community and Improvement Program approved $300,000 in 2019. The Transportation Agency for Monterey County is set to approve an additional $35,000 when their board meets tomorrow, Feb. 24 at 9am. Monterey City Council is scheduled to accept that additional cash, associated with planning and design costs, on March 16.
If this sounds like a whole lot of work for a one-block stretch of bike lane, that’s because it is. Monterey Traffic Engineer Andrea Renny says she’d hoped to include it in the original project, but it was too costly. It’s extra-complicated because adjacent Laguna Grande Park includes environmentally sensitive habitat, and it spans three jurisdictions—Monterey, Seaside and Caltrans. But she is trying to keep the big picture in mind: “The idea that one day you can bike from Marina to the Fairgrounds is just a really exciting idea.”
Or as Max Rieser, a city engineer, puts it: “Without that connection, what’s it all for?”