"This is one of those pinch points, and it is going to be un-pinched," said East Bay Regional Park District Board Member Beverly Lane.
On the Pleasanton side is a north-south portion of the Centennial Trail partly along the Arroyo de la Laguna that stops at I-580. In Dublin, the Alamo Canal Trail branches off the Iron Horse Trial to head south and end at I-580 behind the Dublin Library.
The Park District has been working on the project to connect the two trails with the cities of Pleasanton and Dublin, Alameda County Transportation Commission, Zone 7 Water Agency and Caltrans to come to agreements on closing the gap and providing funding. The last $1 million for the $2.4 million project is coming from federal TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) funds.
"We were unanimously interested in having this happen," Lane said.
Faye and Richard Guarienti of Dublin ended a four-mile walk in the Dougherty Hills Open Space on Tuesday at the site as the groundbreaking was about to begin.
"I've been actively involved with getting this trail put in for many years," said Richard Guarienti, who was on Dublin Parks Commission for eight years, chaired the EBRPD Parks Advisory Committee, and is on the bicycle pedestrian committee for Alameda County transportation. "We can't fund them all but I pushed very strongly for this one to be funded."
First a feasibility study was done. The trail connection will mean cutting into the bank of the waterway that goes under the freeway.
"The BART tracks hang down lower than the freeway," Guarienti explained. "We had to do an engineering study and design."
About two years ago, when state funds were nonexistent, they began to apply for federal funding, which meant redoing the environmental document, he added.
On Tuesday morning, officials sank their shovels into the earth near the current end of the Alamo Trail in Dublin to begin the project.
"For the first time we are doing something significant to help people get somewhere without getting into a car," East Bay Regional Park District Board Member Ayn Wieskamp told the crowd. The project is in her Ward 5. "It proves we can work together and achieve things."
The project is being lauded as a safe route away from traffic for people on foot, bikes or skates to travel between schools, homes and their destinations in Pleasanton and Dublin.
In a reference to the rainy day, Wieskamp predicted great weather in the fall when the project is completed and the trails are finally connected.
Both U.S. congressmen Jerry McNerney (D., 11th) and Peter Stark (D., 13th) were in attendance along with local elected officials.
"I live on the other side of 580 and have wanted to be able to get over here for years," McNerney said, noting also that the project will create desperately needed jobs.
"George Miller (7th District congressman) and myself opened the Iron Horse Trail many years ago," Stark noted.
Other funding for the project is coming from the Federal Transportation Improvement Plan, Alameda County's Measure B, the Park District's Measure WW and the cities. It will provide a link to the Pleasanton BART station, shopping areas, parks, the Alameda County Fairgrounds, office parks, civic centers and downtowns.
"This provides access to Pleasanton without leaving the trail," said Faye Guarienti, who bicycles about 20-25 miles per ride. "Now I have to go over the freeway or down to the Dublin BART station. None of those things are very satisfactory, you're dealing with a lot of traffic going in and out."
The city of Dublin will oversee the project.