Greenway Project Breaks Ground in Richmond

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday May 23, 2006

An abandoned three-mile stretch of railroad right-of-way in Richmond will begin its conversion into a community walking and biking trail Thursday. 

At 10 a.m., Mayor Irma Anderson, City Councilmember Tom Butt, city and county staff and students from Lincoln Elementary School will break ground for the Richmond Greenway. 

Unused for a quarter-century and filled with weeds, the right-of-way is being transformed into a community corridor through the joint efforts of the city, Contra Costa County, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Healthy Transportation Network. 

According to Benjamin Gettleman, much of the credit goes to Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt. 

“He’s really been the local champion from the beginning, for more than 20 years,” said Gettleman, who runs the western regional office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

Rails-to-Trails is a nationwide organization with more than 100,000 members and supporters dedicated to turning abandoned and unused railroad rights-of-way into recreational hubs. 

It was Butt who asked Rails-to-Trails to get involved, Gettleman said. 

The Greenway follows a three-mile stretch of right-of-way abandoned by the Atcheson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and deeded over to the city in 1979. 

The property, encompassing 32 acres, runs from Garrard Boulevard on the west to Key Boulevard on the east, running parallel with Chanslor and Ohio streets.  

Thursday’s ceremony will mark the start of construction on the trail’s western segment, which should be completed in time to open early next year. 

Rails-to-Trails has helped the city find funding for the project, which has come in part from a grant from the Transportation for Livable Community program of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority State Transportation Improvement Program. 

The MTC kicked off the project in 2000 with a planning grant, followed by $50,000 in state funds and a July 2001 vote by MTC to allocate $1.9 million for construction of the first phase, which was originally planned to start two years ago. 

“The second phase will take the project to San Pablo Avenue and the Ohlone Greenway, and on into Berkeley,” said Butt. 

When completed, the trail will extend all the way from western Berkeley to Point Richmond. 

While the project’s master plan spells out a budget of more than $15 million, Butt said the costs included a “wish list of projects we’d like to see,” including a pedestrian-and-bicycle bridge over San Pablo Avenue. 

Butt said the Greenway project is one of several quality-of-life issues that have nearly foundered in Richmond.  

“The city gets money, and then it goes into the general fund and gets squandered. Mayor Anderson has been especially helpful on the Greenway, and she’s salvaged it more than once,” he said. 

The councilmember also praised Laura Cohen, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Western regional director. 

Ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Sixth Street Crossing between Ohio and Chanslor avenues, with Mayor Anderson breaking ground.