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What’s DEIR to us

Submitted by on 1, August 26, 2008 – 7:45 amNo Comment

City leaders are considering some major changes to Alameda’s transportation plan – changes that could have huge impacts on how you get around, on and off the Island.

In a nutshell, the plan has been rewritten largely to address the increased traffic that proposed developments on and around Alameda Point will generate. City leaders hope to lighten traffic by getting people to ditch their cars in favor of walking, bicycling or riding public transit. But an environmental assessment of the transportation plan shows that even with transit, traffic flow and other improvements, wait times at several key intersections could double and triple over the next few decades.

Alameda’s population is expected to swell to 91,100 by 2030, and we’ll add more than 18,000 jobs over 2007 numbers, according to a draft environmental impact report (or DEIR) analyzing the traffic, noise, air quality and other impacts of the new transportation plan. A lot of those numbers would be driven by development on Alameda Point.

Developer SunCal recently unveiled proposals to build between 4,000 and 6,000 new homes, apartments etc. out at the Point, plus commercial and office space they hope would be anchored by a FutureGoogle.

Drafters of the updated transportation plan hope to address the traffic in part by convincing people not to drive. They’d do that by making it easier for people to walk and bike around the Island and take ferries and buses on and off it (think new, transit-only lanes that get buses out of traffic).

But the plan would also prohibit the city from widening streets to accommodate car traffic, a move some on the city’s Planning Board and Transportation Commission – who met to review the environmental report Monday night – feared could spark an outcry among residents. (Others said they think people are already making efforts to hang up their car keys.)

The environmental assessment of the plan shows that service at nine major intersections would fall below acceptable levels by 2030 (up from just one intersection that’s already there), with wait times doubling and tripling in some cases to several minutes, if the plan were implemented. But members of both bodies asked whether possible fixes, like timing traffic signals, had been considered.

You can take a look at the plan and the environmental impact report yourself by clicking here. The actual report is about 190 pages and there’s a lot of blanks and legalese in there, so it’s less scary than the 876 page total would suggest (more than 500 pages of this is traffic data). The city’s taking public comment on the environmental report through September 22. The draft transportation plan is 66 pages (and half of that’s maps) and it starts on page 261.

A final environmental report goes to the Planning Board and Transportation Commission in October or November, and the City Council should get all this in November or December. Stay tuned.

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