Council Approves Revised Grand Street Plan; May Still Be Changed

File Photo -- The City Council approved a revised Grand Street Resurfacing project, but the project may still be changed back to the original staff approved plan.
File Photo -- The City Council approved a revised Grand Street Resurfacing project, but the project may still be changed back to the original staff approved plan.

Council Approves Revised Grand Street Plan; May Still Be Changed

At its Oct. 4 meeting, City Council approved the final concept of the Grand Street Resurfacing and Safety Improvement Project. The final concept was approved with a 3-0 vote — Councilmember John Knox White and Vice Mayor Malia Vella left the meeting by the time of the final vote.

The final concept will see a protected two-way bicycle lanes on Grand Street, between Shore Line Drive and Otis Drive; traditional separated bicycle lanes (parking spots are located along the sidewalk and the bicycle lane is in between the parking spots and vehicle traffic lane) from Otis Drive to Encinal Avenue; enhanced crosswalks; and rapid-flashing beacons at the intersections at San Jose and San Antonio avenues. There will also be designated accessible parking spaces and midblock speed cushions near Wood Middle School.

The approved final concept was altered from the staff recommended concept. City staff recommended protected and separated bicycle lanes on Grand from Otis to Encinal, which would have put parking spots between the bike path and travel lanes. This would have reduced parking by half in this stretch of road. This plan failed with a 2-3 vote. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and councilmembers Trish Herrera Spencer and Tony Daysog voting against.

At the council’s June 21 meeting, Ashcraft, along with Vella and Knox White, approved the plan, but directed staff to develop the concept further to address remaining concerns (“Council Votes for Grand Street Improvements, With Amendments,” June 23.) Ashcraft voted against the staff recommended final design concept because some of her concerns were not addressed.

“Where I have pause is the zig zagging of the Grand Street configuration,” said Ashcraft. “It can be hazardous to inattentive drivers [and] teen drivers [and pedestrians crossing the street].”

An upset Knox White voiced his displeasure at the failed vote.

“These are some of the easiest streets to do, what is needed to do to achieve our transportation goals and our climate goals,” said Knox White. “If we cannot get this project through, I don’t know how we’ll be able to do it on more difficult streets.”

Ashcraft responded, “My concerns for safety are valid. There wasn’t adequate room to [add the protected bike lanes] without meandering.”

After the no vote, Ashcraft proposed a new motion that would replace the separated bicycle lanes from Dayton Avenue to Encinal with traditional bicycle lanes. This would eliminate the zigzagging travel lanes. This motion failed with a 2-2 vote. Ashcraft and Daysog approved, while Herrera Spencer and Knox White opposed. Vella did not vote on the second motion.

In voting against Ashcraft’s new motion, Knox White said, “If this passes this will have cemented such a colossal lack of leadership on the issues this city and our leaders have said are the most important issues for them.”

During the meeting, Herrera Spencer expressed concerns about potential gridlock due to commercial drivers lacking room to pull, among other concerns. She voted no on the first two concept designs. However, later in the meeting she said she would support the concept if protected bicycle lanes were only constructed from Otis to Shore Line, to focus on the safety of Wood Middle School students. This was the motion that passed 3-0.

After the meeting, Knox White was displeased with the outcome.

“Tonight, the idea of a safe, protected bikeway network in Alameda died an awful death,” Knox White tweeted.

At the Bike Walk Alameda Mayoral forum on Oct. 6, Ashcraft said she received additional information from Bike Walk Alameda members that addressed her safety concerns. With the new information, Ashcraft said she will request council to review the new information at the Oct. 18 council meeting and then revisit the project’s final concept at the Nov. 1 meeting.

“I fully expect to support the proposed bike lane proposal that had been before us that I voted no on,” said Ashcraft at the forum. “With this information I am satisfied with the safety concerns.”

The agenda item began with a presentation from City of Alameda Deputy Public Works Director Robert Vance. Vance discussed amendments his staff made to the June 21 concept plan. These included the two-way bicycle lane from Otis to Shore Line, adding five designated accessible parking spaces, and added the rapid flash beacon system at the different intersection. Vance also had AC Transit and the Alameda Fire Department review the plan to ensure the plan accommodates emergency and transit vehicles.

Public comments on the agenda item were mixed. Voices in support of the plan included representatives from Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda, Bike Walk Alameda, Bike EastBay and many Alameda residents.

Estimated cost for the project is $3,085,600. The city is eligible to receive a $827,000 One Bay Area Grant, administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Measure B and BB bonds will cover the rest of the costs, according to the staff report.