A group of east-end Alameda residents is pushing back on a City of Alameda Public Works plan to modify a neighborhood intersection, amidst allegations of false statements on federal grant applications.
The intersection in question is that of Gibbons Drive and Northwood Drive and Southwood Drive, just north of Lincoln Avenue. The City of Alameda has secured $184,600 in grants for modifications to the intersection that residents say are unnecessary and calling a misuse of funds.
Further, an Alameda resident working with the neighborhood homeowners association has alleged that the City of Alameda made false statements in the grant application for federal Safe Routes to Schools funds.
In a letter to Caltrans, released to Action Alameda News, Alameda resident, professional engineer and traffic engineer Eugenie Thomson writes:
“The many misleading statements in the Gibbons Drive grant application include statements that 100 students would benefit (totally unsubstantiated), that the intersection is on the safe or shortest routes to school (false), that 159 pedestrian and bicycle accidents have occurred within 2 miles (but none anywhere near the intersection), that the intersection does not meet minimum stopping sight distance (undocumented and easily fixed with red curbs), that there are no traffic control devices (there is a stop sign on the Southwood Drive approach and the stop signs at Lincoln are within 200 ft with a school crossing guard) and the excessive uncontrollable speeds (questioned and undocumented). These misleading statements are made over and over again in the application. All this is undocumented while the facts illustrate totally opposite conditions and findings…The application twists the facts, provides false statements or uses data like accident records not applicable to obtain the maximum amount of points in the rating for the grant.”
She wrote also that the City of Alameda claimed that the proposed changes would decrease both the frequency and severity of collisions, even though there have been no documented accidents at the intersection. She asks that Caltrans revoke the grant and instead apply the funds, “where a safety problem exists pertaining to school children access to and from school.”
The letter with supporting documentation has been sent also to the Alameda City Council, the City Manager, and Public Works Director Matt Naclerio.
Gibbons Drive Resident for 55 Years
Jim Strehlow, who has lived on Gibbons Drive for 55 years, and on High Street before that (his parents moved to avoid construction traffic related to the filling of the bay for the South Shore Shopping Center,) is one of the residents opposed to the changes proposed by the public works department. A letter to the editor that he wrote to a local newspaper in late February sparked greater interest among his neighbors.
He told Action Alameda News that the changes are unnecessary, and a waste of taxpayer money. Further, the unique configuration of the intersection, “is part of our character. It’s a beautiful tree-lined street. Why mess it up? So few cars go through the intersection, it’s a non issue.”
Mr. Strehlow explained that the proposal from public works was a response to one dogged neighborhood resident concerned about a single instance of a car turning donuts in the intersection. “We found out it was a neighborhood kid, and it was addressed.”
Strehlow says that the issue has come before the Fernside Homeowners Association in the past several years, and the majority of residents didn’t see any need for action. “People love it the way it is,” he said.
He’s also concerned about the public works department’s handling of the matter. “When they posted a notice of an upcoming meeting, they gave no indication that there would be any sort of vote on the issue, so few people understood the importance of attending,” he said. “But after the meeting, they wrote in their grant application that 63 percent of attendees supported the proposed changes.”
“I guess public works likes to regulate people. It’s the Berkeley-ization of Alameda,” he continued. “We could mount a small video camera to monitor the intersection for a lot less money. The City should return the money, we don’t want it. Sent it back. The proposal is a waste of money on a project that nobody needs or wants.”