The 3.8-mile Mill Valley-Sausalito Multiuse Path, stretching from Mike’s Bikes in Sausalito north to East Blithedale Ave. in Mill Valley with views of Bothin Marsh Preserve and Richardson Bay in between, was built 35 years ago. Since its debut in 1981, it has become one of the most popular paths in the entire Bay Area, with more than a half-million people using it between March and November each year, according to the annual WalkBikeMarin Path Counts.

Despite its age and heavy use, the path hasn’t been repaved since its inception, save for a few minor touch-ups. After several years of delays, that’s changing starting June 19, as the County of Marin has federal grant money in hand and plans to lay a fresh coat of smooth asphalt and make accessibility improvements on almost a mile of the pathway. The path will receive approximately $565,000 of improvements in a coordinated effort between Marin County Parks and Marin County Department of Public Works, county officials said this week. The work will address approximately 1.6 miles – a bit less than half – of the path.

The project breaks down into two phases. The first phases focuses on the less-used, 0.7-mile section of the path between East Blithedale Avenue and Vasco Court near Edna Maguire Elementary School. That construction begins June 19 and is expected to finish by mid-July. Work crews will widen the path to meet statewide bicycle standards, making it 10 feet wide with two-foot shoulders on each side to increase pedestrian and cyclist safety. The project has a price tag of $224,775 and is funded through a State Transportation Development Act grant and Parks Measure A funding.

To accommodate the construction, county officials are closing that section of the path to all traffic starting June 19. The closure is being timed in conjunction with a pump station replacement project by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin, located near the path at Lomita Drive and Ashford Avenue. DPW, Parks, SASM and the City of Mill Valley have been coordinating for months to minimize detour impacts. Signage will be displayed along the path to define the detour and guide the public.

The second phase will address the heavily used, approximately 4,900-foot (0.9-mile) stretch from East Blithedale Avenue to Almonte Boulevard. Though this stretch meets state standards, the pavement and shoulders are in need of repair. County officials said the “rehabilitation of the pathway will improve several sections of rough, uneven and damaged paving, thereby increasing the overall user experience of scenic path.”

The estimated cost of the Phase 2 rehabilitation work is $340,000, which is funded by a Federal Priority Conservation Area grant and matching Measure A funds. The work is anticipated to start in early September and finish in November. A September start date is the earliest that construction can begin to ensure that it does not impact the nesting season of the Ridgway’s Rail. The endangered bird was formerly abundant throughout San Francisco Bay and coastal estuaries, but is now restricted mainly to isolated marsh fragments in the urbanized San Francisco Bay Area.

County officials said the environmental preservation of Bothin Marsh, which is home to a vital and biologically diverse ecosystem ranging from rare plants to peregrine falcons, has played a crucial role in the project’s planning. DPW and Parks have been working closely with specialists to take every possible precaution to ensure that the marshland and wildlife are not impacted by the project. Building on this process, Parks soon will initiate work with the community to develop a plan for Bothin Marsh that will address sections of the path and marsh south of the current paving project. This vision would work to safeguard both the wildlife habitat and pathway and enable them to adapt to expected sea-level rise in the region.

“We all look forward to the long-awaited repaving of these two segments of the Mill Valley-Sausalito Multiuse Pathway, our county’s most heavily visited park facility,” said Marin County District 3 Supervisor Kate Sears. “All users – students, older adults from the Redwoods, cyclists, dog walkers and people out for a scenic stroll – will note changes, especially in heavily trafficked areas, that will help everyone enjoy the path safely.”

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