LONG BEACH, CA (BRAIN)—A group of bike advocates and business owners attended a public comment hearing Friday to ask the Coastal Commission to mandate the inclusion of Class 1 separated bike lanes on the Gerald Desmond bridge in Long Beach, California.
The Port of Long Beach has plans to replace the 43-year-old bridge, which connects Terminal Island to downtown Long Beach, a $950 million project scheduled for completion by 2014.
According to advocates, the Port’s initial plan was to sever pedestrian and bike access on the new bridge. The Port has since modified its position, saying that “after bidding the project, if we can afford to, we will add bike and pedestrian facilities,” but bike/ped supporters are asking the Commission to include these facilities in the original request for proposals (RFP).
The bike/ped facilities would represent about 3 to 4 percent of the total project cost, advocates say, but adding these facilities at a later date would be much more expensive. While the Port is providing a percentage of the funding, state and federal taxpayers are footing most of the bill for the new bridge, more than $700 million.
“Please do not treat us like second-class citizens by denying us access to facilities we pay for,” said Brian Cox, of Jax Bicycle Center, an eight-store bike business in Southern California with a store in Long Beach, who was among the seven speakers that testified in support of the bike lanes on the bridge.
Local advocate Allan Crawford brought attention to the number of workers impacted by the lack of these facilities. “There are 16,000 employees in the Port of Long Beach and L.A. combined. There are 6,000 on Terminal Island alone,” he said. “There are 1,200 boat slips on Terminal Island and the city of Wilmington. Without access across the Gerald Desmond bridge, there will not be bike and pedestrian access for these people.”
Doug Hougton, general manager of Harley Marine Services in Southern California, a leaseholder on Terminal Island, said his company is currently building a multimillion dollar facility there that includes showers and lockers for employees.
“All will be for naught if we don’t have a bridge that can give these employees the ability to walk, cycle or use some other means of transportation to get to work,” he said, adding that the Seattle Port incorporates bike and pedestrian access throughout, where bikes with blinking lights can be seen early in the morning.
In the coming weeks, the Port of Long Beach will seek a final permit for the bridge from the California Coastal Commission, which has the authority to require that it include bike and pedestrian access. The Sierra Club and more than a dozen other organizations have voice their support for the inclusion of these facilities, advocates say.