Oakland/Western Alameda Project-a-Palooza

Advocates convene to review, discuss, and update some of Oakland and Alameda's most exciting projects and proposals

The rendering of the proposed A's gondola.
The rendering of the proposed A's gondola.

Western Alamedans and Oaklanders who walk and bike have long dreamed of a way to get across the Oakland estuary without driving and/or backtracking via the noxious hellscape of the Posey tube.

Yesterday evening, representatives from four seemingly disparate projects assembled at a co-working space in downtown Oakland to meet with advocates to catch up and look for synergies that might help that dream be realized, along with better bike lanes and safer streets in both cities. “There’s a number of projects all coming together,” said Chris Hwang of Walk Bike Oakland, which hosted the meeting. “I love the estuary crossing–that could be a game changer.”

So what projects are in the works? At the meeting, there were representatives from the following:

  • Oakland A’s, to talk about the proposed stadium at the Howard Terminal in Jack London Square
  • The City of Oakland, with plans for downtown and an updated bike plan
  • The City of Alameda, to discuss water taxis, a draw bridge, and other proposals to bridge the gap between Western Alameda and Oakland
  • And lastly, the Alameda Access Project, which would remove the Broadway off-ramp of I-880 as it currently cuts through Chinatown (it would also aim to increase automobile throughput to Alameda)
Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell welcomes everyone to last night's
Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell welcomes everyone to last night’s update on everything Oakland and Western Alameda. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Drilling down a bit, Manuel Corona was there with the City of Oakland to talk about planned improvements to 14th Street. Corona explained that the project will have curb-protected bike lanes and protected intersections. There will also be bulb-outs to shorten crossing distances, he explained, and storm drain rain gardens. Construction should begin in 2020.

A rendering of what 14th Street will look like in the future. Image: OakDOT
A rendering of what 14th Street will look like in the future. Image: OakDOT

A representative from the A’s (who handed out coupons for game tickets) showed preliminary designs for the proposed Howard Terminal ballpark. It includes protected bike lanes for navigation around the park and would extend the Bay Trail along the estuary through the site. It could also, as previously reported, include a gondola to connect the stadium to 12th Street BART in downtown Oakland (as seen in the lead image).

A rendering of the proposed ballpark at Jack London Square. Image: Oakland A's
A rendering of the proposed ballpark at Jack London Square. Image: Oakland A’s

Rochelle Wheeler, Senior Transportation Coordinator for the City of Alameda, has hopes that as part of the overall scheme to better connect Western Alameda and Oakland, that gondola can continue across the estuary and touch down at perhaps two locations in Alameda. That way it could feed sports fans to the ballpark on game days, but also serve as an important transportation link.

She said that would be a game-changer for Western Alamedans connecting to BART. She also said the city is talking with Tideline, which operates small ferry boats, about establishing a water taxi service between Jack London Square and Western Alameda. And, of course, the ultimate hope is to establish a pedestrian-and-bike-only lift bridge–and she presented this now-well-known rendering to the audience:

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

There were also consultants presenting on the aforementioned Alameda Access Project, which–as previously reported–would remove the Broadway off ramp from I-880. Unfortunately, the $83 million project also includes road widening and is mostly car-focused.

Many at the meeting hoped some of the funds from that project would help jump-start plans for the bridge and other cross-estuary options for people walking and cycling. “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,” said Walk Bike Alameda’s Brian McGuire of that project in a previous post.

All in all, the advocates and presenters seemed excited about the potential for these projects, taken together, to transform Oakland and Alameda into more bike-friendly, walk-friendly places.

  • SaveOurCityAlameda

    The farce of a lift bridge or drawbridge over the estuary, west of Coast Guard Island, simply refuses to die.

    This has been studied and killed over and over again.

    Maritime commerce via the Port of Oakland will override any desire for a bridge there.

    Likewise, the Coast Guard has already weighed-in that they will not tolerate their cutters being locked in at Coast Guard Island behind a lift or draw bridge.

    City of Alameda Planning Manager Andrew Thomas is on record declaring there will never be another bridge.

    It’s just not going to happen.

    Alameda City Leaders, if they were true leaders, would be lobbying for the billions required to build another under-estuary tube on the West End.

    Of course, it makes for good click-bait.

  • p_chazz

    The Navy also opposed the building of the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges.

  • David

    “There were also consultants presenting on the aforementioned Alameda Access Project, which–as previously reported–would remove the Broadway off ramp from I-880. Unfortunately, the $83 million project also includes road widening and is mostly car-focused.”

    I took a look at the plans posted on the ACTC website, and this looks like a huge win for people who walk and bike, not just people who drive. As we’ve already established, anything beyond using the existing tubes would be part of a separate project, such as the gondola and/or drawbridge. Remember, Streetsblog: Perfect is the enemy of good. I bet you guys are never happy about anything.

  • I prefer “the harrowing Posey tube.”

  • crazyvag

    The current tubes are 70 feet deep and with a diameter of about 37 feet, gives clearance to ships that draft at most around 30 feet. Many container ships today require dredging to 45 feet, so in order not to begin a slow death of our port, the top of tunnel would to be around 50 feet below water level. Current tubes give us 2 lanes of traffic, so despite the 37 fit diameter, we get effective width of about 25 feet. We could probably reduce diameter by about 12 feet for pedestrians, and get diameter of about 25 feet. 25 feet + 45 feet = 70 feet. That means that our tunnel needs to descent about 70 feet.

    Using ADA requirements, we’ll need about 1000 feet to descend and 1000 feet to ascend that distance. Add 1000 feet of crossing and you’re talking about a 3000 foot tunnel under 70 feet of water for a 1000 foot crossing.

