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Bike Walk Alameda Starts Estuary Crossing Bridge Petition Anew

Bike Walk Alameda has started a petition for a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the estuary anew. (Bike Walk Alameda petition page.)

Bike Walk Alameda has started a petition for a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the estuary anew. (Bike Walk Alameda petition page.)

Bike Walk Alameda has started anew a petition for a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Oakland Alameda estuary, connecting Alameda to downtown Oakland.

A 2009 feasibility study for such a crossing, funded by, the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA), Caltrans, City of Alameda and the City of Oakland produced a preferred potential long-term solution in the form of moveable bicycle and pedestrian bridge estimated to cost around $75 million to design and build and $1.5 million annually to operate.

In 2013, local blogger Michele Ellson, now a board member with Bike Walk Alameda, wrote that Caltrans was moving forward with a Webster and Posey tubes retrofit project that would upgrade the guard rails in those existing structures and make a bit more space for the bikes on the walkways. This project is ongoing now.

In 2011, the City of Alameda implemented the Estuary Crossing Shuttle to help move cyclists and pedestrians back and forth through the tubes.

A bridge remains a goal for Bike Walk Alameda.

“The existing study focused broadly on a range of alternatives and, while it took the concept of a bridge seriously enough to look at several different iterations of that concept, it did not examine whether the constraints could indeed be addressed,” Ellson told Action Alameda News.

One of those constraints was the presence of the United States Coast Guard, and its sea-going cutters, a couple of miles east of the proposed location for bridge.

The 2009 study stated, “as currently proposed, the moveable bridge could result in up to 24 minutes of delay for bicyclists and pedestrians when opened to maritime traffic. This delay may not make the project attractive to bicyclists and pedestrians, and the following constraints would need to be addressed prior to pursuing this option: The United States Coast Guard allows the bridge to remain closed during peak commute hours.”

Robert Haus, public information branch chief for Caltrans district 4, told Action Alameda News, “We would work very closely with the Coast Guard on the design of the bridge. It would have to be a certain height to allow the small and medium sized boats to pass, and would need to open for the larger ships. We would only have to open the bridge for the occasional large ship. We certainly don’t want to build any structure that would impede the Coast Guard’s mission.”

To date, there seems to be no firm resolution to the implications of putting a moveable bridge between the coast guard cutters’ home berths and the open sea.

Both Ellson, and Haus, said, without providing specifics, there are new, lighter weight, construction materials that might be used to make opening and closing the bridge faster.

However, “that’s something we’ll consider down the road,” Haus said.

Motorists may well wonder why there is no study underway for a new vehicle bridge in Alameda’s west-end. According to Haus, “we know that traffic in general between Alameda and Oakland is heavy. Designing a vehicular bridge at this particular location would be a challenge, as there is limited space for the approach/departure ramps, especially on the Oakland side.”

Haus described the 2009 feasibility study as “a good first step” and said that Caltrans is now proceeding with an engineering study.

With an engineering study underway, what about funding for construction and operation?

Lucy Gigli, president of Bike Walk Alameda told Action Alameda News, “[a bridge] is included in the Alameda Countywide Transportation Plan, but does not currently have funding. The current interest is the get the project into the Alameda County Transportation Commission 5-year Capital Improvement Program which will be reviewing projects this fall.”

Hence the launch of the petition.

Other funding questions remain, such as an ongoing source of operations and maintenance funding.

So far, the petition has 455 signatures out of a goal of 1,000.

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