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UPDATED There will be cars

Submitted by on 1, September 16, 2009 – 6:00 am15 Comments

Updated 8:29 p.m. Wednesday, September 16

City officials have finally released a long-awaited study on the potential traffic impacts of SunCal’s proposed Alameda Point development. Their shocking conclusion? It will generate more traffic than an earlier proposal that included far fewer homes.

The report, which was authored by city staff with an assist from two consultants, showed that even the current general plan zoning for the Point, which allows for 2,000 homes and 7,895 jobs, would increase commute times and would also increase the traffic volumes at Island gateways and key intersections beyond their capacity. SunCal’s plan, which includes 4,841 homes and about 9,000 jobs, would exaggerate these effects.

For example, the peak AM commute from Alameda Point to Interstate 880 via the Posey Tube would increase from the current 6.5 minutes to 16 minutes if the development allowed under the general plan were built. Under SunCal’s plan, the commute could be anywhere between 20.4 minutes and 22 minutes, depending on whether measures to increase transit use were enacted.

The report says the traffic impacts would be distributed across the Island because drivers who see backups at the Posey Tube will head elsewhere to escape the traffic.

Waits at the intersection of Tilden, Blanding and Fernside would see the biggest increase in waits of the intersections studied, from 15.1 seconds now to 189.6 seconds if the Point were developed according to the general plan, 219.9 seconds with SunCal’s plan plus transit improvements and 236 seconds for SunCal’s plan without them. Waits at Park and Clement and Park and Blanding would also increase dramatically under all development scenarios studied.

Overall, the report estimates that the SunCal project, without any traffic mitigations, would generate close to 74,500 trips a day, compared to 61,500 with the listed mitigations and about 49,500 for what’s allowed in the city’s general plan.

The report’s authors said the trip estimates in the plan were conservative (meaning high) because they are not sure which of the traffic-blunting measures would be implemented if the project were built. And the report’s authors said it was not clear if the initiative, as written, would provide enough money to put everything in place. But they said the traffic could be reduced if additional mitigations were put in place.

The measures the report’s authors used for their models were a shuttle and bus rapid transit, an “Eco Pass” that would provide unlimited access to buses and shuttles to BART, and expanded ferry service, as well as pedestrian and bicycle facilities, a transit hub, a transportation coordinator who would help residents and commuters plan car-free trips and limits on parking.

The report analyzed traffic impacts on nine major intersections and five Island gateways – the Posey and Webster tubes and the Fruitvale, High Street and Park Street bridges.

Interestingly, the report says that the roads, as designed in SunCal’s plan, are not wide enough to meet city standards. And the report’s authors said the narrowness of the roads could discourage cyclists and motorcyclists (and may be too small for emergency vehicles and other large vehicles, like garbage trucks, to navigate without crossing the medians).

It also said that a landscaped multi-modal corridor for different types of transit and pedestrians along Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway that was listed in the general plan would be eliminated by SunCal’s initiative.

SunCal rep Joe Aguirre said the company is committed to coming up with a plan that effectively manages the traffic the project would create. He said the plan is designed to allow planners to come up with the best mix of traffic-reducing strategies for each phase of the development and that they’ll continue to work with the city to refine the details.

“This initiative will provide a healthy mix of jobs and housing to minimize travel and increase public transportation options to ensure that individuals going to and from Alameda Point will have access to ample public transit,”Aguirre wrote in response to an e-mailed request for comment.

An earlier report on other potential impacts of the proposed initiative was released in May. The reports were requested by the City Council so they could get a better handle on the impacts of SunCal’s plan.


  • Jayne Smythe says:

    Thanks for reporting this. No surprises here. (Did anyone expect something different?) But it certainly will put a stop to the exaggerations of some who have been saying that there will be traffic mitigations in the new development so that there would be little or no impact on traffic levels. With transit being cut back all over the Bay Area, it seems like it should have been common sense to folks that if you bring 10 to 12 thousand more people to the island as residents, resident workers or commuting workers, you are going to have a lot of cars and MORE PEOPLE trying to get somewhere (and now with FEWER public transit alternatives).

  • RT says:

    Good story. What did this report cost the city? I'm with Jayne, it's obvious there will be more cars. We need a report to confirm the obvious? It's a like a report to see if Wednesday will continue to directly follow Tuesday.

    I do think this line may be impactful on the upcoming SunCal sponsored vote:

    "The report says the traffic impacts would be distributed across the Island because drivers who see backups at the Posey Tube will head elsewhere to escape the traffic."

    Again, obvious, but if you're living anywhere on the island you have yet another clear reason to be against this… not that any more good reasons were really needed.

  • DL Morrison says:

    Thanks to Michele for providing such a concise (and quick) analysis. I suppose it's odd in a way that we need a study to confirm what was perfectly obvious to most people, but I guess that's how it works. Let's hope this is the end of SunCal's overreaching plan — once people see this report, that's half a million dollars in PR efforts down the tube (so to speak).

