Advocates Want Protected Bike Lanes to Mitigate Caltrans Ramp Construction

Construction detours will pipe traffic onto surface streets in West Oakland, Emeryville

The MacArthur Maze options. What will detours for this project do to bike safety on surface streets? Image: Caltrans
The MacArthur Maze options. What will detours for this project do to bike safety on surface streets? Image: Caltrans

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Tomorrow/Wednesday and Thursday the California Department of Transportation is holding outreach meetings in Emeryville and Oakland for its MacArthur Maze Vertical Clearance Project (exact times and locations are at the bottom of this post). The project will either raise, lower, replace, or rebuild ramps that connect I-580, 80, and 880 to allow over-sized trucks to avoid using surface streets in West Oakland.

Work could begin as early as 2022 and would take between one and three years, depending which alternative is chosen. During certain phases, all traffic will have to detour from the freeway onto Oakland and Emeryville surface streets.

From a Bike East Bay post about the $40-$191 million project:

Caltrans is rebuilding connector ramps in the MacArthur Maze to create more vertical clearance for freight truck traffic. Upcoming year-long ramp closures will add tens of thousands of cars to local streets, including San Pablo Avenue, Powell Street/Shellmound, W. Grand Avenue, 7th Street and more. The cities of Emeryville and Oakland are supportive of mitigating this heavy traffic impact and Bike East Bay is calling for immediate protected bike lanes on these already busy streets.

Dave Campbell, Bike East Bay’s Advocacy Director, told Streetsblog that he met with Caltrans officials on Monday. His main area of concern is, of course, what’s going to happen to cyclists and pedestrians on Oakland streets that are already high-injury corridors when all that additional traffic is dumped on them?

roads impacted by Maza Project
A rough idea of all the areas that could see additional traffic during construction. Image: Bike East Bay

“If it’s putting traffic on Grand, for example, I have concerns,” said Campbell. He added that traffic impacts will go beyond where Caltrans plans to post detours. “The reality is people use Waze, so other local streets will get more traffic.” Even though San Pablo Avenue is not on any of the Caltrans detour plans, for example, “Some will detour onto San Pablo, so we want San Pablo addressed.” He’s also concerned about traffic impacts on 27th.

As stated in its blog post, Bike East Bay wants to see protected bike lanes and intersections installed on the official and likely detour routes. The City of Oakland, meanwhile, already has some projects in the works–including a plan to add protected bike lanes on Grand. Campbell’s view is that if those are on the ground when Caltrans begins construction, great. If they’re not “then this project should put them on the ground.” SB1, the gas-tax adjustment which is helping to fund this work, has a ‘complete streets’ requirement, meaning potential impacts to bicycle travel must be mitigated, he added.

The four alternatives Caltrans is studying to make it easier to drive oversized trucks around the Bay Area. Image: Caltrans
The ramps Caltrans will have to raise or lower to make it easier to drive oversized trucks around the Bay Area. Image: Caltrans

Oakland Department of Transportation officials, meanwhile, were unavailable for comment. A source at the city said they are waiting for more information from Caltrans about exactly how many oversized trucks currently run on Oakland streets because of the clearance issue. The source also said the city is concerned about the project’s impact on air quality and safety.

A spokesperson for Caltrans, Chiconda Davis, said she didn’t know how many oversize trucks currently detour because of insufficient clearances on the ramps. But she said that “during construction, the Bay Trail underneath the maze will remain open 24-7,” referring to the trail that connects Oakland and Emeryville to the bike and pedestrian path on the Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge. One of the alternatives would require shifting the Bay Trail slightly, but if that one were chosen the new alignment would be built before the old one is closed, to assure the route remains open. Davis emphasized that most of the work will be done at night and over the weekend, so detours would not be needed at peak times. However, the City of Oakland source questioned that assertion, saying that they have yet to see documentation confirming that detours won’t take place during the day.

Bike East Bay is asking supporters to come to the outreach meetings and demand protected bike infrastructure on the detour routes. You can also leave comments online with Caltrans.

The choice between alternatives will be made in September.

Caltrans outreach meetings:

Emeryville
April 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (presentation 6 p.m.)
Emeryville Center of Community Life
1170 47th Street

Oakland
April 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (presentation 6 p.m.)
Caltrans Auditorium
111 Grand Avenue

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