Major changes proposed for Island Access in Alameda

Wednesday night, there will be a public study session on “Proposed I-880 Improvements Between 23rd Avenue and 29th Avenue.” The project is due to be completed in 2015 and promises to be pretty disruptive to drivers traveling North on I-88o.

  • Remove and replace the 23rd Ave and 29th Ave. overcrossings
  • Reconstruct the northbound 29th Ave. off ramp – directly connecting to the new 29th Ave.  bridge giving a more direct Northbound connection to Alameda via Park Street.
  • Consolidate the two northbound 23rd Ave. on ramps – consolidating two on ramps into one

Right now, people coming North have to either get off on the High Street Bridge and then head up Fernside, Gibbons or Central to Park Street, or they can get off at 29th Ave. and drive backwards to the Fruitvale or do a u-turn on 29th Ave. in order to cross the Park Street Bridge.

Google directions for Park Street from Northbound I-880

The new Northbound exit will connect directly to 29th Ave keeping this traffic off residential streets and getting it to Park Street and areas West, much easier.

The negative? The changes don’t do anything for connecting I-880 to the Fruitvale Bridge, and in fact make it more difficult to use from a Northbound direction. The current 180-degree exit along 9th Street (as seen in the above image) will be eliminated making the Fruitvale Bridge effectively inaccessible for folks heading North on I-880. This means more traffic on High Street (though it will likely be a net loss because of the Park Street Bridge access).

The proposal looks like this:

Alameda/I-880 access project

Bicycle access will be provided (via new bike lanes) over both new bridges which will better connect Alameda and the Fruitvale/San Antonio district in Oakland. Bike and pedestrian access looks like this:

Bicycle and Pedestrian access at 23rd and 29th ave in Oakland

Per the staff report, the completed project will include the following (select highlights, my comments in italics):

  • The project will increase traffic and change traffic circulation in the Park Street Triangle area– bordered by 23rd Avenue, 29th Avenue, and Ford Street in Oakland, north of the Park Street Bridge. The CMA has funded a separate study to address the traffic circulation in this area. The goal of this study is to develop preferred alternatives that could be used in pursuing local and regional funding for the improvements in this area. {Ed. Comment: Read this as traffic will be problematic, but they (the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency) will look for funding to fix it some day}
  • Staff is concerned about increased delays along Park Street during the morning peak hour due to the consolidation of the existing two on-ramps at 23rd Avenue for northbound I-880 access. In addition, the project will add a traffic signal at the new consolidated on-ramp, creating additional delays for motorists attempting to take northbound I-880 from the cities of Alameda and Oakland. Presently it is estimated that if the project is constructed that the queue at the northbound Park Street Bridge approach would increase by 1,000 feet during the AM peak hour. To address these concerns, the project team is working on incorporating transit system improvements including a queue jump lane at the new signalized intersection at northbound I-880/23rd Avenue on-ramp that would allow the busses to bypass the vehicle queues to enter northbound I-880. Additionally, the CMA has agreed to work with the City in securing funding for the implementation of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) in this area and along Park Street to gain capacity benefits without increasing the physical capacity of the streets. However, considering the significant impacts associated with this project, implementation of ITS elements and transit queue jump should be included as part of the project. {Ed. Comment: Queue jump lanes will be useful for the OX Bus line especially if I880 ever gets HOV lanes in this section which would allow express buses to really cover ground during commute time. “Gain[ing] capacity” on Park Street means pumping more traffic through the area, something that won’t be beneficial to the business district or people shopping in it. I don’t believe I have ever heard someone say “You know, Park Street just isn’t busy enough, if only more cars could fly down the street without stopping, THEN it’ll be perfect. Hopefully, staff will provide more data on the daily window of time when this will be needed (all-day vs. one-hour-a-day.
  • The signalized intersections of Blanding Avenue and Clement Avenue will have significant impacts due to the project, and mitigations will be required per the City requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act. The mitigations proposed in the CMA’s draft environmental analysis include eastbound and westbound turn restrictions for Clement Avenue, which is not acceptable to the City. {Ed. Comment: These are especially ridiculous since the City’s long term transportation plans highlight Clement as the main East/West roadway for the Northside of the Island}

Now’s the time to show and and give comments. Wednesday night (8/26) at 7:30pm in the city council chambers.

16 comments for “Major changes proposed for Island Access in Alameda

  1. David Hart
    August 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

    On the subject of access, why were the signals at Fernside and Tilden switched? It’s created a massive bottlneck esp. on the bridge and the Tilden approach. It often takes 3 o4 light cycles to get through that intersection, where 1 was typically enough before the change.

    Were the pedestrian signals also shortened a few seconds at that same intersection? I have no before/after stopwatch data but it sure feels that way.

  2. John Knox White
    August 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

    My guess, but I’ll ask someone, is that there were major bottlenecks happening on Clement Ave Eastbound with one left turning car blocking all other traffic because of the intersection design. The Tilden traffic had two left turn phases every light.

