ALBANY -- Mayor Farid Javandel, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee and state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner stood on the sidewalk in front of Ocean View Park on Wednesday morning, taking turns speaking about the Albany Bay Trail Connector project, also known as the Buchanan/Marin Bikeway project.
As Javandel spoke about the project, his voice was periodically drowned out by cars zipping past on Buchanan Street.
It was a perfect illustration of why many people in Albany have been calling for the connector for years. As Skinner said, "Our kids come here all the time and we want our kids to get here safely."
The project, which runs from Cornell Avenue to the east side of the Buchanan Street overpass, just west of Pierce Street, will connect existing paths constructed as part of Albany's alternative transportation project. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of next summer.
The project required negotiations with several stakeholders, including the University of California, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Albany Unified School District. It was funded by several sources, including a $1.7 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant.
The connector was a long time coming and nobody understands that more than Javandel. When work on the city's alternative transportation project began 12 years ago, Javandel was a consultant to the city.
The Albany High School graduate then moved back to town and he took a position on the city's Traffic and Safety Commission. After three years there, Javandel was elected to the first of two terms on the City Council.
He is termed out and will leave the council next month. The bikeway is definitely a legacy for Javandel, whose day job is Transportation Division manager for Berkeley.
"It really is something that I've been involved in all the way through so it feels like it has paralleled my political involvement in Albany," he said. "It's really satisfying to me as I'm about to wrap up my term as mayor and go off the council, that we had our groundbreaking today. It's on a roll, it's going to be completed and we're all going to benefit from it and I feel very privileged to have had a part in that."
Albany transportation Planner Aleida Andrino-Chavez was credited with pushing the project forward.
"Aleida has done a fabulous job," Javandel said. "She's our only transportation employee in the city of Albany. I happen to work for the city of Berkeley where I've got a staff of 13 people and sometimes I feel we have a hard time keeping up with her."
Javandel was joined by Lee and Skinner for the ceremonial first turn of the dirt. Each had a gold-colored shovel with a big red ribbon on the handle.
And each was personally involved in the 12-year process.
"I live off of the Ohlone Greenway in Berkeley," Skinner said. "From my house, I can easily ride my bike either on the Ohlone Greenway all the way to here or I can ride one surface street and get on the pedestrian overpass over the freeway to the Bay Trail. As a cyclist, and somebody who pays attention to these things, I'm just so happy that we're extending bike paths."
Lee was credited for helping both with funding and working among the many agencies.
"There was a huge federal role in this and my job is to make sure we eliminate the bureaucracy and bring the federal agencies together to support what the residents of Albany want and that's what we did," she said. "It's a project that's environmentally sound, it does reduce fossil fuels, it reduces congestion, it provides for safe passages to schools. So it's a win-win."