After a contentious set of public workshops last week, Caltrans has hit the brakes, for now, on the much-maligned MacArthur Maze Vertical Clearance Project.
Caltrans officials heard from dozens of Oakland and Emeryville residents during two separate workshops regarding potential traffic tie-ups, impacts on health in the community, and a lack of transparency and outreach. The latter included a botched attempt by Caltrans to notify area residents of the first set of public workshops last month, with mailed notice received by Emeryville residents after the first public meeting had already taken place.
During the second workshop in Oakland last week, the agency announced it would pause the environmental review process in light of receiving over 200 comments on the project.
The proposed project would raise certain highway connector ramps within The Maze or replace them with new ones, in order to accommodate taller tractor-trailers headed to and from the Port of Oakland on a more direct route. Due to low height clearances in The Maze currently, taller Port trucks headed from Sacramento must circumnavigate the Bay Area, diverting off I-80 at the Cordelia Junction onto Highways 680, 580, 238, and then 880.
As part of a larger region-wide freight corridor improvement project, Caltrans hopes to raise all bridges and overpasses along I-80 that are too low for newer, taller tractor-trailers. But the project at The Maze is the most complex of all the projects.
There are four alternatives that were being considered prior to the project being put on hold. The alternatives would cost between $39 & $191 million. It would also result in intermittent extended closures of select connector ramps, including night, long weekend, or extended length closures for up to 15 months. Overall construction is expected to last between 10 and 36 months.
Detours would be put into place throughout West Oakland surface streets during the closures. And a temporary sound wall would be placed along Shellmound Street in Emeryville.
The potential impact would be so severe that Caltrans Spokeswoman Chiconda Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle last month, “It’s pretty big, probably running a close second to the building of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.”
According to Caltrans traffic statistics, over a quarter million vehicles use the MacArthur Maze every day.
Public comment is still being accepted on this project through Wednesday, April 24th. Visit the project page for more information or to submit your comments. Caltrans will recirculate a new draft environmental document with additional information for public comment.