Oakland Launches Summer Paving Initiative

Department of Transportation, Funds in Hand, Tackles City's Most Cracked Up Streets

Ryan Russo, head of Oakland DOT, consults with a crew steam-rolling new asphalt on 16th Street in Fruitvale. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated
Ryan Russo, head of Oakland DOT, consults with a crew steam-rolling new asphalt on 16th Street in Fruitvale. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated

This summer, Oakland is hoping to repave 25 miles of city streets, compared to an average of six miles per year over the last few cycles. “Last time this was repaved was before I was born,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at a press event Thursday morning, on the corner of 16th Street and 37th Avenue, to announce the initiative.

Mayor Libby Schaaf at the "summer of Paving" presser
Mayor Libby Schaaf at the “summer of Paving” presser

Ryan Russo, head of Oakland DOT, said the city is increasing paving efforts now that tax revenue has enabled them to purchase new equipment and hire some 20 more workers. “This $200 spreader box we bought replaced a 20-year-old piece of equipment that would frequently break down,” he said, pointing to a machine spreading fresh, smooth asphalt on 16th.

The plan, he explained, is to take advantage of the summer months and work 12-hour days, getting as much new asphalt down as possible during the dryest part of the year.

He added that Oakland suffers from an over $400 million backlog of road work and that the bad pavement damages automobiles (and bikes).

The work would not be possible without Measure KK, Oakland’s infrastructure bond, and SB1, last year’s gas tax increase, they explained. But SB1 is now in danger. “Republicans put an initiative on the ballot to repeal this gas tax adjustment, so things are at stake for infrastructure in this upcoming election,” said Russo.


“If SB1 is repealed, this kind of work will not happen,” added Schaaf. Oakland is currently receiving about $7 million a year from SB1. The Oakland City Council also approved $25 million in Measure KK spending in the 2017-2019 budget for street repairs.

A dump truck loads asphalt into the new spreader
A dump truck loads asphalt into the new spreader

Meanwhile, another Oakland DOT official told Streetsblog that the city will be painting high-visibility crosswalks and improving and repairing curb ramps.

That said, not everyone in the neighborhood was thrilled with the city’s plan. Robert Grove, a neighbor who lives just off 16th, complained about the state of adjoining sidewalks. Russo said there is also money in KK for sidewalk repair and that would be done separately. “Sidewalk repair is an ongoing effort and we’re encouraging Oaklanders to continue reporting damaged sidewalks to the City via OAK 311,” wrote Sean Maher, the department’s spokesman, in a follow-up email.

Not all Oaklanders wee happy with the repaving, including this fella who was not at all pleased with the noise and commotion
Not all Oaklanders were happy with the repaving. In addition to Grove, this fella apparently objected to the noise and commotion
  • LazyReader

    I love the look and driving feel of fresh pave…..hate the smell.

  • Prinzrob

    Per the “most cracked up streets” line at the top, it’s worth noting that some of the current paving work in Oakland does indeed tackle stretches of failed pavement at extreme cost, but a lot of it is also preventative maintenance to keep other streets from failing, which is a smart paving strategy. Setting up the expectation that only the worst streets are getting attention will leave folks confused as to why some better condition streets are also being resurfaced.

    Also, it’s great that Oakland is being more proactive about sidewalk repairs, but it is actually the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk in a front of their property here (unless the damage is due to a city street tree). Lots of people can’t afford this maintenance so it is good for the city to pay for it when possible, but if folks don’t think this is happening fast enough then they should talk to their neighbors about it first.



Talking With Matt Nichols, Oakland’s New Transportation Policy Director

Matt Nichols is Oakland’s newly hired policy director for infrastructure and transportation. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf created the position to shepherd her proposed reorganization of transportation planning, design, engineering, and construction into one department, and to oversee the creation of a cohesive transportation policy. Nichols has been in his new job for about two months, and he’s […]