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Thanks to Measure KK, and with tens of millions of dollars from state grants, Oakland set several records paving roads and upgrading transportation infrastructure over the past few years. But with a huge backlog of needed repairs, redesigns, and upgrades, the city has a long way to go. Potholes are everywhere, cars speed through red lights, and the safety of Oakland’s intersections is way behind other cities.
That’s why it seems like there is constant work needing to be done.
We decided it would be helpful to pinpoint ten of the most important projects the city is working on right now.
The following list, while not comprehensive, is a refresher on the type of work being done to make streets safer and more efficient for everyone. And the city is still seeking survey input for a couple of the projects we’ve included here, so it’s your chance to help shape things.
We spoke to several transit experts in and around the city to decide what to include in this list, but if readers feel anything is missing, please let us know.
Fruitvale residents have been walking on the neighborhood’s dangerous namesake street for years, especially from E. 12th Street to Alameda Avenue. Fast cars, railroad crossings, and minimal bike and pedestrian paths along this section of Fruitvale Avenue make it difficult for people to feel safe. That’s why the city applied for and won a California Active Transportation Program grant in the mid-2010s to widen the sidewalk from 5 to 7 feet, add lights, and build pedestrian bulb-outs on street corners to shorten crossing distances.
Called “Fruitvale Alive!,” the project also will add a protected bike lane from E. 12th Street to the Fruitvale Avenue bridge to the city of Alameda, allowing residents to bike into the neighboring city after getting off BART or the improved San Francisco Bay Trail.
More than seven years after getting the grant, however, construction is just starting. The Oakland City Council awarded the construction contract only last December. In the meantime, there were 30 crashes on this section of Fruitvale Avenue between 2017 and 2021, including two serious collisions involving pedestrians, according to UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System.
West Street Road Diet
Over the last two years, OakDOT has used its paving plan to redesign several parts of West Street in the Hoover-Foster, Santa Fe, and Longfellow neighborhoods. The changes are meant to help slow cars and improve pedestrian access. Notably, the project has upgraded curb ramps for ADA access where tiny waiting areas used to be on the sidewalk. It also added buffered bike lanes, painted wide crosswalks, and raised some corner islands so that drivers can more easily see pedestrians. A median refuge was also added at Isabella Street to give pedestrians a protected space in the middle of the road while crossing.
All these changes seem to have whetted West Street residents’ appetites for more improvements. After gathering feedback from surveys, the city is now close to finishing several new changes to the street over the next year.
The ones that are already most noticeable to drivers are two of Oakland’s first raised intersections, at West Street and 42nd Street and at 29th Street. These can already be found in many European cities and have started to be implemented in U.S. cities like New York. They force cars to slow down as they pass through an intersection. If added to other intersections, they could lower Oakland’s sky-high rates of red-light running and collisions. Speed “cushions,” which are short speed bumps with cut-out sections where emergency vehicles can pass by, have also recently been added, as will concrete crosswalk refuges, which shorten crossing distances by narrowing the roadway.
Despite more than five years of back and forth with early designs and half-baked implementations, including the addition of soft plastic poles as protective barriers for bicyclists, the Telegraph Avenue project is still incomplete.
But it’s close. Over the summer, the transportation department and public works added protected bike lanes while improving pedestrian access to bus stops. Cement barriers between on-street parking spots and bicycle lanes were also added, as well as several new raised bus boarding islands and new paint at crosswalks. Among the biggest additions needed for this street full of small businesses and housing were cement bulb-outs. One was added in front of the Zion Market and the residential building at 2831 Telegraph. It also protects cars coming out of the garage as they enter traffic on Telegraph.
But more than a year after we wrote about this project and the controversy surrounding it, many are still not happy with the design. Even though the last two First Fridays have been financially successful, members of the KONO business district say they have lost business due to the reduction in parking spaces and the messiness of the construction work.
A bicycle track completely encircling Lake Merritt seemed within reach when the first part project was built in the mid-2010s. At the time, bicyclists and transport advocates saw it as the beginning of a larger project that could be completed within a few years. But lack of funding and road fixes needed on more lethal streets took precedence. The part of the project that suffered the most from this decision was the Lakeside Drive portion, which consisted of the bike track continuation from Lakeside Drive through Lake Merritt Boulevard and ending on 1st Avenue. If you’ve ever been on any of those streets, you know speeding cars are a big problem.
The Lakeside Drive project’s planned protected bike path is important to the city’s larger transporting system because it will connect other proposed bike lanes on 14th Street and Lake Merritt Boulevard.
Recently, the city told bike advocates that instead of a protected cycle track, there will be a painted buffered bike lane added. This means bicyclists won’t have as much protection from cars because there will be no barrier between them. But transport experts expect OakDOT will look to submit a state grant proposal in order to fund the cycle track at this location within the next five years. This may also involve working with AC Transit to build a bus-only lane for the Tempo BRT service.