  • Scott says:

    How about a report with hundreds of pages of solutions to the increase in traffic and not hundreds of pages sying that if more people move to the island there will be more traffic. We need a new bridge or tunnel built on the west end right now even without the suncal project. 12 years ago there was talk of a new bridge or tunnel to connect where the ferry is now whatever happened to that plan.

  • David Hart says:

    Reality happened to that plan, Scott.

  • Jackie says:

    Good article! Sometimes, it is important to state the obvious to minimize confusion…

  • Scott says:

    Dave what is the reality that the point will never be redeveloped and that no other forms of transportaion can be added to alameda to help with traffic. I wait with anticipation for your response.

  • David Hart says:

    The reality is that a bridge or a second tube is prohibitively expensive. Hugely so.

  • DL Morrison says:

    Scott – it appears that you haven’t followed any of these issues. See for example the cost of a bike/pedestrian bridge (the “Estuary Crossing”) which was discussed at the City Council meeting last night — that’s estimated at around $50M to construct and even should the money fall from the sky, it’s unlikely that the Coast Guard would approve any bridge blocking the estuary.

    A bridge or tube for vehicles would be incredibly expensive, hundreds of millions or more — who or what would pay for this? The state can’t find the money to repair I880, which is used by tens of thousands of people every day — why would they or the feds shell out millions for a crossing that serves only one small city? They wouldn’t, obviously.

    The issue of transit improvements has also been discussed at great length, and also runs into the same issues — as in, who pays for this and how much? No surprise…

  • Michael Williams says:

    Any way they can bring back the freeways they build out there for the Matrix movie?

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    There simply aren’t hundreds of pages of solutions to the traffic. Anyone who says there are solutions is pulling your leg. And there really isn’t any point in spending more tax money to come up with yet another study which says exactly the same things that were said in the last 20 studies done in last 40 years.

    Another crossing was originally studied in the impact analysis before Highway 24 was built, as one version was proposed which included another crossing to Alameda in the west end when Jerry Brown was Governor (the 1st time?). It is prohibitively expensive as said above. Any bridges, tunnels etc. according to federal law, must not interfere with Interstate Commerce e.g. container shipping (all that stuff for Walmart) and the turning basin for those big ships. They cannot cross over the existing tubes because the water is too shallow over the tubes. No tube or other bridge can be built to the west of the existing tubes. That’s why the ridiculous gondola proposal – to clear the ships that are guaranteed passage by the federal government.

    This hurry to get something done is misplaced. 12 years, 20 years, 50 years is a speck of time if the wrong project is built and ruins life for the remainder of time for the bulk of the populace. I am content to let it sit until the right thing comes along. The right thing might just be pure open space and recreation. At least that does the least amount of harm to existing residents. While at the same time improving the quality of life in some aspects. So what if it takes a few decades to do it? Anything worth doing is worth doing right. The SUNCAL Initiative is not right and not worth doing. It makes money for out of towners to spend on more hedging (isn’t that what hedge funds do?) and leaves us to bear the traffic and decrease in our quality of life forever. And then asks us to pay for the improvements and risks of failure and impacts of toxic waste on human life.

  • ct says:

    So the easy answer to this problem is to keep the Point the way it is: toxic, useless, and deserted. Just so long as there’s no more traffic.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Those who have kept up on the status of the Base, know that it is being cleaned up by the Navy and that takes time. It is not deserted. It is used by skateboarders, bicyclists, and others for recreation and business uses. The citizens spent years on the Base Reuse committees coming up with an acceptable plan. If people cannot keep up on the status of what has been going on the last 12 years, how can they possibly hope to understand the complexities of the 288 page Initiative? To sum it up in a one sentence summation fits in with SUNCAL’s hype.

  • ct says:


    The link you provided states that, along with SunCal, Lehman Brothers was involved with the Oak Knoll project. Since Lehman went bankrupt a year ago, it would seem anything they were tied to is not doing so well now. While what’s happened at Oak Knoll is unquestionably unfortunate, I don’t believe Lehman has anything to do with SunCal’s proposal for the Point.

    Ms Thomas,

    Yes, the Navy is in the midst of a cleanup, but it’s my understanding that even after they’ve completed their task, some toxins with possible long-term health risks may still remain. So for any development to take place (of homes, offices, even a wide open park space), it seems additional cleanup would be necessary to ensure the safety of all residents, workers, and visitors.

    Re your comment about skateboarders, bicyclists, entrepreneurs, etc, at the Point: It appears that you’d prefer to allow in only the relative few who now visit and use the Point (its toxicity notwithstanding), to preserve its relatively quiet and isolated air. This attachment to the way things have been is understandable, but the fact of the matter is we live in a metropolitan area; the population here will increase, as will traffic. Is an “acceptable plan” one that prevents more people from taking up residence in, working in, and visiting our community?

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