Recommendation to Approve Design Concept for Cross Alameda Trail Gap Closure on Atlantic Avenue between Webster Street and Constitution Way. (Transportation 91402)
To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council
From: Jill Keimach, City Manager
Re: Recommendation to Approve Design Concept for Cross Alameda Trail Gap Closure on Atlantic Avenue between Webster Street and Constitution Way
In 1991, the City Council began enacting policies to develop a multi-use trail on the old Alameda Beltline property. Since then, the City has worked to implement what is now called the “Cross Alameda Trail” (CAT) in this corridor. Today, two segments of the CAT are under development with funding from grants: (1) the Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway (RAMP) segment from Main Street to Webster Street, and (2) the Jean Sweeney Park segment from Constitution Way to Sherman Street. Once built, these sections together will create a 1.5-mile trail from Main Street to Sherman Street that is completely separated from cars and will likely attract a large number and diversity of people, including children, people less comfortable riding, and seniors. The entire CAT, when complete, will be a major east-west walking and bicycling corridor, stretching from the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point to Tilden Way for a total of 4 miles (Exhibit 1).
In the middle of the two approved, funded and designed segments of the trail is a crucial one-block gap along Atlantic, between Webster and Constitution, called the CAT Atlantic Gap. In early 2016, City staff brought an initial design concept for this project to the Transportation Commission (TC), which approved the concept in general, while asking for additional design and traffic analysis detail, and that the City work with AC Transit to retain the existing bus stop. Over this past year, staff worked with all internal and external stakeholders, including AC Transit, and analyzed and evaluated the options for providing a high-quality, safe, comfortable connection though this complex 500-foot block segment. A revised recommended design concept (Exhibit 1) was presented to the Transportation Commission on March 22, 2017, and approved unanimously, with several additional work scope items for staff to consider and/or implement (described further below).
This short CAT Atlantic Gap segment has many complexities and constraints that have made designing a high-quality walking and bicycling facility a challenge. These include very limited right of way (even with the City’s easement through the project area); existing bus stops on both sides of the street; two busy driveways; major utilities; two of the busiest auto intersections in the City; the busiest transit intersection in the City; regular illegal midblock pedestrian crossings; truck routes; and cost.
In approaching the development of the revised conceptual design, City staff attempted to address many competing demands, in addition to the complexities described above. The City used the following goals and principles in developing its recommended design.
1. Create a safe and convenient facility that people of all ages and abilities will feel comfortable using for walking and bicycling.
2. Minimize conflicts between people walking/bicycling and motorized vehicles at intersections and driveways, especially right turning movements.
3. Create seamless connections to the CAT segments on either end of the project.
4. Create connections to the north/south bikeways that connect to the Posey Tube crossing and the College of Alameda.
5. Separate people bicycling from those walking, as feasible, to reduce conflicts and increase safety and convenience.
6. Maintain (and improve, as feasible) the bus stops on Atlantic, especially the eastbound bus stop which the new Line 19, requested by the City, is now using.
7. Minimize use of City’s easement, given delays this might cause to the project.
8. Minimize impacts on access to businesses.
9. Improve the situation of illegal midblock crossings regularly being made by seniors and others, as feasible.
10. As applicable, use the latest design standards for protected bicycle lanes and protected intersections.
11. Accommodate the needs of people driving and trucks along the corridor, but not to the detriment of those walking, bicycling and using transit.
12. Minimize overall project cost, as feasible and without compromising safety.
Recommended Design Concept
After thorough study and analysis, and extensive stakeholder outreach, City staff recommends Option 1 (see Exhibit 1), which meets almost all of the guiding goals and principles noted above. This option also addresses the concerns expressed by the Transportation Commission and AC Transit regarding the previous design. This design has the following attributes:
• Protected Bicycle Lanes: Two-way, ten-foot wide, protected bicycle lane on the south side of Atlantic, between Webster and Atlantic, which will be a combination of at-sidewalk-grade (to the west) and at-street-grade (to the east) facilities.
• Continuous Sidewalk: New and existing sidewalks will be 6 to 7.9 foot wide along the south side of Atlantic.
• Intersection Crossings: Separated pedestrian and bicycle crossings, which reduce conflicts between the modes which travel at different speeds.
• Enhanced Intersection Safety: The designs have features of “protected intersections” with raised corner safety islands, which create a protected area for people biking to wait for the traffic signal and tighten the turning radius, to slow cars. Protected left turn signals will be installed on Atlantic at Constitution, to reduce conflicts between autos and bicyclists, as well as signage to warn turning vehicles to watch for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the project. High visibility crossings will be painted.
• Maintain Bus Stop (Eastbound): Retained and expanded eastbound bus stop to meet AC Transit standards.
