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File #: 2019-6917   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 6/4/2019
Title: Recommendation to Approve Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement Project Design Concept Recommendations. (Planning, Building & Transportation 4226287)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Survey Summary, 2. Exhibit 2 - Community Workshop #1 Summary, 3. Exhibit 3 - Community Workshop #2 Summary, 4. Exhibit 4 - Presentation, 5. Exhibit 5 - Draft Design Concept, 6. Exhibit 6 - Consultant Memo on Traffic Impacts, 7. Exhibit 7 - Bikeway Recommendation and Alternative for the Grand Street Area, 8. Exhibit 8 - Consultant Memo on Trees, 9. Correspondence - Updated 5-29

Title

 

Recommendation to Approve Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement Project Design Concept Recommendations. (Planning, Building & Transportation 4226287)

 

Body

 

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Safety concerns along Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street include high speeds, long crossings for pedestrians, and a lack of bicycle facilities.  Otis Drive is identified as a bicycle priority street and as a primary transit street in the Transportation Element of the City of Alameda’s General Plan; is a Vision Zero improvement project in the Transportation Choices Plan; and is in the 2019-2021 two-year budget for the initial phase.  In 2018, the City Council approved the contract for Parisi/CSW Design Group for outreach, planning, and design services.  The outreach included an online survey with almost 600 responses, two workshops with over 90 participants, and an Advisory Group.  On May 22, 2019, City of Alameda (City) staff and consultants will be asking the Transportation Commission to approve the recommended concept of a four to three lane street conversion with bike lanes as well as other pedestrian and bus stop safety improvements, additional street trees and a long-term vision, which would require grant funding.  The City Council is being asked to approve the recommended concept, which will require an additional $500,000 to complete construction.  The City Council has the money in additional funding as part of the upcoming two-year Capital Improvement Plan.  This recommended concept would have minimal impacts on motor vehicle travel time and delays. 

 

BACKGROUND

 

Safety concerns along Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street include high speeds, long crossings for pedestrians, and a lack of bicycle facilities.  Otis Drive is classified in the Transportation Element of the City’s General Plan as an Island Arterial, which are streets intended to provide cross-island access for local intra-island trips generally through residential neighborhoods.  Otis Drive is identified as a bicycle priority street and as a primary transit street, as the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) operates daily bus service along the corridor - Lines 20 (local route), W (Transbay service), and 663 (school service).  Otis Drive is listed in the Citywide transportation plan - the Transportation Choices Plan - as a Vision Zero corridor with a goal to reduce citywide traffic deaths and severe injuries to zero. 

 

The goals of the Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement project include:

                     Reducing driving speeds to the 25 miles per hour limit;

                     Improving safety for all users;

                     Adding bicycle facilities to connect to Wood School, the beach, Alameda Hospital, and to existing bike lanes on Westline Drive and Grand Street;

                     Improving bus stops;

                     Improving streetscape, such as gateways and landscaping; and

                     Reducing impacts of flooding/sea level rise.

 

In 2017, the City identified this segment of Otis Drive as a high priority for traffic safety improvements, and designated $500,000 in the 2017-2019 Capital Improvement Program for the initial phase work.  In 2018, the City conducted a survey and obtained City Council approval to hire Parisi/CSW Design Group for outreach, planning, and design services.  In January 2019, the City met with an Advisory Group of City staff and key stakeholders, held a community workshop, and provided a summary of existing conditions and community input to the Transportation Commission.  In March 2019, the City met with the project’s Advisory Group and held a second community workshop to discuss the preliminary design concept recommendations.

 

The purpose of this City Council agenda item is to seek approval of the design concept recommendation.  Subsequent stages will include the final design of phase 1 starting later in 2019 and the construction of phase 1 initial high priority, low cost calming strategies in 2020.  To complete subsequent phases, which are the more expensive phases, staff will seek grant opportunities.  The project webpage at www.alamedaca.gov/otis <http://www.alamedaca.gov/otis>.

