Visualizing a Bridge to Western Alameda

An iconic opportunity to connect Western Alameda to Jack London, Oakland and BART

A concept for a lift bridge between western Alameda and Jack London Square. Image: City of Alameda
A concept for a lift bridge between western Alameda and Jack London Square. Image: City of Alameda

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For years now, advocates have fought for a reasonable crossing for pedestrians and cyclists (and now scooters!) between Western Alameda and Oakland. One of the most favored options is for a bike and ped bridge (sorry, no cars on this one). And now the City of Alameda has released a vision of what it would look like, as seen in the lead image.

Brian McGuire of Bike Walk Alameda first shared the image on social media–along with his unbridled support:

Excited to share this image that has been floating around City Hall for a bit. Preserving this most viable alignment through the next phase of the Alameda Landing project took some serious effort to preserve (thank you Alameda City Staff and Council for having some vision!). Alameda has spent some actual money the last two years to develop the concept and lay the groundwork for this project. I am hopeful that in 2019 the county will award the funds needed for the in-depth feasibility study.

The image appeared in a draft of the Transportation Choices Plan Annual Report 2018, dated Feb. 25, 2019.  According to a Transportation Commission doc, Gale Payne, Alameda’s Senior Transportation Coordinator, is pushing to have the city “Complete feasibility studies with Oakland for a bicycle and pedestrian crossing from West Alameda to Oakland’s Jack London Square” in the next two years.

As previously reported, the Oakland A’s are pushing for a new stadium complex at Howard Terminal, a ten-minute walk from where the bridge would touch down. That means by bicycle or scooter the stadium would only be about ten minutes from the housing developments going in all over Western Alameda. The A’s have already talked about building a gondola to the stadium (albeit from downtown Oakland) so they do seem willing to consider contributions to transportation to get the city on board with their plans. So, “yes, the A’s ballpark helps,” wrote Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell in an email to Streetsblog. The bridge, of course, would also give West Alameda residents access to BART and downtown Oakland.

The bridge’s initial designs are meant to comply with Coast Guard requirements that they be able to get their cutter into and out of the estuary. McGuire posted this short video of a similar bridge, via twitter, to illustrate how it would operate when a large ship needs to get past:

He added that the bridge would be high enough so that most pleasure craft could get under the bridge without the need to raise its deck, assuring that it’s not raised too often. As seen in the lead image, the bridge would not interfere with Oakland ferries, which dock just the west of the bridge’s proposed location.

The Alameda Access project, meanwhile, depicts people jogging in the hellscape that is the Posey tube.
The Alameda Access project, meanwhile, depicts people jogging in the hellscape that is the Posey tube.

Meanwhile, things are still evolving for the $83 million Oakland Alameda Access Project (OAAP), a plan that kicked off in 2017 to help improve car throughput through the existing Posey and Webster tubes under the same part of the estuary. It included some bike and ped “improvements,” such as opening up a second maintenance path for bikes, as illustrated in this cross-sectional diagram of the Posey tube (currently the path on the left is the only one that’s open, the proposal is to open the right side too).

However, bike and pedestrians advocates have met these “improvements” with something between scorn and reluctant I-guess-it’s-better-than-nothing support. For anyone not familiar with these pathways, they’re pretty hellish, given the intense noise and soot in the tunnel, not to mention that the pathways are so narrow it’s difficult to ride on them without bumping into the wall and railing (and it’s impossible to pass someone without stopping and squeezing past sideways; the depiction of someone jogging on the path is kind of laughable).

McGuire, in an email to Streetsblog, pointed out that the “OAAP plans are evolving. Alameda County is no longer really considering the additional Posey Tube path. They are sketching out plans for opening up the Webster Tube pathway which would pop out next to Alameda Landing.”

But he agrees adding an Alameda-bound bike facility to the Webster Tube pathway is still not an acceptable option for bike and ped connectivity. “We don’t support that, but are supportive of them figuring out just how much that would really cost. Say $10 million, which we would then demand be spent on cross estuary bike/ped access issues. It could fund water shuttle boats and operations, and/or be a down payment on the bridge.”

“The OAAP is expensive,” added Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz, “but there are some good elements like getting more freeway bound traffic off Chinatown streets, adding a bike/ped connection on Harrison under the freeway, and closing that gnarly off-ramp on Broadway.”

“This bridge design and the estuary water shuttle, which is also in planning stage, are building upon previous work,” wrote Bike Walk Alameda’s Lucy Gigli in a social media  post about the bridge. “We are not reinventing anything, just slowly making progress.”

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