• Changes to Auto Travel Lanes: Retained all auto travel lanes on Atlantic, except for one of the three eastbound lanes between the southern driveway and Constitution, which is utilized by the protected bicycle lane. (Note that this is the area where the City’s easement area is very limited, so there were few other options for the facility in this section.) Most auto travel lane widths are reduced, but outside lanes are a minimum of 11 feet.
• Improve Webster St. Bus Stop (at southwest corner of RAMP/Atlantic): Bus stop will be re-configured, as part of the combined CAT RAMP/Atlantic Gap project, to remove the step up to the bus stop, and create a fully level corner plaza that seamlessly connects to the bus stop.
• Easement and retaining wall: Use a minimal amount of the City’s easement area, about 10 feet wide at its maximum, near the corner of Webster.
Midblock Pedestrian Crossing
Given the immediate proximity to the project area, staff evaluated and analyzed the illegal pedestrian crossings occurring in the middle the block of Atlantic Ave. People, including many seniors, cross between the 186-unit residential senior complex, Independence Plaza, and the Housing Authority building on the north; and the commercial destinations in Webster Square on the south.
Staff considered several possible design solutions, but ultimately recommends against installing a midblock crossing, and will instead encourage people to use the existing signalized crossings at either end of the block. Because several stakeholders requested a crossing here, a second conceptual design, Option 2, with a midblock crossing is included (see Exhibit 2), along with the following evaluation summary.
Staff conducted the following analysis to understand the current conditions:
• Pedestrian Counts: At the peak hours, all but one of the counts had between 8-17 total pedestrians, with 2-12 of these being seniors. In a 2017 eleven-hour count period, between 7:00am and 3:30pm, there were one or more pedestrians crossing in 30 of the 34 15-minute count periods.
• Collision Analysis: Over the past ten available years of data (2007-2016), there was one pedestrian-involved collision.
• Additional Analysis: Staff also reviewed the auto speed limits, visibility, vehicular volumes, vehicular turning volumes, distance from adjacent signalized intersections, and roadway width.
• Observational: City staff heard from Housing Authority staff, whose building is at this location, and also observed, that people regularly cross here. This includes able-bodied people, including seniors, and those using walkers. Those with walkers use the driveways as ramps. Pedestrians will sometimes wait on the existing 4-foot median, until there is a gap in traffic when they can cross.
While there are no warrants for striping a midblock pedestrian crossing, as there are for traffic signals, staff with consultant support used available state and federal guidance. A Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Study recommends, regarding pedestrian volumes, that a minimum of 20 general pedestrian crossings or 15 senior and/or child pedestrian crossings take place during a peak hour before placing a high priority on the installation of a marked crosswalk alone. The California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices also includes pedestrian safety factors that may be considered.
While some of the above factors would support a midblock crossing, none of the staff-identified three key factors were met for the most minimal treatment of a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) at this location:
1. Pedestrian Volumes: There were 17 pedestrians (with 12 being seniors) in the most recent peak hour count, which is below the 20 total pedestrians, or 15 senior pedestrians, guidance described above;
2. Collisions: There was one pedestrian-involved collision in ten years, which implies it is a relatively low collision risk crossing; and
3. Distance to other Signalized Crossings: This midblock location is less 300 feet from both of the two nearest signalized intersections.
Ultimately, staff considered the pros and cons, provided below, of installing or not installing a midblock crossing, and recommends design Option 1, without a midblock crossing, primarily because the three key guidance criteria were not met.
Option 1: NO midblock crossing
• Crossing does not meet City guidance for installing a midblock crossing (pedestrian volume, collision history and distance to nearest signalized crossing). • Pedestrians are safest using the existing signalized intersections at Webster and Constitution. • Pedestrians are more alert for auto traffic when crossing without a marked and lighted crossing. • Installing a midblock crossing may not increase safety, if pedestrians cross without pushing button for the light, and/or cars do not yield.
• Pedestrians will most likely continue to cross midblock, without the aide and possible safety benefit, of marked crossing and warning lights. • Without the crossing, there is no benefit of possibly slowing cars making left turns into driveway, allowing motorists more time to see bicyclists and pedestrians on the CAT. • Pedestrians in walkers will not be channelized to a curb ramp and will continue to use the driveways as ramps resulting in conflicts with vehicles.
In developing the recommended design concept, staff met internally with other City departments and also with outside stakeholders, sharing the most recent design with each group. In addition to working closely with Public Works and AC Transit, staff shared the designs with Police, Fire, Alameda Municipal Power and Alameda County Industries (ACI), and received and responded to their minor comments.
