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Marin Bridges, Trollies Vie For Funding

Larkspur ferry connector is among the transportation projects to get a slice of TAM's $10 million pie.

It seems to be money, not gasoline, that keeps traffic moving.

Marin County is expected to get $10 million over a four-year period, which will be divvied up by the Transportation Authority of Marin as projects are nominated for funding. More than half that money is already tentatively designated for projects, leaving $4.95 million available for other projects, it was revealed during Monday's TAM Executive Committee meeting.

Larkspur's Central Marin Ferry Connector is expected to get $1.5 million from transportation funds through the One Bay Area Plan. The project has already been approved.

The Larkspur City Council in February approved the Warren Truss design for the pedestrian bridge that will connect the CalPark Tunnel path to the opposite side of Drake, near an existing bike and pedestrian path. The design was put forth by TAM after it emerged as the popular choice during an open house meeting in Larkspur last year.

"Our schedule is to put the contract out for bid in January 2013 with construction beginning in May," project engineer Bill Whitney said. "The biggest factor that drives the actual schedule is the presence or lack thereof a nesting clapper rail.  Corte Madera Creek is a habitat for the endangered clapper rail. If the bird is found to be nesting then we cannot start until September 1st."

One reason for the Warren Truss design's popularity is the fact that it can be assembled offsite and then installed quickly, reducing any extra delays in traffic. City Manager Dan Schwarz has also requested that the design not include a support in the median, keeping the view clear for drivers on East Sir Francis Drake.

Whitney says the cost of the project will be divided among several agencies by TAM.

"TAM has asked the County of Marin and the City of Larkspur to consider operating and maintaining the multi-use path. No decisions have been made," Whitney said. "TAM is working on a funding plan that would utilize Measure A interest funds, Measure B funds and contributions from participating agencies who will benefit from the project."

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has supported the bridge project, which is expected to take more bikes off Larkspur Landing Circle and create a safer link to the CalPark Tunnel. TAM is also looking at other measures to help cyclists safely get from CalPark Tunnel to the Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal.

TAM is also expected to allocate $150,000 to update bicycle and pedestrian pathway plans in Marin jurisdictions, including Larkspur and Corte Madera, in the next two financial years.

"Topics include refining regional bike routes, identifying gap closure projects,
expanding the pedestrian component, and monitoring maintenance issues," according to a TAM memo.

One proposed project would investigate the idea of creating a trolley system in Ross Valley from Fairfax through San Rafael to the Bettini Transit Center.

According to TAM budget analysis: "The service could be popular due to its uniqueness, its multiple origins and destinations along the route, and the burgeoning need to deliver passengers to the future site of SMART as well as the major Golden Gate / Marin Transit bus terminal at Bettini. The service could serve to relieve congestion and offer a well-utilized transit option.

"The feasibility study will be matched with a level of local funds being generated by the trolley interest group. The study will look at the general routes option, the need for capital improvements and cost, the likely user groups/ridership, and the cost to operate as well as possible fund sources. The study will be timed to match the start-up of SMART service in San Rafael at the Bettini Transit center."

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