by Barry Eberlin, Napa Valley Register

Construction crews along Soscol Avenue have begun closing a third-of-a-mile gap in the 12-mile Napa Valley Vine Trail segment from the southern city of Napa to Yountville.

The popular biking-and-walking trail doesn’t exist between Third Street and Vallejo Street near downtown Napa. For out-of-towners renting bikes — and locals who are Vine Trail newcomers — that means finding their way between the two segments.

Dan Vansciver and a small group from Delaware gave it try on a recent day. The directions they received from the bike rental store helped them maneuver the gap. “We used an app to help us, too,” Vansciver said as the group reentered the Vine Trail at Vallejo Street on the way to Yountville.

They detoured through the Oxbow area to bridge the gap. But that still meant they had to go on busy Soscol Avenue for a short distance.  “We were in the turn lane up here, which was pretty scary,” Vansciver said. If they come back in 2022, things should be different.

The city of Napa is widening the sidewalk on the west side of Soscol Avenue to become the Vine Trail. The northernmost part will veer away from Soscol Avenue along the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks behind a mattress store to reach Vallejo Street. “It’s a direct connection and it makes it an easier way to get around,” said Philip Sales, executive director of the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition.

There are Vine Trail signs to help people find their way between the Vine Trail entrances/exits at Third Street and Vallejo Street. But unfortunately, people don't always see them, he said.

For a preview of what’s to come, people can look along Soscol Avenue near the Borreo Building that houses Stone Brewing at Third street. The owners renovating the building in 2018 also created a widened travel path nearby.

Work to fill the Vine Trail gap is being done by the contractor for $728,488, said city Senior Civil Engineer Rosalba Ramirez. The new Vine Trail section should be completed closer to the start of next year.

At one point along Soscol Avenue, the Vine Trail will cross the railroad tracks for the Napa Valley Wine Train. The California Public Utilities Commission is requiring the installation of flashing light warning signals at the crossing, a city report said.

The Vine Trail is envisioned to someday run from the Vallejo ferry terminal to Calistoga, a distance of about 47 miles. About 15 miles are completed, most in the Napa/Younville area.

More projects are on the way besides the Soscol gap closure.

The $10 million, 8.2-mile section between St. Helena and Calistoga will be a major addition. Sales said a construction contract could be awarded this fall.

Another planned piece is a 4.2-mile, $7 million section from the Vallejo ferry to American Canyon that will also to be a link in the San Francisco Bay Trail. Sales said the project is anticipated to go out to bid for construction early next year.