After eight years of planning, the city is drawing up papers to buy a railroad right-of-way from Union Pacific Railroad Co. that will allow bikers to ride down the Ninth Street bicycle boulevard in West Berkeley, cross Ashby Avenue and enter an already completed bicycle path in Emeryville.
"That's good news because I thought Berkeley was never going to do anything with it," said Tom McKinley of Emeryville, who was walking his dog on the Emeryville path Friday. "When the wind blows, it's a huge dust bowl over there."
The railroad right-of-way starts in Berkeley where Ninth Street ends at Heinz Avenue. It runs to Ashby Avenue between the Orchard Supply Hardware store and a vacant lot where a new Berkeley Bowl supermarket will open in about a year. On the south side of Ashby, the right-of-way continues for about three blocks to where the completed Emeryville bike path starts.
Heath Maddox, a transportation planner with the city of Berkeley, said the city started talking about buying the land in 1998. On Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council authorized staff to buy the land.
Once the purchase is complete, the city will start a design and planning process for the bike path, which could take another few years, Maddox said.
Meanwhile, the Berkeley Bowl will construct a temporary path extending from Ninth Avenue and Heinz Street
When the design plans are finished, the city will start on a first phase of the new path a block south of Ashby. A second phase will later connect the path from Ninth and Heinz all the way through to Emeryville.
Bikers will have an easy, relatively car-free route all the way from the north end of Albany into Berkeley and Emeryville, and possibly onto the Bay Bridge bike path promised for sometime after the new eastern span is finished in 2012.
"Eventually you'll be able to hook up to the Mandela Parkway in Oakland and onto the Bay Bridge," Maddox said.