OAKLAND -- In danger of losing funding if it can't meet a federal spending deadline, a Bay Area transportation agency is speeding up planning for a $30 million trail extension to improve public access to the popular hiking and riding trail on the new east span of the Bay Bridge.

The new trail almost halfway across the bridge has been a hit with pedestrians, cyclists and joggers, but there are limited ways to reach it.

To change that, the Bay Area Toll Authority and Caltrans have lined up $30 million in state and federal funds for a 6,000-foot-long trail link to connect the bridge trail with the West Grand Avenue corridor of Oakland.

The money, however, is at risk of being lost unless the toll authority can begin construction by 2017.

Pedestrians walk the Bay Bridge bike and pedestrian path in Oakland on Sept. 3, 2013. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Pedestrians walk the Bay Bridge bike and pedestrian path in Oakland on Sept. 3, 2013. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

To speed things up, the authority's Oversight Committee agreed Wednesday to spend $650,000 for a separate environmental review on the trail link.

The review initially was to be done as part of an environmental review for a proposed 170-acre Gateway Park at the foot the Bay Bridge in Oakland, but waiting for that would have jeopardized the funding.

The new trail link can stand on its own as a useful project separate from the Gateway Park, toll authority managers said in a July 2 report.

"The trail (extension) will be important to connecting the bridge trail to a portion of Oakland along the West Grand Avenue corridor," said Peter Lee, a project manager with the authority. "This is near Lake Merritt, where they are many joggers and pedestrians."

The route of the planned trail link would follow West Grand Avenue roughly between Maritime Street and Mandela Parkway.

About half of the trail extension would be built high above street level to separate pedestrians and cyclists from the heavy truck traffic traveling to and from the Port of Oakland, Lee said.

The majority of the 1.14-mile-long path would be 15 feet wide, although a portion on a bridge over railroad tracks would be only 10 feet, according to preliminary plans.

(Bay Area News Group)

While construction of the trail must start by 2017, completion would likely be in late 2018 or in 2019, Lee said.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.