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File #: 2020-8449   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 11/17/2020
Title: Recommendation Authorizing the Mayor to Sign a Letter of Support for the Oakland Alameda Access Project (OAAP). (Planning, Building and Transportation 4227287)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Draft OAAP Support Letter, 2. Exhibit 1 - REVISED Draft OAAP Support Letter, 3. Exhibit 2 - OAAP Presentation, 4. Exhibit 2 - REVISED OAAP Presentation, 5. Correspondence - Updated 11/17

..Title

 

Recommendation Authorizing the Mayor to Sign a Letter of Support for the Oakland Alameda Access Project (OAAP). (Planning, Building and Transportation 4227287)

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To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

The Oakland Alameda Access Project (OAAP or project), formerly called the I-880/Broadway-Jackson Interchange Improvements Project, proposes to improve connectivity between I-880, I-980 and the cities of Alameda and Oakland. It is being led by the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) and Caltrans. After almost 30 years of planning and three failed attempts to reach consensus, a project design, with a full cost of $120 million, has been selected and a Draft Environmental Document (DED) was released on September 29 for public comment.

 

This is an opportune time for the City of Alameda (City), after over 20 years of working collaboratively on this project with Alameda CTC, Oakland and Caltrans, to state its support for this project, before the project moves into the final design phase. Staff prepared the attached draft letter (Exhibit 1) to Alameda CTC and Caltrans, stating that the City’s support for the project be contingent on three conditions being met: (1) City of Oakland support for the project; (2) funding allocated to the next two major planning phases of a bicycle/pedestrian bridge across the estuary, and that Alameda CTC lead the project through these phases; and (3) the next phase of design work include enhancements to transit access to and from the Webster and Posey Tubes both in Oakland and Alameda, to move towards creating true multi-modal access.

 

Staff are performing a technical review of the DED, a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA), and are in communication with other stakeholders about their reviews, including AC Transit. Staff will submit its comments by the November 30 comment period deadline and can add additional comments from the City Council, if it would like to suggest any.

 

Staff request input from the City Council on the project and recommend authorization for the Mayor to sign the letter in Exhibit 1 summarizing the City’s support.

 

Staff prepared a first draft of the support letter, which was published in the Transportation Commission meeting packet. At its meeting on October 28, the Transportation Commission unanimously approved the draft support letter with two edits which were to (1) not suggest removing the new Webster walkway from the project, and (2) request further transit enhancements to improve multi-modal access. The attached City Council version of the letter includes these changes, and also reflects additional changes based on further conversations with Alameda CTC and others.

 

BACKGROUND

 

In 2006, the City led the effort of developing a Feasibility Study that resulted in 16 conceptual alternatives for access and circulation in downtown Oakland, Oakland Chinatown and Alameda. In 2011, a project study report (PSR) was approved by Caltrans for the project that included a 6th Street circulation alternative from the 2006 Feasibility Study. In 2011, the cities of Alameda and Oakland co-sponsored a grant application for this multimodal transportation project, which was then included in Alameda CTC’s Countywide Transportation Plan.  However, these efforts did not advance beyond the scoping phase due to lack of support for a single preferred solution among the diverse stakeholders, agencies and Caltrans. With the passage of the countywide transportation sales tax (Measure BB) in 2014, $75 million was dedicated for the “I-880 Broadway-Jackson multimodal transportation and circulation improvements for Alameda Point, Oakland Chinatown, Downtown Oakland, and Jack London Square.”

 

Since 2016, key stakeholders, including Alameda residents, College of Alameda, Bike Walk Alameda, commercial and office land-uses in Marina Village area, Webster Street businesses and residents, Oakland Chinatown community, Jack London Square residents and businesses, Downtown Oakland community and west Oakland residents, have been engaged to develop a project that addresses the needs of the broader community. Several working group meetings were held, with participation by all stakeholders and including representatives of the Transportation Commission, the Chamber of Commerce and the West Alameda Business Association (WABA). Additional meetings were held with public agency staff and bicycle advocates to further discuss the walking and bicycling improvements. Throughout this time, staff from the cities of Alameda and Oakland have meet regularly with Alameda CTC staff and with each other to collaborate on a project design.

 

The below project purpose, need and description is taken largely from the DED:

 

The OAAP project purpose is to:

                     improve multimodal safety and reduce conflicts between regional and local traffic;

                     enhance bicycle and pedestrian accessibility and connectivity within the project study area;

                     improve mobility and accessibility between I-880, SR-260 (the Posey and Webster Tubes), the City of Oakland downtown neighborhoods and the City of Alameda; and

                     reduce freeway-bound regional traffic and congestion on local roadways and in area neighborhoods.

