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The Neglected Entry to Benicia

Is it time to rethink where the downtown Park-and-Ride station belongs?

Here's an idea. Let's use the proposed downtown intermodal station, often referred to as the "Park and Ride," to achieve some downtown beautification, too. 

Here are the basics. East Fifth Street is the gateway to the marina, the Arsenal and the port, not to mention three gas stations and a new hotel just off the freeway. Who gets off the freeway at East Fifth Street? Tourists headed to the marina or the Arsenal.  Travelers and business people looking to fill their gas tanks or find a place to sleep.

What's their first impression of Benicia?  They've been driving for a few hours and pull off at the first "food and gas next right" sign. They make their way to the gas station and while filling the tank take stock of their surroundings. If they get off the freeway at East Fifth Street, they see un-landscaped freeway frontage, a building for rent with weeds and a falling-down fence and a business with a battered temporary sign suspended from the roof. Is this really the first impression we want for our visitors?

We've all been to places like that. They aren't inviting. They fail to intrigue us. They don't make us want to stay. For cities, first impressions, these gateways to our communities are important. Community gateways make a statement about what the community has to offer.

A beautifully landscaped intermodal station with ample parking offers a lot.  For Benicia it offers a perfect site for an intermodal station.  A place where residents can catch a bus and ride nonstop to BART.  Travelers, whether vacationing  or on business, could have easy access to BART to reach destinations outside Benicia while enjoying the many benefits of having their hotel room in Benicia.

Benicia is taking a two-pronged approach to ensuring a visitor's first impression is a positive one. In April, the Planning Commission approved "Principals for Gateway Priorities, Components and Process." The city also has been developing plans for the "Benicia Intermodal Facilities (Park and Ride)" that incorporates elements of transportation and community-gateway design.

The Planning Commission's efforts concentrated on gateways as identified in the Benicia General Plan: those along I-780 and 680 such as Lake Herman, Rose Drive, the I-680 and 780 interchange, and the approach to the marina and port. The Park and Rides have focused on the internal gateways of City Park , Military West and Southhampton Road.

With the city facing a budget deficit and a probable decrease in commercial property tax revenue, there is no money to implement the Planning Commission proposal.  The good news is an intermodal station qualifies for $3 million in "Regional Measure 2" money. That's money from bridge tolls. The money can be used to design and build the Benicia intermodal station. Benicians would get a gateway they'd be proud of and visitors would get that first impression that makes them want to come back.

Liz Edwards September 18, 2010 at 10:02 PM
Belinda is absolutely correct. We live off the East 5th exit and I can't stand driving by that dump. Can someone please buy that place and knock it down? I still think "Sundowner" every time I drive by. We did appreciate the brief Mexican restaurant attempt but it didn't last long. It's a terrible first impression. My in-laws from the East Coast think we live in a "ghetto" area of Benicia.
Robert Livesay February 14, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I do think your idea has some merit.. The big issue is can that 3mil be spent there or is it targeted for the park and ride area as you say. I have the feeling that folks do not use Benicia as a destination. When that happens I do believe what you are sayiing has a lot of merit. We must get that status first, we do not have it now. So I like Trader Joes or In-and-Out burger. Nice tax dollars to now look at other needs to make Benicia a destination. What say you. I do not totally disagree with your thoughts. Just a different approach.

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