Staff presented the project to the West Alameda Business Association Board in February, which was supportive of the project. Staff met with the owner of the Webster Square shopping center, which includes the easement area. City staff also received comments and input on the design from the Housing Authority, Bike Walk Alameda, and Bike East Bay. All of these entities have been supportive of the overall current design concept for the CAT, although the Housing Authority requested the midblock crossing be included in the design. Letters of support were received from Bike Walk Alameda, the Housing Authority and AC Transit, as well as emails of support from other Alameda residents.
For the March 22, 2017 Transportation Commission meeting, staff mailed notices of the meeting agenda item to all property owners and residents in a 300-foot radius of the project area, and also emailed a mailing list of approximately 85 concerned residents, property owners and organizations.
Transportation Commission Action
At its March 22, 2017 meeting, the Transportation Commission reviewed and unanimously approved the staff recommendation to implement design Option 1. The Commission also added the following direction to their approval:
1. Include a multi-modal education and enforcement plan with the project construction, to educate the public on the new facility and how it will operate.
2. Limit construction impacts to businesses and all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists).
3. Consider additional signage to warn bicyclists to slow and look for motorists.
4. Review the possibility of restricting left turns into the southern driveway during peak hours, to reduce conflicts.
5. Revise the design to accurately reflect the double left turn lanes on southbound Constitution.
6. Consider an expanded traffic simulation analysis at the southeast corner of Constitution and Atlantic.
Staff is including and/or considering all of these recommendations, as requested.
Staff will combine the plans and implementation of the CAT Atlantic Gap project with the CAT RAMP segment (from Webster to Main). These two segments will be bid together and constructed as one project. Staff anticipates the project will be bid in Fall 2017 and constructed by mid-2018. The next City Council action on this project will be to award the construction contract.
The cost estimate for constructing the recommended CAT Atlantic Gap project (Option 1) is $970,000. Option 2 is estimated at $1,113,000, with the difference being the cost of the midblock crossing (as an RRFB with a bulb-out). The improvement work itself, to construct the new protected bike lane, improved bus stop and corner safety islands, (after site work and demolition is completed), is estimated to cost between $260,000 and $310,000 for Options 1 and 2 respectively. After this, the largest single line item is the signalization work at $270,000, which includes installing new protected left turn signals at Constitution/Atlantic, and relocating signals at both intersections (Webster/Atlantic and Constitution/Atlantic) to accommodate the relocated edge of curb, and the new crossings and curb ramps. While quite expensive, the Constitution/Atlantic signal work will improve safety by reducing conflicts between people walking and biking on the CAT and motorists, and is less costly and will have fewer auto traffic impacts than installing a dedicated bicycle signal here. In addition, given these designs are in their early stages, a 25% contingency was added to the construction costs, which may not all be utilized. As well, staff has built in the full project cost of internal and consultant construction management and support. Staff has identified Measure B/BB and Development Impact Fee funds for this critical project. A proposed allocation for the project will be included in the 2017-2019 Capital Improvement Program budget, which will be brought to the City Council for approval in June.
MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE
Policy 4.1.7.d from the Transportation Element of the City of Alameda’s General Plan (2009) states: "Pursue opportunities to utilize the corridor of the former Alameda Belt Line railroad for transit, bicycle and pedestrian transportation.” Both the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans include the CAT as planned pedestrian/bicycle pathways along Atlantic, connecting to the planned facilities to the east and west. This CAT project will also assist in meeting the goals of the City of Alameda's Local Action Plan for Climate Protection.
In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this project is Categorically Exempt under the CEQA Guidelines Section 15301(c) Existing Facilities (Minor alterations to existing facilities including bicycle facilities) and Section 15304 (h) Minor Alterations to Land and the creation of bicycle lanes on existing public rights of way. On a separate and independent basis, the project is also statutorily exempt from CEQA pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 21080.20.5 (restriping of streets and highways for bike lanes in an urbanized area that is consistent with a bike plan). The City prepared an assessment of the project related traffic and safety impacts, and recommends a concept that alleviates potential vehicular traffic impacts and bicycle and pedestrian safety impacts. No further environmental review is required because the project fits within the above categorical and statutory exemptions that are specifically designed for these types of bicycle infrastructure projects in urban areas.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, this project is a Categorical Exclusion under 23 Code of Federal Regulations 771.117(c): activity (c)(3) Construction of bicycle and pedestrian lanes, paths and facilities.
Approve the design concept for Option 1 (or if the Council prefers, Option 2) for the Cross Alameda Trail Gap Closure project on Atlantic Avenue between Webster Street and Constitution Way.
Jennifer Ott, Transportation Planning Department Director
Rochelle Wheeler, Transportation Planner
Financial Impact section reviewed,
Elena Adair, Finance Director
1. Design Option 1
2. Design Option 2 (with Midblock Crossing)