Grand Avenue and Francisco Boulevard East form the primary corridor for residents living in the Canal Neighborhood, the most densely populated area in Marin County, to access the San Rafael Transit Center, SMART station, Montecito Plaza, and San Rafael High School. Local street connections between the Canal Neighborhood and the rest of the City are severely limited by the constraints of the San Rafael Canal waterway, the existing Grand Avenue Bridge, Highway 101, and Interstate 580. The Grand Avenue Pathway Connector Project (“Bridge Project”) will fill a significant bicycle/pedestrian safety gap within a major north-south corridor and will successfully link to other recently constructed bicycle/pedestrian improvements on both Grand Avenue and Francisco Boulevard East.
The Bridge Project will install a 12-foot-wide bicycle/pedestrian bridge immediately east of the existing vehicular bridge along Grand Avenue over the San Rafael Canal waterway and will link to the recently completed widened sidewalk at the intersection of Second Street at Grand Avenue. Furthermore, the Bridge Project will link to the future widened sidewalk along Francisco Boulevard East, planned for construction in 2020, thus providing a seamless bicycle/pedestrian facility from Downtown to the Canal Neighborhood that will greatly improve safety and connectivity in East San Rafael.
This project has been a long-standing, high-priority project for the San Rafael City Council. It moved from concept to design in April 2011 when the City received a $200,000 grant from the Association of Bay Area Governments to begin developing construction documents. Over the course of several years, City staff pursued construction funding for the Bridge Project through various grant opportunities, none of which resulted in construction funding being awarded. In 2017, staff worked closely with the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) to identify construction funding for the Bridge Project. The City has secured construction funding consisting of federal (i.e., Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) and regional monies.
Following extensive review by Caltrans staff, the Bridge Project was determined to have no significant effect on the environment and is categorically exempt under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.