    In isolating the Eastbound signals, they keep the ped signal red longer, I’ve noticed that the ped signals around the city have gotten shorter. I’ll get back with more soon.

    I am guessing that it’s tied to the High Street bridge closure. When it reopens next week, so I’m curious whether the lights will be changed again.

  3. August 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for providing more details and background on this issue. I’m very concerned about the impact it will have on traffic and the economic vitality of Alameda businesses – in exchange for what appear to be modest positive effects in other areas.

    I’m also very disappointed in the “under the radar” publicity the congestion management agency / City of Oakland / CalTrans are giving to this project. I hope it is an oversight, not a strategy. I’m thankful that blogs like yours and The Island are alerting us to the opportunity to provide input.

  4. Brent Chapman
    August 24, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    There’s another way from I-880 northbound to the Fruitvale Bridge, which doesn’t look like it will be affected by this plan. Basically, you get off I-880 at High Street, but instead of continuing straight along High Street, you turn right just after passing under the freeway onto Alameda Ave. This takes you past McDonalds, Home Depot, and 24Hour Fitness, then you turn left onto Fruitvale at the stoplight just before the Fruitvale Bridge.

    We live near Broadway and Buena Vista, and this my usual route in when I’m coming north on I-880. I find it much faster and easier than getting off I-880 at 29th Ave and looping back along 9th St. I also think it’s much safer; for some reason, Fruitvale Shopping Center seems to make people in the vicinity drive like absolute idiots (running stop signs, etc.).

  5. Andy Currid
    August 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Brent

    Good observation, I find that route is rarely a good commute time alternative to to the 29th Avenue off-ramp / loopback to Fruitvale Avenue. The 880N High Street offramp is often backed up onto the freeway from around 4.30pm until 6.30pm, with the left turn at the High Street light typically being the choke point. It’s invariably faster to come off at 29th Avenue, if your goal is to cross the Miller Sweeney bridge.

    As for idiots in the vicinity, maybe so, but Fruitvale Shopping Center doesn’t have the lock on those. Maybe you’ve never encountered someone trying to come the wrong way down the one way feeder from High Street onto Alameda Avenue. It’s a regular occurrence.

    Whichever way you look at it, we’re worse off with the proposed changes when exiting 880N. High Street, Miller Sweeney, and Park Street bridges currently provide 5 lanes of flow into Alameda, served by 3 different single-lane offramps from 880N. With the changes, we drop to 2 single lane offramps, with the 2 lanes over Miller Sweeney poorly served compared to the single lane over High Street or the 2 lanes over Park Street.

  6. Richard Hausman
    August 24, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    John & David,

    The traffic signals at Fernside & Tilden were temporarily retimed to accommodate the traffic being diverted from the High Street bridge closing. Once the bridge is reopened, I understand the signals will be reset to what they were before the closure.

  7. Mel Waldorf
    August 24, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Wow, these changes look horrible. I commute on 880 northbound, and the Fruitvale bridge is the fastest way to get home. Not only does this proposal push the traffic over two bridges instead of three, it also pushes the cross-town traffic off Broadway on to Park and High.

    They should spend the money figuring out how to make the High Street exit a more efficient feeder to both the High Street and Fruitvale bridges. That whole interchange is a mess.

  8. Gayle Ewy
    August 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Regarding the lights at Fernside & Tilden. The change has actually made it easier to cross Tilden – both in a car and on foot. Without a left-hand turn signal leaving the shopping center towards High St., only one or two cars would get through the intersection when there was someone turning left ahead. Also, it feels much safer now crossing the intersection on foot. So many cars blow through the red light at this interwsection as they come into Alameda. With the old timing you would get the “Walk” light to cross Tilden while cars were running the red lights. As it is now, the cars have to stop for the red light when coming into Alameda, as cars cross /enter Tilden from the shopping center; this happens one cycle before the “Walk” sign comes on (which is when cars can cross Tilden heading to the shopping center).
    If the lights go back exactly the way they were before the High Street Bridge closure, then we have created a different set of problems than the ones folks are unahappy with now. I think the current set up, while inconvenient, is at least safer for pedestrians and bike riders.

    Is there a compromise?

  9. Beth
    August 26, 2009 at 8:35 am

    So will this also affect the entrance onto northbound 880 from Fruitvale. You know…..the entrance right there by the big gorilla!

  10. John Knox White
    August 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Beth,

    It shouldn’t. In fact the consolidation of the on-ramps should make that merge onto I-880 easier.

  11. Mike
    August 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

    The big picture here is highly suspect; the west end is and will be where growth is happening on the island. (take a look at google satellite map ~ 1/3 of this island is unpopulated). This plan ignores the backup at webster tube which is worse than any of the bridges. I for one drive right past webster in the am to go north on 880 as it’s faster to go via park st. More people will do so as more packed and stacked mcmansions are sold and all those people start commuting

  12. John Knox White
    August 26, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Mike,

    Just to be clear, this is a CalTrans/County project to fix issues on I-880, not a city-access project.

