Safer Path Could Help Untangle the “Alemany Maze” Highway Interchange

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch
Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

The “Alemany Maze,” the deadly Highway 101 and 280 interchange in the southeast city, could get a safer crossing for walking and biking. Funding to study a walking path and bike lanes through the junction was approved this week by the SF County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, comprised of the Board of Supervisors.

The Alemany Maze. Photo: Chuck B. / my back 40 (feet)

The study, set to be completed by next June, will look at creating a “multi-modal pathway” where residents already cross the “nasty mess of ramps” to reach the Alemany Farmers Market, SFCTA planner Colin Dentel-Post told an SFCTA board committee this week.

“People currently use an informal pathway and dangerous, unsignalized crossings through the interchange,” he said. The maze “creates a barrier between the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Bernal, Portola, Bayview, and Silver Terrace neighborhoods.”

The $100,000 approved for the study was requested by D9 Supervisor David Campos. Campos was apparently swayed by the Portola Neighborhood Association to push for a safer crossing, according to a recent post by Chris Waddling at D10 Watch.

Waddling, chair of the SFCTA Citizens Advisory Committee representing District 10, lauded the advancement of the project:

The inability to walk directly and safely from the Portola to the Alemany Farmers Market has been a vexing problem since the freeway was built in the “car is king” era. Today, as evidenced by the hundreds of pedestrian trips across the median and Alemany itself during breaks in traffic, it’s obvious that people want a pedestrian alternative to driving to the market.

The study will also look at extending the bike lanes on Alemany Boulevard through the interchange to connect to the buffered bike lanes on Bayshore Boulevard installed last year.

A death defying walk to the farmers market. Photo: Chris Waddling
  • shotwellian

    Connecting the Alemany and Bayshore bike lanes would be great. The buffered bike lanes on Alemany are quite nice, but I hardly ever see anyone else riding them since they dump you into this mess here.

    In the long term, the planned studies of removing part of 280 should look, at least as an option, at removing 280 all the way back to 101, which would drastically simplify the Alemany interchange.

  • hp2ena

    What about those coming from/going to San Bruno?

  • Chris W

    During the Mayor’s budget outreach to communities earlier this year, PNA (of which I am also chair) corridor manager Jack Tse and I presented three proposals to be added into the city budget. Two of them were added, leaving the last one, $100K to top-up the Alemany study, to the add-back process (where supervisors all negotiate over a pool of ‘extra’ money). Supervisor Campos felt so strongly about this project that he got the extra $100K to expand the study beyond pedestrian access and to look more fully at bike access as well. Now with $200K for the study, the PNA is really looking forward to working with other community partners in Bernal Heights, Glen Park, and with all the stakeholder agencies to see what we can come up with.

  • shotwellian

    Yes, I meant my suggestion to be in addition to, not in place of, the proposed path between Alemany and San Bruno. Together, those two improvements would go a long way to making the area navigable for people walking and biking.

  • jonobate

    The aerial photo in this article neatly illustrates why I-280 should be removed all the way back to the interchange with US-101. If that was done, ALL of the aerial structures in that photo could be removed.

    The part of the double-deck structure that splits off to the left of the picture goes to the I-280 east of the interchange, which would no longer exist. The part that splits off to the right goes to I-280 west of the interchange, which is a movement that very few cars perform, so it could also be removed. Cars wishing to make that movement would connect between the two freeways using Alemany Blvd, which would not be much slower than using the direct ramp.

    The aerial structure at the bottom of the picture is the main carriageway of I-280 through the interchange, which would also be removed. Traffic between I-280 and downtown would instead be routed onto the aerial ramps connecting I-280 west of the interchange to US-101 north of the interchange (not shown in the picture), which would remain in place. These ramps are located above the Alemany interchange and don’t affect residences and businesses in the way that the other ramps do.

  • Boo

    YES!! We need a wider sidewalk/better lighting on eastbound Alemany under the freeway as well. Could be a combined foot/bike path.

  • p_chazz

    “Drivers wishing to make that movement would connect between the two freeways using Alemany Blvd.”

    Please explain how removing flyover ramps and putting more cars onto Alemany Boulevard will make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • jonobate

    Lack of sidewalks, crosswalks, and dedicated cycling infrastructure are the primary reasons why Alemany Blvd is not currently safe for cyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, the high speed of vehicles is a significant factor. All of these issues can and should be fixed by adding bike/ped facilities and traffic calming, regardless of whether the freeway is removed.

    None of those issues are related of the volume of traffic using the road, which is pretty low and could handle the additional cars added by removing the freeway ramps. If anything, adding more cars to the road will slow the speed of the traffic. As the distance between vehicles decreases, drivers will slow down to maintain a safe stopping distance.

  • p_chazz

    I agree with the improvements that you list in your first paragraph; however, it seems that if vehicular traffic on an arterial street is increased so too is the likelihood of a collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist.

  • jonobate

    While I don’t have any hard numbers on this, it seems to me that increasing traffic on a road that does not have sufficient bike/ped accommodations would indeed result in a moderate increase collisions, simply by the fact that there are more potential conflicts; but adding bike/ped infrastructure to a road has a much stronger effect of decreasing collisions.

    Personally, I feel far safer cycling in a protected bike lane on a busy arterial, where there is very little chance of a car entering my space, than on a city street with sharrows – even though the former has much greater vehicle volumes than the latter. If the protected bike lanes on Alemany Blvd were upgraded to concrete barriers, and extended the entire length of the road and through the interchange with Bayshore, I wouldn’t care how many vehicles were in the lanes next to me.


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