Six Million Dollars for a Fake Bike Path
Advocates were dismayed that the Alameda City Council voted Tuesday to tone down a letter condemning the Oakland Alameda Access Project’s (OAAP) lack of bike and pedestrian accommodations.
As Streetsblog reported, in October Alameda Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft wrote a strongly worded letter calling out the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) for designing an “access” project that doesn’t do anything to help Alameda’s cyclists and pedestrians get around safely. However, at Tuesday’s Alameda City Council meeting the city voted four to one to redraft that letter, giving support to the overall project.
Bike Walk Alameda co-founder Lucy Gigli was outraged at the decision:
I’m so embarrassed that our city council just voted to spend $6 million on a Webster Tube bike/ped path that will be just as unusable as the current Posey Tube path. $6 million in transportation funding! 😭
— l gigli (@LucyGigli) November 18, 2020
The OAAP is an $83 million car project that would, among other things, remove the Broadway off-ramp that bounds Chinatown to make room for a new connection directly from the Posey tube to the Nimitz Freeway. This would ostensibly remove some surface traffic from Chinatown streets. However, the OAAP would also widen and lengthen the Oak Street off-ramp from the freeway to compensate for the loss of the Broadway ramp, so it would increase surface traffic into Chinatown from a different direction.
For cyclists, it includes some disjointed bike lanes in Oakland and the aforementioned proposal to widen the existing bike and pedestrian path in the Posey Tube.
Overall, the project mirrors one completed last year in Oakland across from Eastern Alameda at 23rd and 29th avenue, where Caltrans and the ACTC “improved” connections and rebuilt overpasses by transforming residential streets between Alameda and Fruitvale into what is essentially now a freeway ramp complex. That project, for which Caltrans gave itself an award, only has sidewalks on one side, has no usable bike lanes (just stripes in the gutter pan right next to fast-moving truck and car traffic) and is replete with “no pedestrian crossing” signs, giant concrete walls, and every imaginable barrier to anyone not in a car.
Meanwhile, building a bike and pedestrian-only bridge between Jack London Square in Oakland and western Alameda has always been the holy grail for improving non-car-based access across the estuary. Advocates have been pushing OAAP planners to divert money earmarked for the tunnel bikeway improvements to instead plan and design the proposed bridge.
“The City of Alameda agreed to tone the letter down,” Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell told Streetsblog, “to where it would say we support the OAAP project with the understanding that it’s going to advance the bike-ped bridge.”
The first step, Alameda Vice Mayor John Knox-White told Streetsblog, was getting the OAAP planners to admit that, given the noise, pollution, and limited size, the tube pathways won’t ever present legitimate bike or pedestrian access, so the bridge alternative is needed. “Some of the people on the project have seen the reopening of that walkway as adding a significant benefit for bikes and whatever else,” he told Streetsblog. However, White said he agrees with advocates who say: “that’s not a bike lane. If that’s supposed to be a bike lane, just take it out.”
That said, it defies belief that the ACTC staff ever believed the path was a legitimate route for cyclists.
According to White, project staff told him the pathways also happen to be required by Caltrans so motorists have a way out if there is a car crash blocking the exits–and the OAAP ramp project couldn’t get approved without those pathway improvements. One advocate pointed out that even with those required safety improvements, the path won’t be accessible to people with disabilities.
In Streetsblog’s view, it was always obvious the OAAP’s planners are just using the tunnel path idea as a sop to satisfy bike and ped requirements. Alameda voted to support the project anyway, as long as the ACTC’s staff–who already showed by their Fruitvale/Jingletown project that they don’t give a damn about pedestrians or cyclists–agree to work to find some money for a study of a bike-and-ped bridge. But as the saying goes, “fool me once shame on you…”
The OAAP’s future will be taken up Thursday, tomorrow, Nov. 19, by the Alameda CTC at its regular board meeting at 2 p.m. Streetsblog encourages readers to make themselves heard. The commissioners can be contacted at 510-208-7400 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.