Berkeley Neighborhoods Council


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Neighborhood Forum

More on What Neighborhoods Can Accomplish When They Work Together

In this Section of our last eNEWS issue, we published an article about Berkeley's oldest neighborhood association, the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) and some of the work they have been doing, much of which revolved around the enormous volume of traffic that goes through their neighborhood each day.

Since that story, The Fourth Bore, one of the Bay Area's two major public works projects, opened in the morning of November 16th to the joy of drivers, a proud proclamation from Caltrans that the project had been completed on time and on budget, and the full expectation that its opening will bring even more traffic to the Claremont neighborhoods.  Well, since all of the pieces to manage that traffic are not yet in place, we will have to wait and see what its full impact will be.  There are many Berkeley residents who gave generous amounts of their personal time and money over many long months to mitigate those traffic impacts, and BNC thinks it fitting to not only recognize the opening of the Fourth Bore, but also to recognize those citizens who have worked so diligently to improve this project for all of us.

First, A Little History

The original tunnel that connected Oakland to Orinda was known by three different names, Broadway, Kennedy or Inter-County Tunnel.  It cost around $43,000 (lots of money in those days) to build and was initially restricted to just buggies and wagons.  It was widened around 1915 to accommodate automobiles, but it was still pretty narrow so people would stop, and if they could see the other end, they would proceed cautiously through.  It was by all accounts, a scary 1,040 foot long trip through a timbered hole that tended to cave in.  Lights were added around 1920, but apparently the Bay Area's fog was still a problem, as stories are told that during the Great Depression, when it was foggy, men would hire themselves out for 25 cents to lead cars from the tunnel to streets where drivers could see.

The Caldecott Tunnel opened in 1937.  It was named after Thomas Caldecott who was Mayor of Berkeley from 1930-32, a member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors from 1933 to 1945 and President of the Joint Highway District 13 which built the first two bores.  A third bore was added and then, what we all remember so well, we had one bore eastbound, one bore westbound and a third bore that switched directions according to commuter traffic.

To relieve concerns about growing traffic congestion, planning for the Fourth Bore began in the early 2000s.

Enter the Fourth Bore Coalition (FBC)

Because of the traffic impacts that the new Caldecott Fourth Bore will have on the neighborhoods along Tunnel Road and Ashby Avenue (State Highway 13), the Fourth Bore Coalition (FBC) was formed in 2005.  The coalition consists of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA), North Hills Phoenix Association (NHPA), Parkwoods Community Association (PCA), Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) and other community members.

Caltrans completed the required Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project which projected a shocking 40% increase in traffic on the already most heavily used traffic corridor in Berkeley, Tunnel Road/Ashby Avenue (State Highway 13), after the Fourth Bore opened.  Neighborhood coalition discussions with Caltrans regarding what could be done about this problem resulted in no action.  In response, residents raised $50,000 in private funding and filed a lawsuit in November 2007.  Not long afterwards, Caltrans and the Fourth Bore Coalition reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $2,000,000 for the benefit of Berkeley to establish a process that involves the neighborhoods, the City Council, the community and Caltrans to determine how those funds will be spent.  Here's how the process worked:

CENA submitted a list of projects they recommended to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists in the affected corridor to the City Council. The City Council made some changes and sent the list to the Transportation Commission for community input. City Council must give approval to a final list and Caltrans must approve any project before it can be implemented.

After years of public hearings and meetings, the following is a list of projects in order of their priority that have been submitted, and are either in design, been approved to move forward into the design stage, or are pending Council/Caltrans approval:

