Major Transportation Updates

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Greetings and Happy Spring to everyone, I hope this finds you well. This edition of my blog is dedicated to some major updates on a variety of transportation issues here in Emeryville, including a very important community meeting taking place this week. In this post I will cover:

  • San Pablo Corridor Community Meeting: Discussion of various redesign proposals
  • Caltrans Proposed MacArthur Maze Redesign Update
  • South Bayfront Bridge Project Update
  • Ashby Interchange Redesign Update
  • Air District Transportation Funds for Residents and Businesses
  • Ashby BART Housing Proposal

Let's get started:

SAN PABLO CORRIDOR PROJECT - COMMUNITY MEETING

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On Wednesday, April 24th, from 6:30-8:00pm at the ECCL (Building B), the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) will be doing a staff presentation and hosting a community fair to discuss the various proposed alternatives for redesigning San Pablo Avenue. This project is the first regional corridor project in Alameda County to get funding from Regional Measure 3 (RM-3) that voters approved in June 2018. The concepts being proposed include introducing new treatments to San Pablo Avenue such as Bus Rapid Transit and protected bike lanes. If you cannot attend the meeting you may still provide input on the early design concepts at the link below. As Emeryville's representative to ACTC, I will be present along with Oakland District 1 Council Member Dan Kalb to hear from residents and business. I hope to see you there.

 

CALTRANS PROPOSED MACARTHUR MAZE REDESIGN

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In early March 2019, many Emeryville residents, myself included, received a flyer in our mailboxes informing us about a public hearing taking place at the Caltrans offices in Oakland in late February. This notice proposed to do major construction on bridges within the MacArthur Maze. After reviewing their massive Draft Environmental Document, I was alarmed that Caltrans's analysis concluded that closing the Maze and displacing potentially hundreds of thousands of daily commuters had "no impacts" on the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. I immediately contacted Caltrans and the Alameda County Transportation Commission to request a meeting to discuss this proposal.

After several conversations, Caltrans offered to host a second public hearing in Emeryville on April 10th. At that meeting they presented this information to our community:

This proposal is very troubling for several reasons:

(1) Caltrans hasn't adequately articulated a reason why this project is necessary. At the public meeting they stated that there were no structural issues with the bridge. They said they want to increase the vertical clearance (height) between each bridge but they did not state that there were any problems with trucks passing through the Maze, nor did they say there were trucks being diverted away from San Francisco or Oakland because of low clearance heights.

(2) There are potentially major impacts to Emeryville residents and businesses that could result from some of the proposed design alternatives in this project. Traffic snarling on local streets, lower air quality resulting from the displacement of large diesel-polluting semi-trucks into sensitive areas (Emery Unified Schools, our Senior Center and Child Care Center, etc.), noise from nighttime construction and the rerouting of trucks overnight, impacts to our local businesses and economy, the accelerated degradation of local streets, and safety impacts for bicyclists and pedestrians are all potential hazards this project must address.

(3) Caltrans has been working on this project for almost two years and never contacted Alameda County, Oakland, Emeryville or any of the regional boards that oversee transportation or air quality standards about their work on this proposal.

Both prior to and after the public meeting on April 10th, I met with Caltrans District 4 Director Tony Tavares to convey Emeryville's very serious concerns with the current proposal. I am happy to report that Caltrans has announced they have put a hold on this project and are currently reevaluating their process for engagement with our city. This is an important first step to ensuring that our community input is properly included in this major development.

To that end, the community can continue to provide direct feedback to Caltrans about this proposed project by visiting this webpage. If you didn't make the community meeting, I highly recommend you let Caltrans know how this will impact you and your community. Your comments assist Emeryville in demanding accountability from the state.

Finally, I want every resident and business owner to know how amazing our staff is here in Emeryville. For the past six weeks I have been working closely with our staff to make sure that our voice is heard. This includes getting support from other local agencies like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Our staff recently submitted the city's official comment letter to Caltrans in response to the Maze proposal. As a former planning commissioner and as someone who regularly reviews environmental documents in my capacity as your city representative, I cannot quantify how much gratitude I have for our city staff who submit this incredible letter in defense of our community. I have met with Caltrans and demanded that their proposed “negative declaration” document, which claims there will be no environmental impacts to Emeryville be rescinded and that they start their review process anew. I will continue to work with city staff, the council, the county, and Caltrans to provide updates as they become available.

 

SOUTH BAYFRONT BRIDGE PROJECT UPDATE

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If you've only lived in Emeryville for a few years, you may not be familiar with the largest bike/pedestrian project the city has been trying to complete for almost a decade. The South Bayfront Bridge is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that will connect Bay Street/Ohlone Way across the Union Pacific Railroad to Horton and 53rd Streets (Click for location). After spending most of 2018 negotiating easement rights and construction conditions with the railroad, the Council was finally able to put the project out to bid in January 2019. I'm pleased to announce that we received multiple bids for the project and the council anticipates that we will vote to approve a contractor in the coming weeks. This means that construction of the project could most likely begin sometime this year. When completed,  it will directly connect neighborhoods along the 45th and 53rd Street bike corridors such as the Triangle and Park Avenue District with Shellmound Street and the Bay Trail without the need for cyclists to use 40th or Powell Streets. Additionally, this provides a new east-west connection between the ECCL/School and the Bay Trail.

 

ASHBY INTERCHANGE REDESIGN PROJECT

The State and the County have been planning to demolish and redesign the Ashby Interchange for more than a decade. Although currently about $52 million short of the necessary funding to deliver this project, the passage of SB 1 in 2018 by the State Legislature makes it more likely that funding will be available for the Ashby Interchange Project to move through the next phase of review and potentially begin construction within the next 3-5 years. The original proposed design involved this original planned layout:

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However, the design was brought to the Emeryville Transportation Committee in February for a new round of feedback and input. The design that heavily relied on a rotary system was being reviewed for better alternatives. Mayor Medina and I, as representatives to the committee, recommended a "tight diamond" design plan similar to the one seen here:

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The new interchange will come with another bicycle/pedestrian bridge that will cross I-80/I-580 and offer us the opportunity to have a park area with a vista on the west side of the freeway. This will be part of the project, connecting residents to the Bay Trail at the Ashby crossing. I will post more information in the coming months as it becomes available. The current timeline anticipates moving this project to the next phase in late 2019 or early 2020.

 

AIR DISTRICT FUNDS FOR RESIDENTS & BUSINESSES

As one of Alameda County's delegates to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, we're working to help reduce harmful air pollutants in our region through a variety of interventions and investments. Here are some programs for you to explore.

Residents:

Businesses:

 

ASHBY BART HOUSING PROPOSAL

Finally, there is an opportunity across the border in Berkeley at the Ashby BART station to turn a large surface parking lot into a meaningful opportunity for much-needed transit-oriented housing. If you would like to learn about the residents mobilizing for a more transit-accessible East Bay and their interest in the Ashby site, you can visit their website here.

 

I wish you all a great week and hope to see you on Wednesday evening at the ECCL.

Cheers,

John