This week, the City of Oakland was awarded a $4.6 million grant from the second cycle of the Caltrans Active Transportation Program (ATP) for a complete streets redesign of 20th Street. The award will nearly cover the full cost of construction for the project, which will span from Broadway to Harrison Street in Downtown Oakland adjacent to the 19th Street BART Station. A full list of ATP awards is here.
The proposed design is certainly an improvement over what’s there today: wider sidewalks, bike lanes, bulbouts, fewer curb cuts, and enhanced bus stops will do a much better job of serving the street’s multimodal users – the majority of whom do not drive. Hopefully, it will help spark a revitalization of 20th Street, which is lined with vacant storefronts and drive-through banks despite being located in the City’s densest employment district.
However, as we’ve previously discussed, the City’s design has some shortcomings:
• The westbound bike lane experience will be stressful. Riders will need to deal with a block-long right turn lane merging through the bike lane between Webster and Franklin, then a chaotic dropoff zone for the 19th Street BART Station. If there’s ever a location that needs protection, it’s where hurried drivers are swerving in and out of a passenger loading zone across a bike lane.
• The prioritization of a landscaped median over protected bike lanes west of Webster is questionable. The westbound left turn pocket at Broadway is helpful for AC Transit, but the eastbound left turn at Franklin is superfluous: few drivers make this turn since Franklin doubles back to Broadway one block to the north. Landscaping is great, but it would be preferable if it had a more functional use.
• The easternmost block between Webster and Harrison remains four lanes wide for no apparent reason. The only reason the extra lane might be considered is if there were concerns about stopped buses blocking traffic, but bus dwell times could be reduced with raised platforms and off-board fare collection and little vehicle traffic exists to begin with.
Overall, though, it’s certainly progress. Sadly, the ATP report suggests that the project will not be completed until 2018/2019.
Oakland was not successful with any other ATP bids, including the Telegraph Avenue complete streets project. Bay Area cities were largely left out of the awards: despite comprising 20 percent of California’s population, only 8 out of the 86 projects awarded (nine percent) were located in the Bay Area.