Study Makes Compelling Case for Jack London Estuary Bridge

A chart from Bike Walk Alameda's study shows increases in cycling and presents a strong argument for a Jack London/Western Alameda draw bridge for cyclists and pedestrians. Image: Bike Walk Alameda
A chart from Bike Walk Alameda's study shows increases in cycling and presents a strong argument for a Jack London/Western Alameda draw bridge for cyclists and pedestrians. Image: Bike Walk Alameda

There’s been a nearly 70 percent increase in cyclists traveling the Park Street Bridge over the past ten years, according to a recently completed study conducted by the advocacy group Bike Walk Alameda. That fact is just one of many from the study that shows the increasing demand for improved bicycle infrastructure on Alameda Island–most notably for a bicycle and pedestrian estuary bridge connecting to Jack London Square. Currently, the only route for cyclists and pedestrians from western Alameda to Jack London Square and Oakland is the narrow, dangerous, and downright oppressive walkway in the Posey car tube. From the study:

Bike Walk Alameda recently conducted counts of bicyclists and pedestrians traveling between Alameda and Oakland at two separate locations. Having done the very same audit in the fall of 2006, these counts offer interesting insights into how biking and walking patterns have changed in these locations over the last ten years. The numbers underscore the original finding that the Tube is an impediment to potential bicycle and pedestrian trips, only more significantly than anticipated. They highlight the need for an alternative estuary crossing on Alameda’s West End. This would enable substantially more people to bike or walk, in turn reducing automobile traffic through the Posey and Webster Tubes and surrounding areas.

Streetsblog readers will recall that last November volunteers from Bike Walk Alameda took shifts sitting outside the mouth of the Posey Tube and the landing of the Park Street bridge, where they counted passing cyclists and pedestrians. Streetsblog also rode through the Posey tube, just to get an idea of how awful it is–the data collected by Bike Walk strongly reinforces the notion that the horrible environment of the Posey Tube is significantly constraining the number of people who would ride from Western Alameda to West Oakland and other nearby BART stations, or directly to jobs in downtown Oakland.

BART trains are audible from Western Alameda, but getting to them by bike without using the tube requires either riding miles away to the Park Street Bridge, which some people do, or loading the bike onto a bus. “The Posey Tube remains extremely unattractive to bicyclists and pedestrians, even with the recent upgrades completed by Caltrans in summer 2016,” concludes the study.

Meanwhile, new housing and retail developments are coming online in Western Alameda, but the only transportation planning seems to be more of the same: huge roads and “Level of Service” style intersections. An estuary bridge, which is roughly estimated to cost $60 million, would be a simple way to make BART accessible to Western Alameda, but somehow this obvious solution isn’t yet getting traction. As written in the study’s conclusions: “With nearly 2,000 housing units approved, completed or under construction in Alameda alone, much of it concentrated in Alameda’s West End, congestion through and around the Tubes will continue to grow in the very near future, as will pressure for a better alternative for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Unfortunately, push back from the Coast Guard–which has objected to past efforts to build a bridge across the estuary–and money issues have delayed the construction of a bridge for years. But these advocates will keep gathering data and making the case that its pennies on the dollar, when one considers the cost of increased car traffic and stranding cyclists and pedestrians a stone’s throw from BART and downtown Oakland.

  • gneiss
  • Greg Hensley

    This would be a great opportunity to explore a cable propelled ropeway (Gondola). Many urban area’s have been investigating and installing ropeways. They are failry reasonably priced compared to the costs of the bridge. Ideally this could connect Alameda to Jack London Square and continue on to 12th Street City Center BART. This would serve the Alameda, JLS communities, help provide access to shopping for Jack London Square and provide a great Bike/Ped access to Oakland and BART

  • Drew Levitt

    Not bad, but likely several times more expensive and less useful (due to the escalators at either end) and less attractive (open air vs. underground tunnel). Also, at this moment in history, I suspect that it might see use as improvised housing.

    Side note, apropos of tunnel/bridge cost: did you know that the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel was originally meant to be a Brooklyn-Battery Bridge? It would have landed right in Battery Park, which led to a great deal of community resistance. But what ultimately did it in was the military’s refusal to sign off on a bridge that might block the navigable waterways of New York Harbor. (Sound familiar?)

  • baklazhan

    I’d heard of a proposed gondola, but it was the West Oakland Bart station, not 12th St. Where would it go? It would have to go down the middle of Broadway to avoid tall buildings, and then where would you put the station?

    In any case, I suspect that a bridge is still a lot cheaper. Certainly in terms of running costs.

  • gb52

    interesting solution, but i’m worried it’ll be like the OAK airport connector or gondolas in NY… There’s a high cost to keep a system running. So as amazing as those systems could be, I still think a bike/ped bridge would be great. If you really, REALLY, need to add a roadbed to it, make it for transit, but i’m not sure if there is that much demand projected. A bike/ped bridge would solidify our ideals and our desire for human transit.

  • Charles Siegel

    I heard the proposal years ago for a gondola connecting the West Oakland BART station with Alameda, and I think it is a great idea.

    It would extend BART to Alameda at a far lower cost than a conventional BART line: cable gondolas are relatively inexpensive. It would allow for dense transit-oriented development around an Alameda BART station, with an easy commute to San Francisco.

    But it involves extending public transportation, a different issue from bicycle access.

  • Ben Delaney

    Are the cited stats from one day, many days, an average, or a total. The reporting here is insufficient to allow in informed decision. $60 million is still a lot of money — where will it come from. Will the developers of all this new housing and commercial development foot the bill?

    I agree with the article’s conclusions. Having (once!) ridden my bike through the tunnel, i would rather go a couple of miles out of my way to avoid that very unpleasant experience. But folks, when you cite a study, you need to be clear on how it was done so the readers can get the full picture.

  • Senor_Wences

    Gondolas have worked well in Portland and NYC. My fear with any gondola in Oakland is that the nizzles will simply take it over and mug anyone who needs to use it.

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