County Secures Money for M.B.-Cay. Bike Path

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 27, 2023

A bike lane will connect Morro Bay and Cayucos

Things are looking up early in 2023 for a long-sought-after, safe, bike lane connecting Morro Bay and Cayucos, as the State recently awarded a big grant to pay for it.

The so-called, “Cayucos-Morro Bay Connector,” would build a multi-use pathway on the west side of Hwy 1 from North Point Natural Area in Morro Bay to Studio Drive at the southern end of Cayucos.

On Dec. 15, the California Transportation Commission “approved a $7.4 million grant that will fund construction of a multi-use trail segment connecting Morro Bay and Cayucos along the west side of Highway 1,” reads a news release from the County Public Works Department.

Final Portion of Longer Trail

The overall “project” includes bike paths that already exist and that will connect with the new connector.

“The new 1.25-mile pathway will result in a more than 10-mile bike route, 4-miles already existing in Cayucos and more than 5-miles in Morro Bay.”

The new pathway will be incorporated into the California Coast Trail, and “create a safe pedestrian and bicycle connection between these communities where today, the path requires walking and riding on Highway 1 next to high-speed traffic.”

The project will include added parking, signs and striping on existing bike routes, the news release said. The new path itself is slated to follow along the existing bluff top overlooking Dog Beach, and will need several “bridges” to span drainage swales, and runoff channels, with the largest being a 150-foot long bridge over Toro Creek.

Overall Route Laid Out

Looking at a map of the overall project’s route, the County starts the pathway at Morro Bay’s Cloisters Park, and follows the park’s existing bike and pedestrian trail to the Azure Dunes Beach Access.

From there the route turns onto Sandalwood Drive, and follows around to Beachcomber Drive.

At Yerba Buena Street the route turns right towards Hwy 1 and then left onto Toro Lane and up to North Point Natural Area, and onto the old Toro Lane.

That’s where the existing path meets up with the new one and head north on Studio Drive.

The route follows Studio up to Old Creek Road, where it splits with one segment heading over to the east side of Hwy 1 (Ocean Boulevard) and the other running up Studio Drive to the 24th Street Beach. 

The Ocean Boulevard route connects with another bike path by the cemetery eventually leading into Downtown Cayucos.

Parking has been a sticking point with the project. The County’s project map denotes parking at Cloisters Park, North Point and at the southern end of Studio Drive. It also notes the parking at 24th Street Beach in the map.

The Studio Drive parking area referred to on the maps is the existing parking area, which would be restriped  “to better organize that area and create a couple more parking spaces” according to County Parks and Recreation Planner, Elizabeth Kavanaugh, who has been working on this project for some 10 years.

Giving Credit

County planner Kavanaugh was happy about the grant funding and credited the work of others. Kavanaugh said, “We owe thanks to San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG), the City of Morro Bay, and Caltrans for their continued support and guidance.”

One other agency, the Cayucos Sanitary District, should also get some credit. As part of its new wastewater treatment plant project on Toro Creek Road, the CSD purchased the Chevron Dog Beach property from Chevron so as to use one of the decommissioned, yet still existing, undersea oil loading lines for an ocean discharge pipe.

Once the necessary easements the CSD needed to finish its project were recorded, the rest of the property was deeded over to SLO County and the City of Morro Bay, which took jurisdiction over Chevron’s Dog Beach.

The City has vowed to have it remain the only SLO County beach where dogs are allowed off leash. The big difference is that now it’s in public ownership.

The CSD also deeded over a ranch property at Hwy 1 and Toro Creek Road to County Parks, as well as a portion of the former Marine Terminal, where the CSD has a lift station.

Currently, Caltrans is in the midst of replacing the northbound bridge over Toro Creek, one of two major bridge projects going on at the same time on the stretch of Hwy 1 through Cayucos. Caltrans is also replacing the northbound Hwy 1 bridge over Old Creek.

Politicos All Support It

Local politicians and bureaucrats are in full support of the connector project.

For Dist. 2 County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who just won a fifth term in office, it was a relief to finally have the project ready to move forward. “I’m beyond excited to see funding coming for their long-awaited project,” Gibson said in a news release. “The connector will provide a unique opportunity for residents and visitors alike to enjoy our incomparable coastline. This project has it all — a chance to enjoy nature with healthy outdoor exercise, an alternative to driving a busy highway and a world class coastal access that will boost our visitor-serving economy.

Dist. 3 Supervisor, Dawn Ortiz-Legg, who now represents Morro Bay (after redistricting), said, “The ability to increase trail connectivity in SLO County increases healthy lifestyle options as well as boosts tourism. We appreciate the California Transportation Commission working with SLO County on all transportation grants.”

County Director of Parks and Recreation, Nick Franco, said, “Morro Bay and Cayucos are both popular destinations for many outdoor activities and this project will provide a safe and scenic non-motorized way to travel on the expanded California Coastal Trail between these two wonderful coastal communities.” County Parks will oversee the new connector trail.

Pete Rodgers, the Executive Director at the Council of Governments, said, “This project closes a gap in the pedestrian and bicycling network by connecting the communities of Cayucos and Morro Bay,” said Pete Rodgers, Executive Director of SLOCOG. “We couldn’t be happier to see this longstanding regional priority move forward.”

SLOCOG is a countywide agency that accepts and distributes both state and federal transportation monies to the local cities, services districts and the County. 

What’s Next?

Kavanaugh told Estero Bay News that they hope the project would kick off some time in 2024 or early 2025, as there is still quite a bit of preliminary work to be done.

“The next step for this project,” she said, “is permitting and finishing the construction plans. We are working with a local engineering firm to complete the construction plans. We hope both these steps will be completed early next year.” Cannon Corp., in SLO is doing the design work, she said.

The big grant should cover the costs. “As it stands today,” Kavanaugh said, “the $7.4 million was the estimate to build this trail. I won’t know the exact figure it will cost to build until permitting and construction drawings are completed. Often times the permitting process changes a project and/or adds costs to a project. In addition, we are hopeful inflation will smooth out in the next year or so, which will help keep the cost of construction down.”

As for the bridge over Toro Creek, she said, “An approximately 150-foot long, free span bridge is proposed across Toro Creek on the ocean side of Highway 1. And there are four to six smaller bridges or culverts over the site’s drainage paths that receive Highway 1’s storm water runoff. We are still working on these details.”

Support Has Been High

In polls on the project, the County reported that some 85% of respondents supported the project, which along with the new highway bridge over Toro Creek will make biking from Morro Bay to Cayucos much safer.

Serious cyclists who will likely continue to ride on the highway, will have more room on the new highway bridge and for more casual riders, riding above the beach is likely to be very popular.

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