Traffic Congestion Built into Design

Commuting into and from Alameda over the next decades is bound to take longer, and I think it is “by design” by many government agencies.

The Caltrans project main goal is to improve the 23rd and 29th avenue exits of Interstate 880. As the primary impact is to the Oakland neighborhoods, the project mostly concentrated on appeasing Oakland neighborhood needs. The Alameda County Transportation Commission’s hired a consultant for the five-year project.

The consultant said that the goal for Alameda was to help get people into Alameda quicker. He said that the measurement for the success of the project will be improved exits from the freeway, better-managed traffic through Oakland neighborhoods and people getting into Alameda more directly.

There is no measure for how long it takes Alameda commuters to get into or out of Alameda now, during construction, or after the project has completed. So after Caltrans spends $55 million to replace the 23rd and 29th avenue overpasses as long as the three measurements for success are met, Caltrans will close the books on a successful project. 

As long as there is no measure of detrimental commute times regarding Alameda commuters, no one at Caltrans will be concerned whatsoever if Alameda commuters will take longer to get into and out of Alameda. It was not a goal of the project.

The main choke point will be Ford Street and 29th Avenue. Two lanes of traffic off I-880 freeway inbound to Alameda will be crossing with the lane of Park Street commuters leaving Alameda heading to the 23rd Avenue northbound I-880 freeway entrance at 23rd Avenue. So, expect traffic delays on Park Street for decades during commute hours.

The only thing that Alameda’s Public Works Department accomplished was to negotiate a left-hand turn improvement from Park Street onto Clement Avenue. They did not ask for (nor demand) any improvements for drivers leaving Alameda from Tilden Way to Alameda Avenue to High Street (no street widening) nor for widening Fruitvale Avenue from one lane to two lanes. So as the five-year project proceeds, just expect delays without regard to anyone trying to proactively help alleviate those slowdowns.

The Alameda Point environmental impact report on the city’s website reads: “Because no feasible mitigation has been identified to improve the intersection, and because the City of Alameda has no jurisdiction over the mitigation, this impact is conservatively considered to be significant and unavoidable.” 

Instead of heading off commute slowdowns, the city of Alameda appears to be creating the situations that will cause slowdowns so that they can dictate later “Transportation Solutions.” 

By “doing nothing” as the Caltrans Project was being designed, Alameda commuters will suffer slowdowns that could have been mitigated. With the Del Monte development, Oak Street, Clement Avenue development, and then Alameda Point developments, the city cries that their only solution will be to tax its newer residents and employers for transportation solutions and burden its employers with mandates.

Alameda Point’s Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said at one Planning Board meeting that if employers would not comply with our demands, then they would be punished. Then, if taxing just the residents and employers in the new development areas do not yield results, you can bet that the city staff will want a citywide Transportation Czar to have powers over all citizens and all employers in order to solve a mess that the city created.

Jim Strehlow is lifelong resident of Alameda.