 

Existing Conditions Summary

This segment of Otis Drive, which is about one mile in length, measures 64 feet wide between its curb faces, and currently operates with two vehicular lanes in each direction and on-street parking along both curbs. However, it has no bike lanes.  Otis Drive was built in the late 1950s during an auto-oriented era.  Vehicular speeds are at 33 miles per hour for the 85th percentile speed, which is used to determine speed limits, and have been recorded at up to 75 to 82 miles per hour west of Grand Street.  Over the past five years, there have been 38 reported collisions on Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street with 12 collisions resulting in injuries and one fatal collision on Otis Drive at Grand Street.  The weekday traffic volumes are less than 10,000 vehicles per day west of Grand Street and less than 15,000 vehicles per day east of Grand Street with lower volumes during the weekends.  There are five bus stops in each direction along this segment of Otis Drive, with four of the stops located west of Grand Street.

 

Survey Results

In August and September 2018, the City conducted a survey with almost 600 respondents (Exhibit 1).  The respondents stated that they find using Otis Drive most challenging due to the following three issues or concerns: traffic speeds, safety of people bicycling, and safety of people walking.  The most common topics mentioned in the open-ended question responses included safety, opposition to change, and traffic speeds.  Community members who do not want changes stated that they are not in favor of bike lanes, do not want the street to be configured like Shore Line Drive, and do want Otis Drive to remain a high-capacity vehicular-oriented street for cross-island access.

 

Workshop Results

The City held two workshops at Wood School to help better understand community member priorities and to gather community input.  To announce the workshops, the City sent a letter to the adjacent properties and property owners for each workshop, issued a community advisory/press release and distributed the information via social media, email list servs and the City’s website, as well as sandwich board notifications in the neighborhood, located on Otis Drive at Westline Drive, Grand Street and Willow Street.  Wood School affiliates also sent announcements to their school community.

 

On January 31, the City held the first workshop with over 60 community members who discussed concerns related to speeding and safety while walking, bicycling, taking the bus, and driving on Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street.  The workshop topics also included ideas for safety improvements and traffic calming.  City staff received comments via email, phone, in person, and comment cards as shown in Exhibit 2.  The top three responses on the question pertaining to issues on Otis Drive were: speeding, lack of pedestrian crossings, and lack of bicycle facilities.  The top two responses on the question pertaining to measures to implement were the addition of a center left-turn lane and installation of bicycle lanes.

 

On March 20, the City held the second workshop with over 30 community members discussing preliminary design recommendations for addressing speeding and safety while improving walking, bicycling, driving, and public transit on Otis Drive.  A summary of the comments received is provided in Exhibit 3.  Most community members supported the preliminary recommendations.  Some community members expressed some concerns, such as the conversion of the four-lane street to three lanes, and a parking-protected bikeway adjacent to Rittler Park.  There were requests for an additional crosswalk at Tarryton Isle and mixed preference for the type of long-term solution recommended at the Grand Street intersection, which includes either a protected intersection or a roundabout.

 

DISCUSSION

 

The recommended concept for the one-mile study area segment of Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street is expected to reduce speeds and improve safety for all street users including people who walk, bike, take the bus, and drive.  The recommended concept design is shown on Exhibit 5 with more detailed information in a presentation from Parisi/CSW Design Group on Exhibit 4.  The concept achieves key community goals as follows:

                     Safety: Provides a safer street by converting the four-lane street to a three-lane street, which the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) deems to have substantial safety benefits;

                     Bikes: Installs buffered bike lanes where no bicycle facilities currently exist;

                     Pedestrians: Makes it easier and safer for people to walk across Otis Drive with additional marked crosswalks, flashing beacons where warranted, and painted bulb-outs;

                     Buses: Improves the operations and safety of the AC Transit bus lines by moving the bus stops from the near side to the far side of intersections, providing ADA improvements, and removing low ridership bus stops;

                     Intersections: Improves safety and reduces delay at intersections by extending red curbs (“daylighting”), installing turn pockets, and improving signal phasing and timings;

                     Trees: Installs street trees that provide additional landscaping, stormwater runoff improvements, and beautification; and

                     Long-term Vision: Selects a long-term vision for the corridor by recommending the installation of a roundabout at the Otis Drive/Grand Street intersection and by providing more protected spaces for people bicycling and walking, pending additional grant funding.

