Op-ed: OakDOT Must Redesign Frontage Road For Safety

Residents think Oakland has enough freeways. Frontage Road should become a neighborhood street.

Image: Paul Sousa
Image: Paul Sousa

OakDOT is evaluating whether to designate Frontage Road, which hugs a section of the eastern side of I-880 in West Oakland, into a truck-prohibited route as part of the West Oakland Truck Management Plan. OakDOT should not only prohibit trucks but should redesign Frontage as a safe, multi-modal street more in tune with the residential neighborhood it now traverses.

Background & Issues with Frontage Road

Frontage Road, between West Grand Ave and 7th Street, is a five-lane street designed with a 35-mph speed limit. However, because it’s so wide, that speed limit is rarely observed. And it’s frequented by trucks that add even more pollution to a residential community saddled with emissions from freeways, the Port of Oakland, and nearby railroads.

The area around Frontage Road has changed from industrial to residential. In fact, after the City Council changed zoning laws in 2014 as part of the West Oakland Specific Plan, the area became the most densely populated residential area in West Oakland. OakDOT should treat Frontage Road in line with this newer, residential character.

Its current design, however, reflects its industrial past. A traffic study conducted in 2018 showed the amount of traffic for the street was minimal relative to the capacity. That same study also showed the 85th percentile speed for cars on the street was 58 MPH, and cars routinely speed upwards of 90 MPH. Not surprisingly, there have been several fatal crashes on this street in the past year alone.

The West Oakland community already suffers from a history of red-lining and neglect, including getting halved in two by the Cypress Freeway. The freeway was rerouted after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the area still faces much higher pollution levels than other communities in Oakland.

Meanwhile, nearby Maritime Street is an officially designated truck route, surrounded by industrial use, and seems to have plenty of capacity. It is also five lanes but on the opposite side of the freeway and far from residents. Maritime seems a much better option for trucks. It should be on the Port and the trucking community to prove why Maritime Street doesn’t provide sufficient capacity.

Proposed Solutions

As part of its West Oakland Truck Management Plan, the city has hired engineers to reassess Frontage Road. The results will hopefully confirm that Frontage is not necessary to Port operations and trucking. The city can then consider whether to ban trucks. Either way, it should give Frontage Road a diet and make it into a safe, multi-modal street with dedicated, protected bike lanes–prioritizing a level of safety appropriate to the now-residential neighborhood it serves.


Paul Sousa lives in the Prescott neighborhood of West Oakland near Frontage


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 […]
I-880 severs downtown Oakland from Jack London Square. What can be done about it? All Images from the SPUR presentations unless otherwise indicated

SPUR Talk: Reconnecting Oakland to its Waterfront

Stand in downtown Oakland and look around and it can be easy to forget it’s a coastal city. That’s because Interstate 880 cuts a giant, uninviting swath between the city center and the waterfront at Jack London Square. But that could change. Walk this Way: The Broadway/Webster Project aims to make it more inviting to […]
Brookdale slow street. Photo: Dave Campbell

Oakland Ends Slow Streets

The city that pioneered Slow Streets at the start of the pandemic is now cancelling the program. Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell talks about future plans for advocacy to preserve some streets and bring back a more robust version of the program in the future.
Chris Hwang, President of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Checking out Oakland Bike Infrastructure with WOBO

Streetsblog did a survey tour of Oakland bike infrastructure last Friday with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) president Chris Hwang. The group’s mission statement, from its web page, is a familiar one for safe-streets advocates: “We want every person who lives, plays, and works in Oakland to feel safe and comfortable walking and bicycling, and that they know how to […]