 

Currently, access between the freeway and the roadway networks between I-880 and the Tubes is limited and indirect, and access to/from the cities of Oakland and Alameda is circuitous. Existing access to I-880 from Alameda and the Jack London District requires loops through several local streets and intersections, routing vehicles through the downtown Oakland Chinatown neighborhood. Consequently, the streets in and around the downtown Oakland Chinatown area have a high volume of pedestrian activity and experience substantial vehicle-pedestrian conflicts, and the I-880 elevated freeway limits bicycle and pedestrian connectivity between downtown Oakland and the Jack London District. SB I-880 traffic heading to Alameda must exit at the Broadway/Alameda off-ramp then travel south along 5th Street for more than a mile - through nine signalized and unsignalized intersections - before reaching the Webster Tube at 5th Street/Broadway. WB I-980 traffic heading to Alameda must exit at the Jackson Street off-ramp and circle back through Chinatown through seven signalized and unsignalized intersections to reach the Webster Tube. NB I-880 traffic heading to Alameda must exit at the Broadway off-ramp and form a queue on Broadway between 5th and 6th streets, which backs up onto the ramp. Alternatively, drivers may loop through Chinatown to access the Webster Tube.

 

The project proposes to remove and modify existing freeway ramps, modify the connection from the Posey Tube to I-880, construct Class IV two-way cycle tracks in Oakland, implement various “complete streets” improvements, implement bicycle and pedestrian improvements at the approaches to the Posey and Webster Tubes, and open the Webster Tube’s westside walkway to bicyclists and pedestrians.

 

The project is currently anticipated to cost a total of $120 million, with $86 million in funding already allocated and $34 million still to be secured. Once full funding is secured, the project would start construction in mid-2023 and be completed by mid-2026.

 

Additional project information can be found in the presentation (Exhibit 2), at the project webpage (<https://oaklandalamedaaccessproject.com/>), which includes a sixteen minute video presentation with video simulations; and at the Alameda CTC project web page: www.alamedactc.org/programs-projects/highway-improvement/oakland-alameda-access-project/ <http://www.alamedactc.org/programs-projects/highway-improvement/oakland-alameda-access-project/>.

 

On September 29, Caltrans released the Draft Environmental Document, which examines the environmental impact of the project construction and operation. Public comments are being accepted through November 30, and a virtual public hearing was held on October 20. A summary and full environmental document can be found here: <https://oaklandalamedaaccessproject.com/>, and individual comments can be submitted at this site, as well.

 

The key benefits of the proposed OAAP design for Alameda and Oakland residents, employees and visitors include:

                     Reduced freeway-bound regional traffic on local roadways within Oakland neighborhoods.

                     Reduced conflicts and risk of collisions between vehicles and people walking and biking at key intersections, mostly in Oakland and especially in Chinatown.

                     Improved connectivity and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, primarily in Oakland.

                     Streetscape and aesthetic enhancements in Oakland.

                     Auto travel time savings to and from the freeway for Alamedans during the peak hours, ranging, in 2025, from 1-2 minutes of savings in the morning peak hours going to I-880 (about a one third time savings), and 4-6 minutes in the afternoon peak hours coming from northbound I-880 or Oakland (a 40-60% time savings).

                     Widening and opening the maintenance walkway in the Webster Tube which will provide emergency access within the Tube, an alternate pedestrian and bicycle connection when the Posey Tube is closed for temporary closures and maintenance, and limited, narrow additional space for people walking and biking.

 

The OAAP project was last brought to the Transportation Commission and City Council in 2017 to seek input on two potential concepts, as an informational item. The City Council brought up questions about construction impacts and timing, funding and how the project accommodated people bicycling.

 

DISCUSSION

 

After six years of design work, the City must now decide whether the project has fulfilled its promises to the voters, as stated in the 2014 Measure BB Transportation Expenditure Plan. The City’s draft letter (Exhibit 1) describes the City’s determination that while the project strongly benefits Oakland by reducing the ongoing impacts of freeway-bound traffic on Oakland neighborhoods and significantly improving pedestrian and bicycle safety in Oakland’s Chinatown, the project does little to address transit, bicycle or pedestrian access across the estuary. The Alameda County voters approved a project that was to have multimodal transportation and circulation improvements to support people crossing the estuary. Currently, the project does not provide this multimodal access across the estuary.