    Costs aside as a pedestrian, I’m not terribly thrilled about 2000 foot detour to cross the water. Sure, you could add stairs, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen stairs added – not sure if due to code or what.

    Plus, there’s the security aspect. Many people might be afraid to walk through a 1/2 mile long tunnel at night.

  • Alexander Craghead

    A pedestrian bridge at the location shown in the illustration would have zero impact on port operations. If the A’s build a stadium at Howard Terminal, the nearest point where large ocean-going ships (other than the USCG cutters) would travel to is the Schnitzer docks, 2/3rds of a mile to the west. A bridge at Washington Street will not “begin the slow death of our port,” it would continue the Jack London Square development pattern which, by the way, was masterminded and promoted by, of all people, the major landlord in JLS: the Port of Oakland.

    The USCG opposition is, however, germaine. It’s not clear if the USCG can access the bay by going through the Alameda canal (I don’t know its depth) but even if it could, there are several lift spans. The Legend-class cutters at Coast Guard Island are reportedly 140 feet high, making a fixed span bridge at Washington Street a difficult proposition. (As someone else pointed out, however, the Navy did not want either of the big bridges of the 1930s, and lost that argument.) Moving the USCG off the island would be a better approach, but likely too expensive to contemplate.

    If any scorn should be heaped anywhere, it’s on the gondola plan. There is no earthly way any gondola scheme could have sufficient capacity to meaningfully carry people from BART to a game at Howard Terminal. At best the gondola scheme is symbolic.

  • Roger R.

    If we’re ever going to achieve Vision Zero and reduce GHG emissions, we need to distinguish between something that’s focused on making a place more walkable and bikeable, and something that’s about moving cars but throws a few sops to the safe-streets community. I know the web page looks okay, but you gotta dig deeper. There’s all sorts of stuff that’s antithetical to the safe and livable streets movement. For example, they’re going to eliminate a crosswalk and a sidewalk on one side of Jackson to avoid slowing down cars coming from Alameda. They’re also going to widen the Oak Street offramp to increase auto throughput (and speeds). Yes, they’re also going to include some disjointed bike lanes as an afterthought without protected intersections, in most cases to keep bikes out of the way of the cars. To me, one design element that is absolutely criminal: striped, unprotected door-zone bike lanes on the off ramp/boulevard/frontage road that would replace the Broadway offramp. I was at the Alameda CTC meeting where the designers on the project tried to claim they need to preserve the parking on 6th and therefor can’t provide a protected bike lane. Someone from the City of Oakland pointed out that there’s no parking there now, because there’s no street for much of the stretch because of the off ramp, so why would they need to “preserve” parking that doesn’t currently exist? The consultant had no answer. For $83 million, they could be doing a fantastic project to make the area walkable and bikeable (and more accessible, which is the name and charge of their project after all). Instead, some parts of Oakland will be better, and others will be worse. But mostly they’ll be piping more cars to the car-centric developments in Western Alameda, and it’s all right out of the 1950s handbook.

  • Where was this meeting announced? Who organized it? I’d love to attend similar meetings in the future.

  • David

    The widening of the Oak Street off-ramp isn’t to increase auto throughput and speeds. It is because the Broadway off-ramp will be closing, resulting in the need for additional queuing space at the remaining off-ramp. It is incredibly unsafe to have off-ramp traffic back up onto a freeway mainline, and if we want to achieve Vision Zero, this improvement is 100% required.

  • SaveOurCityAlameda

    And… so what? Those have completely different geographies and geometries. The estuary is too narrow, and the landing pads on either side of the water are too crowded to have any kind of run-up to a bridge high enough for clearance for USCG cutters. Do you really imagine that a pedestrian bridge that requires people to walk up a 10 to 15 story circular ramp (to support wheelchairs) is going to be used?

    The most sensible thing to do, or to have done, is to move Coast Guard Island from deep in the estuary to the deep water piers at Alameda Point. However, again, our so-called leaders, lacking any vision whatsoever, take no action to start this discussion.

  • p_chazz

    I point this out to show that just because the Navy opposes a project shouldn’t be considered a death knell. Navy objections in the past have been overcome. No reason why they can’t be now. As for the pedestrian bridge, I think that elevators would work. Similar to the bridge over the UP tracks at Oakland-Jack London Square, but on a larger scale.

    I agree that it would be a good idea to move the Coast Guard base from Government Island to Alameda Point; but that would be very costly.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/71d3ea07063284986078161e553cbb21fd71731b804a3bca1c8824d4961f9897.jpg .

  • Roger R.

    “It is incredibly unsafe to have off-ramp traffic back up onto a freeway mainline, and if we want to achieve Vision Zero, this improvement is 100% required.” Only if you consider preventing fender benders on a freeway more important than preventing cars from slamming into pedestrians and cyclists as they get off the freeway. I don’t know what freeways you drive on, but I see off ramps backing onto the mainline pretty much every time I get on one. You’re applying the same circular logic about widening that has been ruining cities since the 1950s.

  • David

    Cool story, bro. I see you value some lives more than others. Disappointed but not surprised by your refusal to understand basic traffic safety when it doesn’t involve someone on foot or bike.

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The entrance to the Posey Tube. Cars transitioning from the tube to I-880 turn Oakland's Chinatown into a traffic sewer. Image: Alameda County Transportation Commission

Oakland Alameda Access Project Kicks Off With a Car-First Focus

Thanks to I-880 and its complex of on and offramps, walking or bike riding through Oakland’s Chinatown, downtown, or on routes to Jack London Square and the estuary, can be pretty awful. That’s why a series of projects, some official, some grass-roots, including Walk this Way and Connect Oakland, are trying to fix some of the damage […]