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A bridge to somewhere
October 22, 2009, 03:54 AM By Heather Murtagh

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Bill Leung, left, and Gnat Harris walk across the newly opened bridge completing the Bay Tail in South San Francisco.

When Gnat Harris began looking for commute routes to Genentech, she rode her bike around the Bay Trail.

The problem was the 145-foot gap she encountered. Harris rode along the southern part of the South San Francisco stretch of trail to dead end in sight of work but unable to get to it.

"It made me wonder, should I get my shoes dirty? I can make that,” she said, before inevitably deciding not to climb down through the trenches of muddy water on her way to work.

Yesterday, a ribbon cutting was held for a $1.2 million privately funded bridge. The 10-foot wide, 145-foot long bridge was the final piece of the eight-mile stretch of the Bay Trail in South San Francisco. Its opening makes South San Francisco the seventh city to complete its portion of a 500-mile vision.

"It’s been my dream to walk from Brisbane to SFO (San Francisco International Airport),” said Mayor Karyl Matsumoto. "And today, it became a reality.”

Matsumoto noted this was a project she relentlessly pursued during her 12 years on council.

The bridge was the final piece of the puzzle. Manufactured in Alexandria, Minn. by Contech Bridge Solutions, the bridge got to California in three pieces before it was assembled on site. Deep foundations are included for the 120,000-pound bridge, which was lifted by crane to its current location. Construction of the $1.2 million bridge was funded by the South San Francisco Scavengers and HCP, Inc.

Doug Button, South San Francisco Scavengers president, noted how different the area now housing the bridge was over six years ago. The trail ended and a big dirt trail existed with only 10 to 30 people using the trail daily. Now, Button sees closer to 100 people per day — a number he estimated will only increase due to the bridge’s completion. Button took advantage of the bridge by recently walking the eight-mile Bay Trail stretch and found himself noticing things he had never seen in the area despite growing up there.

The visions for a 500-mile continuous shoreline pathway around the Bay began in 1989 when the Association of Bay Area Government adopted the Bay Trail Plan. Currently, 296 miles are completed with continuous trails finished in Belmont, Milpitas, Foster City, San Mateo, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and South San Francisco.  

Lara Thompson, Bay Trail project manager for the Association of Bay Area Governments, noted another important aspect for completing the South San Francisco portion will be the ferry terminal slated to open in 2011. The completed trail connects pedestrians and bicyclists with this new mode of transportation.

Dan Sherman, chair of the South San Francisco Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, called the bridge the "crown jewel” of the bike and pedestrian plan helping to connect a network of pathways.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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