    The problem is, the designers engaged Oakland in the planning process, but not Alameda, and have managed to come up with a less than stellar project for Alamedans.

    The County and CalTrans should make a commitment to better Fruitvale/Tilden access as a part of this process. Even if that project ends up being years away.

  13. Ellen Blakey
    August 27, 2009 at 7:32 am

    I attended the meeting last night – I think there were 8 residents present.

    It is clear that the impact to Alameda is not of even secondary concern to the project team. It seemed clear to me that Alameda is not an equal partner in this project (Oakland, CMA, CalTrans, Alameda) The speaker from CMA emphasized that improving the mainline (880) and adding a soundwall along the north side of 880 were the primary concerns. In fact, the queue times to get to Northbound 880 from Park Street are expected to increase with the changes. When asked about benefits to Alameda, the CMA rep had very little to offer – only that getting back into Alameda will be smoother and faster with the new 29th street bridge.

    The plan to change the Northbound 29th/Fruitvale and change E. 9th to a one way street will make access to the Fruitvale bridge inconvenient, forcing traffic to either cut through the shopping center or go all the way up to E 12th to get back to Fruitvale. There will be access over the new 29th bridge to turn left on Ford street but that is hardly a good way to get to the bridge. They presented stats that showed the traffic from that offramp that uses the Fruitvale bridge numbers 38 cars in the AM rush and 68 cars in the PM rush. In their view, this isn’t enough traffic to worry about. I can only hope that their solution is not appealing to Oakland since it also impacts traffic that uses the exit to access E 12th south of Fruitvale. While Brent has a point about the High street access to the bridge, Andy is correct that the backup for the heavily impacted High Street Nbound offramp make this a less than attractive option.

    There will be a city council meeting in October when environmental report is due to be available. In the meantime, the city engineer said that he would welcome comment by email and is willing to take citizen concerns to the project meetings.

    His contact info is: Obaid Khan, Supervising Civil Engineer, at (510) 749-5926 or okhan@ci.alameda.ca.us.

  14. August 29, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I dont see any mention of the massive work and changes to be done to the High Street overpass at the
    880 freeway. The overpass is scheduled for replacement and the below grade work is already in progress. Oakport will be moved 50 feet to the west to make space for a new overpass to be built. The Home Depot sign has already been moved over and 1000 feet of 60 ” sewerline has been replaced already.The new layout will extend Jensen Street to the end of Home Depot Parking lot and 42nd Ave in Oakland will go straight under the freeway and connect with Jensen Street. East 8 th Street will dead end and 42nd ave will not swing around over to High Street anymore. I have heard that the construction of the new overpasses wil take 2-4 years and involve closing High Street @ 200 days. With all the other work going on on all the other exit/entrances to Alameda at the same time this is truly going to be a mess getting in and out of Alameda in the foreseeable future!

  15. DL Morrison
    August 29, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I attended the hearing also, and I agree w/ Ellen Blakely’s comments above. It seems that the CMA is very focused on 880, has possibly tried to accommodate Oakland and hasn’t really thought much at all about Alameda. They’re just doing their job, but it made me realize, yet again, just how vulnerable Alameda is to “forces beyond its control”, because of the limited access here. The plan has mostly negative impacts on Alameda — it’s predicted to cause traffic delays here, tho not in Oakland. Anyway, it’s still preliminary.

    Also, as an incidental issue, the city’s traffic engineer said something about including the Fruitvale Bridge in a bus rapid transit system, which would mean having two bus-only lanes on the bridge. He said that if traffic coming off 880N is directed to the Park St bridge, then the Fruitvale bridge might have the capacity to accommodate a BRT system — I assume he’s taking direction from the Transportation Element and from regional agencies such as the MTC.

    This is assuming of course that a BRT system would be operating on a major thoroughfare such as Lincoln, with bus only lanes. W/ this plan, the BRT would continue across the Fruitvale bridge, headed for the BART station.

    So it sounds like traffic would be heavier on the Park St bridge under this plan, plus two traffic lanes could someday be lost on the Fruitvale bridge due to BRT.

  16. M.I.
    August 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I was away a few days and I am real late to this post and discussion.

    Looking at the map I can’t believe what I think I see which is that the U-turn to get to Alameda from 29th Ave north bound exit appears to be a T intersection to the existing overpass. Am I correct? If so it is insane. It’s impossible for me to envision traffic not backing up onto 880. I avoid High Street north bound now because of off ramp traffic backed up right to the edge of north bound lanes.

    I use Brent’s suggested route to get to Fruitvale bridge from Economy Lumber on High street just north of the 880 overpass, but frequently see the wrong way people Andy noted. If a visitor doesn’t know Alameda and how to get here the easiest directions coming north bound are, take High St exit and High street bridge, but the 29th Ave U-turn works pretty well if you know about it.

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