Construction began Tuesday (March 1) on a bikeway to run from Adams Avenue to Camino del Rio South next to the I-15, and a phalanx of wonks, elected and agency officials, planners, supporters, and neighborhood residents assembled to acknowledge the occasion at Ward Canyon Park.
The paved one-mile bikeway will be 12 feet wide with a concrete barrier on the east side to wall off freeway traffic. It will be striped down the middle for two-way traffic. Final cost is expected to run to $14 million, according to San Diego Association of Governments officials.
"Anyone who's ever ridden Bachman [Drive, behind UCSD hospital] or Texas Street is going to appreciate having a safe and convenient way to connect to the shops, restaurants, and amenities of Mission Valley," said city councilman Todd Gloria. (Note: The bikeway project won't cross I-8.)
The remaining option, Fairmount Avenue, isn't any safer, said Leo, a 19-year-old skateboarder who came to see what the crowd was about and stayed for the fruit and cookies served after the speeches. Leo said he sometimes walks a primitive path along the I-15 to Mission Valley ("I didn't hear that," a Caltrans official said), but mostly he waits for rides from friends to get up and down the hill.
"I don't have a bike," he said, tapping his well-worn skateboard. "This is how I get around.”
Though it was a wonk party, the project itself is important to Maria Cortez, who lives in City Heights and said she has been pushing for better transportation connections since 1985.
"It gives us many more opportunities for work, for shopping, and for fun," Cortez said. "Because we can now travel into Mission Valley without dealing with traffic. It makes it easier for residents, it's healthier and cheaper, and, once the Centerline [express bus service] starts running, it will be reliable."
The mile-long bikeway has been planned for nearly five years, with cooperation from the city, the California Department of Transportation, and the San Diego Association of Governments.
The second phase, a 1.2-mile bikeway from Adams Avenue south to Landis, along Terrace and Central avenues, will connect Mid-City and City Heights. It's in the design phase, with construction targeted for later next year. The project runs alongside the I-15 where Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transit System are building the Centerline bus route, which may help people when it comes to riding back up that big hill.
Planners promised City Heights the connection from Mission Valley to downtown in 1985, when they gouged the neighborhood to build the I-15. The bikeway planners couldn't do anything about the steep grade from Adams to Mission Valley, according to city councilwoman Marti Emerald.
"You'll be able to bicycle down and ride the bus back up," Emerald said. "That's what I would do."