International Bus Rapid Transit
This project was more than a decade in making and took years of construction to complete. State, county, and city agencies were involved. Finally, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, AC Transit’s BRT Tempo fast bus started running and it seemed like the project was finally done. The city celebrated with big pronouncements of safety and transit equity.
But almost immediately, some locals started to complain that there was something seriously wrong with the redesigned street. While the bus was running smoothly, the street seemed to be more dangerous than before.
Why? Because drivers accustomed to two-lane roadways became frustrated by the new one-lane design. Instead of waiting or driving slowly, some motorists started illegally speeding in the dedicated BRT bus lane to bypass other cars. This resulted in collisions with pedestrians—some who were trying to get to the median to board the bus—that led to serious injuries and deaths. Before the project, the bus stops had been next to the sidewalk, which was easier for seniors and children to board.
Given these concerns, AC Transit and the city’s transportation department are looking into possible changes.
Sideshow prevention at six intersections
Lots of residents complain about the noise and hazards created by sideshows—stunt car driving exhibitions that take over roads and intersections, often late at night. The city has designated six new intersections to be outfitted by the end of the year with hardened centerlines and Botts’ Dots. Botts’ Dots, which get their name because they are small white dots on the blacktop, have been used before in Oakland at 35th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard. While the city has not shared data with The Oaklandside about whether the addition of these tiny bumps have deterred sideshows, anecdotally they do appear to be working.
The city is planning to add sideshow prevention infrastructure at International Boulevard and 42nd and 82nd avenues, MacArthur Avenue at 106th Avenue, 82nd Avenue, and Seminary Avenue, and at Foothill Boulevard and 55th Avenue.
San Pablo Avenue Multimodal Corridor
This project may well reshape a big part of the west side of the city. With tens of millions of dollars at its disposal, this is a critical infrastructure development not just for Oakland but for the county and state because it will better connect Oakland to Berkeley, Albany, and beyond. The project is expected to add dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, new crossing lights, and improved sidewalk conditions, including bulb-outs, on 13 miles of roads.
The project’s administrative manager, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, is working with the city to reach out to residents and businesses that may be affected by the changes.
The San Pablo Avenue project could also lead to a large jump in real estate development and a population increase. Some are concerned that existing Black, brown, and Asian communities could be displaced, and they’ll want steps taken to avoid this.
11th Avenue neighborhood bike route
Local bike advocates have been pushing Oakland to implement its new Neighborhood Bike Route plan, and OakDOT is finally taking some action. The department plans to change 11th Avenue, parts of West Oakland, and Plymouth Street in East Oakland.
The city-assigned neighborhood bike routes give bicyclists the right-of-way on a street they share with cars. Infrastructure changes involve adding new speed bumps on every block, upgrading pedestrian crossings, and building cement barriers at intersection corners, allowing bikes to make safer turns. And since more bicyclists in town will want to ride around the city using these bike routes, the city recognizes it needs to repave some of these streets to prevent injuries from potholes and such.
Local bike safety leader Robert Prinz says that Oakland is currently analyzing up to 50 miles of streets for neighborhood bike route upgrades, including in underfunded and underdeveloped city areas. Some of the future neighborhood bike route improvements could improve safety at long-neglected locations like 81st Avenue, 85th Avenue, and 105th Avenue, all in deep East Oakland.
73rd Avenue Active Routes to Transit
If you’ve ever taken 73rd Avenue to get to the Coliseum for an A’s game, you know the safest way to do it is by driving a car. With many drivers speeding on this multiple-lane street, few people walk or bike the whole way, particularly between Bancroft Avenue and Coliseum BART. If one of the most ambitious projects OakDOT is working on gets full funding and legislative clearance, this situation could change.
The 73rd Avenue Active Routes to Transit project, which is currently in the planning stages, will add buffered bike lanes, bus boarding islands, larger pedestrian medians, and shorter intersection crossings.
Currently, the city is asking East Oakland residents to answer a survey to help determine whether they should add new Neighborhood Bicycle Routes, with their accompanying signs and speed bumps, on residential streets or build a multi-use, walking and biking cement path on Hegenberger, similar to that on the East Bay Greenway, under the BART line.
E Street Speed Bumps
The speed bump is not sexy or new, but it slows cars down. And one of the neighborhoods with the biggest need for slower traffic is Elmhurst Park, next to 98th Avenue.
Starting this summer, the city has been slowly adding bumps from 98th Avenue to 105th Avenue because cars tend to use the street as a way to bypass traffic on San Leandro Street and International Boulevard, causing dangerous conditions. With an elementary school at 103rd Avenue and several new small businesses popping up between residences, the need to slow things down is dire. According to the transportation department, expect ten speed bumps on this part of the street to be completed by the end of the year.