The public comment period has opened to weigh in on the impacts of the I-80/Ashby Interchange project. The project is being pursued to improve vehicle circulation at the intersection as well as bicycle/pedestrian access to the bay. The proposed project spans the cities of Emeryville and Berkeley and is a partnership between Caltrans and the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC).
The project is being funded through 2014 Measure BB which increased county sales tax and authorized tax bonds to pay for transportation infrastructure.
The proposed project would replace the existing elevated interchange connector ramps at Ashby with a new bridge over I-80, realign access to West Frontage Road, and create a new bicycle/pedestrian over-crossing (BPOC) from 65th & Shellmound Street to Frontage Road.
Vice Mayor Ally Medina expressed concern over the project in a long Twitter thread that she described as a “transpo rant.” Medina was critical of the idea of a pedestrian undercrossing that would connect the pedestrian bridge to Frontage road near Point Emery.
“There are multiple large encampments nearby. If you put an underpass here it will be occupied ASAP,” she noted referring to the dire homeless conditions around Aquatic Park that the municipalities have failed to solve. Medina instead backed an at-grade crosswalk that would require pedestrians and cyclists to contend with Frontage road vehicle traffic. “Do I want peds to have to wait on cars? Obvs not.”
“There are multiple large encampments nearby. If you put an underpass here it will be occupied ASAP,”
— Vice Mayor Ally Medina
ACTC also noted that drainage improvements to Ashby would be included in the project but “limited to within the project impact area” that borders the western side of the railroad tracks. The connecting Ashby underpass that goes under the UPRR tracks is prone to frequent, seasonal flooding.
Some have decried the project as a “bridge to nowhere” and that a pedestrian over-crossing closer to the Powell Street exit would be preferred and prioritized. Such a connection would connect employees and residents of the Emeryville Peninsula to the ample amenities on the east side of I-80.
This idea would also better connect the Bay Trail to the Bay Bridge trail that goes all the way to Treasure Island (and hopefully one day all the way to San Francisco).
Previous attempts to create momentum for an over-crossing near Powell have not panned out. A 2007 proposal received support from most but backlash from commuters as it would have come at the expense of the I-80 on-ramp that is a well-regarded shortcut into the city. Without sufficient political backing and funding, the project slowly faded into memory.
The ACTC document includes renderings of three separate design options for the bridge including a butterfly arch, box girder and Basket handle designs.
The pros and cons of three options are distinguished by maintenance costs, structural support and “design consistency” (cost estimates for the options were not provided).
The draft environmental document is available for public comment through Jan. 31 at the project website, emailed to comments@I80Ashby.com or by calling (510) 800-8924. The 45-day public comment period closes on January 31, 2022.
The ACTC will host a virtual public open house on Tuesday, January 11 with a presentation, panel discussion and open Q&A.
If the project stays on schedule, it is projected to start construction in 2024 and finish in late 2026.
Additional information about the project can be viewed on the AlamedaCTC website.
Virtual Public Open House
When: Jan. 11, 2022 @ 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Link to Join: I80ashby.com
Dial in: 888-344-3561