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Call to Action: Comment on Ashby/I-80 Widening

10:43 AM PST on January 14, 2022

Time is running out to comment on the environmental review of Alameda County and Caltrans's Ashby/I-80 Interchange ramp-widening project.

From the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) web page on the project:

The Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC), in collaboration with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the cities of Berkeley and Emeryville, proposes to reconstruct the I-80/Ashby Avenue interchange to ease congestion, provide better interstate access, and connect pedestrians and cyclists to the San Francisco Bay Trail. Improvements will include:

  • A new interchange structure to supply better connections to Shellmound Street, Frontage Road, and Point Emery
  • New bridges to provide vertical clearance along I-80 for freight vehicles
  • A new shared bicycle and pedestrian pathway to afford direct access to the San Francisco Bay Trail

Ease congestion? No, ACTC and Caltrans, you are widening ramps again, which will induce demand, increase vehicle miles traveled, and accelerate climate change and sea-level rise (apparently with no sense of irony, right next to the ocean).

At least, as seen in the lead image and mentioned in the list, the project includes something usually absent from these "improvement" projects: a bike/pedestrian bridge. That's great, but the advocates at Bike East Bay remain concerned about how bicycle and pedestrian safety is handled in the plan--or, more correctly, not handled--along the border of the project area.

"This freeway interchange project does not include safety improvements on Shellmound/Bay Street. We met twice with Alameda CTC and asked for this. How are families supposed to safely bike to the Bay Trail and at the same time dodge all the additional traffic on Shellmound/Bay Street this project will induce?" wrote Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell, in an email to Streetsblog.

A rendering of what it will look like on the bridge. Image: ACTC
A rendering of what it will look like on the bridge. But getting to the and from the bridge--that's the rub. Image: ACTC
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As previously reported, on the project's eastern end there is a concurrent development underway that should include raised, protected bike lanes on part of Shellmound. But that won't address the increased traffic coming off the freeway where the ramps intersect. "A 2-way cycletrack on the east side of Shellmound between 65th Street and Aquatic Park would be an ideal mitigation for the interchange project, but it is being considered 'out of scope' by Caltrans," commented Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz. Streetsblog would add that anything short of a fully protected intersection where the ramps meet Shellmound, complete with bike signals, would be an act of traffic engineering malfeasance.

Moreover, in Streetsblog's view, it's frustrating that for cyclists and pedestrians to get major infrastructure investments, it always must be attached to a freeway widening/ramp "improvement".

The design for the new exchange. The ramps feed into Sh int he bottom at the center. Image: ACTC
The design for the new exchange. The ramps feed into Shellmound at the bottom, center. Image: ACTC
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Streetsblog hopes someday Caltrans and ACTC will redefine "improving" a ramp or freeway to mean fixing some of the damage they've done over the past half-century. For example, what would be so terrible about occasionally building a pedestrian and bike overpass as a separate project that isn't attached to a widening or an entire ramp complex rebuild? And how about just adding some inexpensive protected bike lanes and intersections on their already-built overpasses and underpasses throughout the East Bay? Instead, Caltrans and ACTC executives go to SPUR talks to say how they can't keep widening roads at the same time they keep widening roads.

The comment period ends on January 31. Streetsblog joins Bike East Bay in asking readers to comment and try to urge Caltrans and ACTC to add a protected intersection on Shellmound, where their ramps will otherwise create yet another East Bay traffic sewer.

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