San Benito officials gathered at Anzar High School Friday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated the completion of the San Juan Bike Path.
“There is a special connection between the city of San Juan and the high school,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho, as he started off a panel of five speakers. “I hope the students will take advantage of it.”
Botelho said the idea for the bike lane first came about when the high school was built between Aromas and San Juan.
“People thought it was a good idea to have an option beside cars,” he said, commending Richard Place and Larry Cain for getting movement started on the project. “The lane also connects to the De Anza Trail and hopefully it will connect to the river trail in the future.”
The project was first conceived in 1996, according to Veronica Lezama a transportation planner for the Council of San Benito County Governments. It was included in the county’s bicycle and pedestrian master plan that was updated a few years back. The environmental work on the project was completed in 2004, with design completed in 2008. Construction started in 2011, when funding for the project came in.
Andy Moore, the vice mayor of San Juan, said he had seen families out enjoying the bike path as well as employees of nearby Earthbound Farms.
“It’s a positive situation for the whole family,” he said.
One of the agencies to help fund the project was the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District. Richard Stedman, who is on the board for the district, said anything that is built that takes cars off the road is a benefit to air quality. But he noted also that the opportunity to ride bikes or walk has a benefit to public health. He said the MBUAPCD collects money from each vehicle registration that comes back to the jurisdictions so the counties can use it for projects such as the bike path.
Other funding for the project came from the bicycle transportation account, from the state’s Department of Transportation. In 2008, the county received the second-highest grant in the state with a $705,000 award. They also received funding from a Safe Routes to School grant, regional and local sources.
“We were really happy to know we prepared a strong grant application,” Lezama said.
Willard McCabe, the superintendent of the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District, said the bike pathway would help promote healthy lifestyles for students and residents as well as increase safety for those riding bike to campus.
“It is very difficult to navigate between those driving,” he said of the rural two-lane road that connects the city of San Juan to the high school. “It’s a real positive thing that these agencies came together.”