 

Increased Safety - Three-lane Streets

This recommended concept would convert the four-lane street to a three-lane street.  According to the FHWA’s informational guide, streets with motor vehicle travel lane reductions from four lanes to three lanes have multiple safety benefits for people driving, walking and riding bikes, by achieving the following:

                     Reduces collisions by at least 19 percent through the use of a center two-way left turn lane;

                     Improves speed limit compliance by three to five miles per hour, which reduces the severity of collisions;

                     Decreases vehicle travel lanes for pedestrians to cross;

                     Allows for better visibility of pedestrians waiting or attempting to cross the street;

                     Improves circulation for people bicycling when a bikeway is added; and

                     Improves travel flow since through vehicles are separated from left turning vehicles.

 

This recommended concept would have minimal impacts on motor vehicle travel time and delays.  The motor vehicle travel lane reduction recommendation would reconfigure the street similar to Fernside Boulevard between Versailles Avenue and High Street, which has less than 10,000 vehicles per day.  The Otis Drive study area is well under the 20,000 vehicle per day threshold that FHWA uses as an upper limit for feasible motor vehicle travel lane reduction projects even when considering future development.  The Otis Drive weekday traffic volumes are less than 10,000 vehicles per day west of Grand Street and less than 15,000 vehicles per day east of Grand Street with lower volumes during the weekends.  Exhibit 6 is a memo from the consultant that explains the motor vehicle travel impacts in more depth.

 

Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements

The recommended concept consists of one-way Class 2 bike lanes with painted buffers to the left and right of each lane.  One-way bike lanes in the direction of motor vehicle travel would be located between the parked car with a one-foot buffer as a door zone and the motor vehicle travel lane with a two-foot buffer to separate motor vehicles from people bicycling.  Bicycle racks will be installed in the landscape strip at Rittler Park.

 

A parking protected bike lane next to “floating parking” was considered but ruled out for most of the project alignment due to the large number of residential driveways fronting on Otis, each of which creates visibility and conflict concerns between bicyclists and motorists.  The eastbound stretch of Otis Drive adjacent to Rittler Park between Rosewood Way and Sandcreek Way, however, does not contain any driveways and was further evaluated for a parking protected bike lane. Parking demand on this section of Otis is generally light during weekdays but quickly fills to capacity when the fields at Rittler Park are in use and particularly during the weekends.

 

The primary advantage of a protected bike lane is the physical separation and safety benefits for people bicycling from moving vehicles, potentially reducing more severe collisions.  Some of the disadvantages include: parked vehicle passengers are forced to enter or exit into a vehicular travel lane or a bike lane rather than directly adjacent to a sidewalk; increased delay for eastbound vehicles on Otis during parking maneuvers, people bicycling could potentially encounter conflicts with people accessing and egressing vehicles parked across from the bike lane; and the bike lane would be of limited width and will necessarily include a portion of the gutter pan.

 

While the safety benefits of a protected bike lane can often outweigh the disadvantages, only a limited portion of Otis Drive is suitable for such a treatment and would require transitioning to and from a Class 2 bike lane facility to Class 4 protected bike lane and back again in a relatively short distance. As result, the City Engineer recommends maintaining a continuous buffered Class 2 bike lane facility for the full length of Otis Drive including adjacent to Rittler Park. Staff seeks input and comment from the City Council regarding the treatment of this section of Otis Drive.  Exhibit 7 shows the City Engineer’s recommendation of a Class 2 bike lane treatment in the Grand Street area as well as an alternative Class 4 protected bike lane treatment, which is recommended by Bike Walk Alameda.  The City Council may recommend staff to proceed with either treatment.

 

Pedestrian Improvements

The recommended concept would install additional marked crosswalks, pedestrian or school crossing warning signs and painted bulb-outs on Otis Drive at uncontrolled crosswalks at Tarryton Isle, Larchmont Isle, Arlington Isle/Heather Walk, Waterview Isle/Sandcreek Way and Glenwood Isle plus at the signalized intersections of Westline Drive and Grand Street. These low cost, painted bulb-outs extend the pedestrian waiting area to provide better pedestrian visibility, shortened pedestrian crossing distances and traffic calming by narrowing the roadway.  The low-cost curb bulb-out treatments include striping and vertical delineators.