 

As laid out in the support letter, staff propose that the City support the project for the important safety and multi-modal access that it provides to Oakland subject to three conditions:

1.                     That the project is supported by the City of Oakland.

2.                     That Alameda CTC fund the Project Study Report (PSR) (estimated cost $1.4 million) and Project Approval/Environmental Document phase (estimated cost $4.4 million) for the Oakland to Alameda Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge between the Jack London Square area and West Alameda; and that Alameda CTC be the project lead for this major regional capital project.  Based on information in an Alameda CTC-funded detailed feasibility study and travel demand model for the bicycle/pedestrian bridge, a bicycle and pedestrian bridge is feasible and will be well-utilized, serving approximately 5000 walking and bicycling trips per day. Staff advocate investing in the bridge, as the long-term, ideal solution for the estuary crossing.

3.                     That that the next phase of design work include enhancements to transit access to and from the Webster and Posey Tubes both in Oakland and Alameda, to further improve the project’s multi-modal improvements.

 

The Transportation Commission discussed this item at their October 28 meeting, and unanimously approved the draft support letter with two edits which have been made to the version before Council, and which are:

1.                     Remove statement that the City would not oppose the removal of the proposed Webster Tube walkway if it could help fund the next phases of the Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge.

2.                     Request that Caltrans and Alameda CTC enhance transit access to and from the Tubes both in Oakland and Alameda, which would improve multi-modal access of the project.

 

The Commissioners were generally supportive of the overall project and focused on the urgent need to reduce the traffic flowing through Chinatown, which is a legacy of the freeway and Tube connections which have severely impacted the safety and livability of this historically low-income, community made up predominantly of people of color. Several Commissioners were disappointed that there was not more focus on improving transit connections between Alameda and Oakland, and one expressed that the new bike access in the Webster Tube, if that is all that is provided to improve cross-estuary access, should be better designed to protect bicyclists from traffic, air pollution and noise. The Commissioners stated their support for a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, but did not want a bridge project to slow down implementation of the OAAP project.

 

ALTERNATIVES

 

The City Council may:

                     Support the staff recommendation to send the draft support and comment letter to Caltrans and Alameda CTC.

                     Make revisions to the draft letter, and have staff send a revised letter.

                     Direct staff to solely send specific comments on the DEIR/EA by the public comment deadline, and delay addressing whether the City supports the project itself until more information and further discussions can be completed.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

There is no financial impact from sending this comment and support letter.

 

Although staff are not currently seeking City funding for this project, it is possible that a to-be-determined amount of matching funds could be sought from the City if this project moves forward, subject to future City Council appropriations approval.

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

The OAAP project does not affect the Alameda Municipal Code.  The Transportation Element of the City's General Plan (2009) states the following: “Policy 4.1.2.e: Work with regional, state, and federal agencies to develop plans for design, phasing, funding, and construction of facilities to enhance multimodal cross-estuary travel, such as increased access to Interstate 880 (bridge, tunnel or other vehicle connection) bike/pedestrian shuttles or high occupancy vehicle-only crossing (e.g. transit or carpool lane) to Oakland.”

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

Caltrans is the lead agency for the environmental review and has developed the DEIR/EA, on which the City is providing comments.  This action is not a project under Public Resources Code Section 21065 and CEQA Guidelines Section 15378.

 

CLIMATE IMPACTS

 

There is no climate impact from submitting comments on the DEIR/EA. The stated climate change impacts of the project itself, as included in the DEIR/EA, are that the proposed project “would release greenhouse gasses during construction. The [proposed project] would not result in additional GHG emissions during project operation.” The DEIR/EA proposes mitigations for construction and operations. Construction measures include, planting six native trees planted and replacing non-native trees where feasible. Emissions will be minimized during construction by maintaining proper tire pressure in construction vehicles, maximizing waste diversion to compost and recycling, and by using local sources for materials and disposal sites. For project operations, GHG emissions will be minimized by landscaping medians and roadsides and by using energy-efficient lighting and traffic signals.

 

The City’s support for the project, as stated in the draft letter, is conditional on financial support for the bicycle and pedestrian bridge, a project that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing vehicle trips through the Tubes and replacing them with bicycle and pedestrian trips.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Staff recommends that the City Council authorize the Mayor to sign a letter of support for the Oakland Alameda Access Project.

 

CITY MANAGER RECOMMENDATION

 

The City Manager recommends approval of the City Council for the Mayor to sign the letter with the revisions recommended by the Transportation Commission.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Director of Planning, Building and Transportation

 

By,

Rochelle Wheeler, Senior Transportation Coordinator

 

Financial Impact section reviewed,

Annie To, Finance Director

 

Exhibits: 

1.                     Draft OAAP Support Letter for Council Review

2.                     OAAP Presentation

 

 

cc:                     Eric Levitt, City Manager