BERKELEY -- The city has started construction on a half-mile, $1.7 million bike path into the Berkeley marina after eight years of planning.

The new path, cyclists say, should make it safer and easier to get there. Currently, bikers on their way to the bay in Berkeley must negotiate a busy intersection at University Avenue and West Frontage Road, then ride on a sometimes busy University Avenue. The new path, which is a spur of the Bay Trail, will bypass that busy intersection and run away from the road.

The City Council approved a plan for the bike path in 2004 and only started working on it in late July.

The bike and pedestrian path will go from an area at the foot of a bike bridge that goes over Interstate 80 and run behind Sea Breeze Market, over a new bridge that spans the Strawberry Creek inlet and down the south side of University Avenue, ending in the marina near the South Sailing Cove.

"Right now going out to the marina you're just out on the road and there's no accommodation for bicyclists at all and the road is in poor condition," said Dave Campbell, program director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. "One reason projects like this are really important is that a lot of people who want to try bicycling, will try it on places like the Bay Trail and the path needs to be safe for them to do that."

The bike path extension is being paid for by the city, federal transportation funds, the California Coastal Conservancy and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.