 

Rectangular rapid flashing beacons are an optional treatment that may be used to supplement pedestrian or school crossing warning signs where there are high numbers of crossing pedestrians (typically 40 pedestrians crossing for any two non-consecutive hours during a 24-hour period, see CA MUTCD §4L.101(CA).03B and §4N.02.14D). FHWA guidelines related to rectangular rapid flashing beacons show that these beacons increase vehicles yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks from 18 percent to over 80 percent.  The recommended concept shows these flashing beacons as being installed at Larchmont Isle, Waterview Isle/Sandcreek Way (updated flashing beacon), and Glenwood Isle and only as warranted in the future at the remaining uncontrolled intersections. 

 

Stop Signs - Not Warranted

The CA MUTCD states that multiway stop control (e.g., three and four-way stop sign control) should be limited to locations with a history of five or more collisions within a 12-month period, or where the major approach averages at least 300 vehicles per hour over any eight hours of a day and the minor approach averages at least 200 combined pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles per hour for the same eight hours, among other criteria (CA MUTCD §B.07.04B and C). Based on an initial review, the intersections noted above would not be expected to satisfy these criteria.

 

Bus Stop Improvements

The recommended concept would improve the operations and safety of AC Transit bus lines by moving the bus stops from the near side to the far side of intersections on Otis Drive at Westline Drive for the westbound direction only and at Larchmont Isle for both directions and Otis Drive at Grand Street for the eastbound direction and by removing low ridership bus stops at Heather Walk/Arlington Isle.  Bus stops are preferred on the far side of intersections to improve visibility at intersections, especially for bus riders crossing the street who would do so without a bus blocking their visibility.  AC Transit staff support these changes and have been active participants in the concept development process. 

 

The recommended concept removes the bus stops on Otis Drive at Heather Walk/Arlington Isle because they have only about 15 weekday boardings and other higher demand bus stops are spaced in close proximity.  This will make bus stop spacing between Larchmont Isle and Grand Street an average of 1,500 feet, which is within the range as stated in the AC Transit guidelines for Transbay services at 1,000 to 2,600 feet.

 

Bus benches will be installed at stops that typically experience a moderate number of boardings such as at Larchmont Isle and Westline Drive where space permits.

 

Intersection Improvements - Traffic Signals

The recommended concept includes low-cost improvements to the traffic signals at the signalized intersections of Otis Drive at Westline Drive and at Grand Street and Willow Street.  This low-cost, short-term fix includes improved signal timing and phasing to reduce traffic delays.  The concept also considers the provision of leading pedestrian intervals, transit priority signals and the possible addition of video detection.  Ultimately, the age of the signal control boxes will determine which intersections can be upgraded in the short-term for these additional considerations.  The Grand Street traffic signal would not accommodate a left-turn phase (i.e., left-turn arrow) with existing equipment and the purchase of additional mast arms would be cost prohibitive for the low cost, short-term phase, which is why the recommended short-term concept focuses on the provision of left-turn pockets at this intersection.

 

Intersection Improvements - Daylighting with Red Curb Extensions

The recommended concept includes extending red curbs to improve the visibility for people walking and bicycling at intersections to increase safety for all street users. This improvement would reduce on-street parking at most intersections.  An estimated 70 on-street parking spaces on Otis Drive and side streets would be eliminated with this safety countermeasure out of the more than 500 on-street parking spaces that currently exist.  This amounts to 13 percent of the available curb space.  Daylighting at intersections is a safety benefit and offsets the minimal parking impacts since there is an abundance of available parking along Otis Drive, except for when Rittler Park is in high demand.  By Rittler Park, parking Ts would be added to facilitate more efficient parking and no more than one parking space would be removed in the immediate vicinity of the park.

 

Tree Plantings

The recommended concept includes planting street trees at the 21 vacant tree wells along the Otis Drive study area, planting additional trees at other potential sites and removing and replacing several pyrus trees, which are a short-lived species that are performing poorly and look to be over five years old.  This tree planting recommendation helps implement the City’s Master Street Tree Plan and the Climate Plan, and addresses the request of community members to improve the appearance and aesthetics of the street and increase the tree scape and landscaping.  The recommended tree species are not in the City’s Master Street Tree Plan species list, however, specific tree species were recommended to better accommodate increased salinity due to sea level rise.  Exhibit 8 is a memo from the consultant that explains the tree-related recommendations.

