After 23 years of entombment, the Drummond Avenue bike tunnel has been carved out and was opened Tuesday, forging the final link in the now-complete greenbelt bike path network in South Davis.
More than 50 residents, former and current city staff members and developers were in attendance to witness the ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating the site.
The ceremony took place in front of the west end of the tunnel, behind recently built New Harmony, 3030 Cowell Blvd., an affordable housing complex on the south side of Interstate 80 that will host its own grand opening Wednesday evening.
“This facility is the result of an ensemble effort over many, many years,” explained Will Marshall, a former city employee, about the many minds that contributed to the project’s planning. “The members of the ensemble hope you use, enjoy and cherish the fruits of their work.”
The tunnel — and the freshly paved bike path that runs through it — ties the greenbelt along the south side of Cowell Boulevard to the path on the north edge of Mono Place, leading to Willow Creek Park.
From there bicyclists or those traveling on other modes of self-propelled transportation can take the Dave Pelz Bike Overpass across Interstate 80 up to Korematsu Elementary School and Harper Junior High School, among other places in East Davis.
City planners first envisioned the tunnel in 1990 during a reconfiguration of Drummond Avenue, but until the city was able to establish housing developments near the site that needed bike access, the tunnel would not be finished.
And so they buried it, literally.
But when the City Council gave the green light in 2012 to build the New Harmony development adjacent to the unfinished path and tunnel, the city at last had the housing it needed to dig out the tunnel and complete the bike path connection.
“In about 1980 the first link in this South Davis bike path network was forged between San Marino (Drive) and El Campo (Avenue),” Marshall said.
“In the mid-1980s this whole area was revisited and they had what they called the South Davis Specific Plan. And that’s where the network begin to take shape as far as what facilities would ultimately be put in. This structure was one of those facilities.”
The bike tunnel project was funded through a grant the city received from Caltrans and road impact fees paid by the developers of the nearby properties, including New Harmony, Owendale and Oasis Place neighborhood.
In addition to the new housing developments, the new pathway also creates connections to all of the existing residences and complexes that the path touches.
Dhrub Sah, a Davis resident who lives on the south side of the new bike path, said Tuesday that the tunnel will be a big help for him, his family and his neighbors.
“It will be easier to get home,” Sah said. “Easier for everybody.”
Mayor Joe Krovoza, who opened and closed the ceremony with remarks, explained what he believes the project means in terms of bicycling in the city of Davis.
“It’s convenience, it’s saving money, it’s exercise, it’s more social,” Krovoza said. “All those things about biking that we’ve come to love about Davis are embodied in this project here.”
Rachel Iskow, executive director of the Sacramento/Yolo Mutual Housing Association, which helped develop the New Harmony project, said the addition of the bike path and tunnel will help those residents trying to save a buck on car travels.
“The green revolution shut out low-wage workers and low-income families,” Iskow said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Having this great bike path will help residents cut down on using cars and (will) make it easier for them to go to work and get their kids to school.”
The new tunnel and greenbelt add to the more than 53 miles of off-street bike paths than run throughout the city. That’s in addition to 52 miles of on-street bicycle lanes.
Krovoza also unveiled the “Mayor’s Challenge” Tuesday, calling for residents to try to find the longest, non-repeating course in Davis entirely on off-street bike paths.
According to the mayor, “the basic rules will be that the course can’t repeat any stretch of path, but one can cross a path already ridden. Each course may cross a street no more than five times. Two direct trips through (the UC Davis) campus on roads not open to cars will be allowed. There will be prizes given in three age categories: elementary, junior high/high school and open.
“All entrants will have to prove that they rode their course and recommend to the city three things that would improve bike infrastructure in Davis.”
The judges will be Dave Pelz and Duane Copley, both retired from the city’s Public Works Department as key designers of Davis’ bike network, and Glenn Mounkes, president of the Davis Bike Club.
The deadline for submissions is March 31. For more details, visit Krovoza’s website at www.joekrovoza.org.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash