MARTINEZ -- Faced with a price tag of more than $20 million, city leaders decided not to build a soaring bridge connecting downtown with Waterfront Park and settled for a more modest proposal.

On the north side of the railroad tracks, Martinez will build a 150-foot bridge across Alhambra Creek from Berrellesa Street to a future parking lot on the 6.8-acre property where two indoor sports complexes sit. The city is developing plans to put in about 300 parking spaces to be shared by the sports complexes and the Amtrak station.

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority has committed $10.2 million for the project from Measure J, the countywide half-cent sales tax that pays for transportation projects. The Berrellesa bridge could be built for less than $5 million, according to Tim Tucker, city engineer. It would be expected to be open in about three years.

The other two bridge alternatives the City Council considered would have begun at Pine or Court streets, risen to 25 feet above the railroad tracks and ended on Joe DiMaggio Drive. But both of these bridges would have extended at least 500 feet into the park, ending near the skateboard park.

"All the other options are so problematic," Mayor Rob Schroder said during a recent meeting, throwing his support behind the Berrellesa option.

Despite the cost of building a bridge over the railroad tracks, a couple of residents argued that the Berrellesa option was too far west and wouldn't provide a direct route to the waterfront area. It also appears that it won't satisfy the stated goal of driving traffic into the downtown shopping area.

The Berrellesa bridge requires building a short section of roadway from the east end of the parking lot across East Bay Regional Park District land to connect with Ferry Street. City and park district representatives will discuss the bridge project at the Feb. 13 Martinez Shoreline Joint Planning Agency meeting.

Although the city also plans to build a pedestrian overcrossing from the Amtrak station to the future parking lot, city leaders believe funds left over from the Berrellesa bridge possibly could be used to build a second footbridge over the railroad tracks closer to Ferry Street.

Martinez has been lobbying for a bridge since 2001, when the city included it on its list of Measure J projects. Currently, Ferry Street is the only way in and out of the waterfront area. But with 20 freight trains and 44 Amtrak passenger trains traveling through Martinez each day, that entrance is sometimes blocked, causing lengthy backups downtown. Although some freight trains are quite long, Union Pacific Railroad has agreed not to block both the Ferry and Berrellesa crossings at the same time.

Councilman Mark Ross pointed out that since the sports complexes are drawing dozens of youth and adult athletic teams, it's crucial that emergency vehicles have unobstructed access to the area, which the Berrellesa bridge would provide.

The original proposal called for a 20-foot-wide bridge connecting Court Street with North Court Street. The overcrossing was to begin at Court Street near Marina Vista, rise to 23 feet above the railroad tracks, cross Joe DiMaggio Drive and end near an existing parking lot within Waterfront Park. A parallel, two-lane roadway for vehicle traffic would have been build in a second phase.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.