 

Long-term Vision

Pending a successful grant application, the recommended long-term concept would install a roundabout at the Otis Drive/Grand Street intersection and would provide more protected spaces for people bicycling and walking.  The roundabout at Otis Drive/Grand Street is preferred over a signalized intersection with bulb-outs (“protected intersection”) because a roundabout would provide for more multimodal capacity that could flow through the intersection compared to a traffic signal; reduce the potential for broadside collisions; lower maintenance costs; and provide opportunities for green space and place making with an entry way feature.  Trees located in raised medians were considered but rejected since raised medians would block access to driveways along the corridor and would not significantly improve stormwater management due to the crown in the middle of the street.

 

Painted bulb-outs proposed in the short-term concept at signalized and uncontrolled crosswalk intersections would be upgraded to raised bulb-outs. The channelized right-turn lane at southbound Westline Drive would be removed and raised bulb-outs would provide a combined pedestrian and bicycle waiting area (i.e., a “protected intersection”).

 

ALTERNATIVES

 

                     Approved the staff recommended improvements.

 

                     As stated above in the “Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements” section and shown in Exhibit 7, the City Council may recommend staff to proceed with either the City Engineer’s recommendation of a Class 2 bike lane treatment in the Grand Street area or an alternative Class 4 protected bike lane treatment, which is recommended by Bike Walk Alameda.

                     Direct staff to bring back changes in specific areas of the recommendations pending City Council discussion.

                     Do not proceed at this time.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The funds for this project are budgeted in the Public Works Department’s account for Capital Improvement Program (CIP #91818) with an additional $500,000 that will be requested in the upcoming CIP for Fiscal Years 2019-21 from City Council in June. Funding sources include Measure B/BB Local Streets and Roads and local Developer Impact Fees and General Fund.

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

The proposed action does not affect the Alameda Municipal Code. 

 

This action is in conformance with the Transportation Element of the General Plan (2009), which lists Otis Drive as a transit priority street and a bicycle priority street, as located in school and recreation zones and as an Island Arterial, and lists other priorities that will be addressed in the Otis Drive project, such as multimodal, safety and environmental improvements and considering needs for individuals with disabilities.

 

This action is also consistent with the Alameda General Plan Safety and Noise Element Policy SN-5, which states: “Ensure that the City prioritize public safety through the implementation of a Vision Zero policy to reduce annual pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries resulting from collisions with faster moving vehicles and unsafe street design.”

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this project is Categorically Exempt pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15301(c) Existing Facilities (Minor alterations to existing facilities including bicycle facilities), Section 15302 (Replacement or reconstruction of existing structures and facilities involving negligible or no expansion of capacity) and Section 15304 (h) Minor Alterations to Land and the creation of bicycle lanes on existing public rights of way. As a separate and independent basis, the project also is 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).  City staff 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, and none of the exceptions to the exemptions apply.

 

CLIMATE IMPACTS

 

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Alameda. This project will further the implementation of the Transportation Choices Plan (2018) and the Climate Plan (2008), which both highlight the need for sustainable transportation such as increased bicycling and walking and for the reduction of solo driving.  It is also consistent with the Climate Action Plan anticipated to be considered in July.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Approve Otis Drive traffic calming and safety improvement project design concept recommendations.

 

CITY MANAGER RECOMMENDATION

 

The City Manager recommends approval of the proposed Otis Drive traffic calming and safety improvement project design concept recommendations. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

Scott Wikstrom, City Engineer

 

By,

Gail Payne, Senior Transportation Coordinator

 

Financial Impact section reviewed,

Elena Adair, Finance Director

 

Exhibits:

1.                     Survey Summary

2.                     Community Workshop #1 Summary

3.                     Community Workshop #2 Summary

4.                     Presentation

5.                     Draft Design Concept

6.                     Consultant Memo on Traffic Impacts

7.                     Bikeway Recommendation and Alternative for the Grand Street Area

8.                     Consultant Memo on Trees

 

cc:                     Eric Levitt, City Manager