  1. Ashby/Claremont intersection - Implement protected/permissive phasing for eastbound and westbound turning from Ashby on to Claremont. - $273,000.
  2. Tunnel/Uplands intersection - Install pedestrian activated lights at this intersection.
    Install a new curb return, new crosswalk and stripping and new curb ramps and sidewalks. - $272,000.
  3. Ashby/College intersection - Implement protected/permissive phasing for northbound traffic to turn west on to Ashby Avenue. Install video detection, cones to separate traffic lanes on all curb ramps, and implement leading pedestrian interval for all approaches - $361,000.
  4. Russell/Domingo between Tunnel Road and Claremont Avenue - Install arrows (both directions) on Domingo north of Tunnel, Domingo between Tunnel and El Camino, El Camino Real between Domingo and the Uplands and The Uplands between EL Camino Real and Tunnel - $45,000.
  5. Tunnel Road between Claremont and the City limits - bike improvements. This became the most difficult project because those living along this part of the corridor would be heavily impacted by increased traffic and there was concern about the loss of street parking spaces.  A compromise to retain parking spaces and provide a bike lane has been reached so the planning process has begun - $138,000.
  6. Tunnel Road between Domingo and the Claremont Hotel - Relocate signs, remove trees/plantings as necessary and minor concrete repairs - $29,000.
  7. State Route 24 - Work with Caltrans to add a sign on westbound 24 to advise motorists that Tunnel Road isn't the only entrance to Berkeley - $5,000.
  8. Tunnel Road/ Domingo Avenue - Install new curb returns on northeast and southeast corners, install new curb ramps and relocate signal poles and equipment - $243,000.
  9. Tunnel Road/Oak Ridge - Install traffic signal - $195,000.
  10. Ashby Avenue/ Martin Luther King Jr. Way intersection - Install eastbound and westbound left turn lanes, signal equipment and video detection - $237,000.
  11. Ashby and Telegraph intersection - Install left turn signal heads and pedestrian countdown heads - $63,000.
  12. Ashby/Ninth St. bicycle crossing - Install bicycle/pedestrian crossing for Ninth Street pathway and install signal improvements - $348,000.
  13. Ashby/Hillegass intersection - Install a pedestrian/bicyclist activated stop light, concrete channelized island for bike detection and study potential turning movement restrictions (pending further analysis/study) - $217,000.

These improvements total $2,426,000.  When the new Safeway store at College and Claremont Avenues was proposed, CENA again worked with the surrounding neighborhoods and won a settlement that will include a Safeway monetary contribution to improve the intersections at both the Ashby/Claremont and Ashby/College intersections. Some of the monetary short fall of the FBC settlement will then be offset by that agreement.

Construction on these items should begin in 2014.  It has been a long and tedious process, but by working with other neighborhood groups and individuals it shows that the neighborhoods can accomplish good things.

Postscript:  Check out the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology website for a fascinating story regarding the fossils from 5 to 23 million years ago that were found during the construction of the Fourth Bore.

Parking at Memorial Stadium

In our last issue in this Section, we also published a story about UC's proposal to build a parking garage on the current site of Maxwell Field.  You will remember that this proposal had been part of the various projects that included the rebuilding of Memorial Stadium.  UC later dropped the proposal while it proceeded with construction on the Student Athletic Center and the Stadium.  Now it's back again.  We'll have plenty to say about the Stadium, parking and traffic in upcoming issues, but for now, we just want to make a brief comment.

In the December 9, 2013 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, Matier and Ross point out that in November 2012 when the Cal Bears played the Washington Huskies on a Friday night, parking at the Stadium was a “nightmare.”  The game drew a full-house and the campus was full of faculty and staff member cars not related to football, so fans parked wherever they could.  Per a UC spokesperson, 5,000 season ticket holders couldn't park in spots they typically would use on a Saturday afternoon.  Matier and Ross didn't say how the UC spokesperson knew this, but we assume they heard plenty from those season ticket holders who had to drive around looking for a parking place.  With this in mind, Matier and Ross point out that Cal is playing an October 24, 2014 game at the new Levi Stadium built for the 49'ers in Santa Clara which won't have any parking set aside for the stadium on that date, so officials there are hoping that since it is an evening game (7:30 PM), fans will come by bus.  Matier and Ross think this will be an “interesting test” case - referring to the parking situation at Levi Stadium, but it's also interesting to us regarding Maxwell Field and Memorial Stadium.

If Maxwell Field has 450 spaces and 4 people come in each of those cars that's 1,800 people.  What about the 3,200 remaining season ticket holders, plus the rest of the fans who might come by car if the Stadium is sold out.  Add to that all the other cars associated with UC faculty and staff members, businesses, and the residential neighborhood.  There's a lot to think about here, starting with the number and kinds of events that will be held at the Stadium and the Greek Theater as well as the days and times of those events.

There's certainly more to come on this one.  They are reprinted here with CNA's and the author's permission.  BNC will do a follow-up of this issue in the next BNC eNEWS.