Oakland RAISE – I-880 Freeway Green Infrastructure Retrofit and Active Transit Corridor Planning

At the June 17, 2021 BPAC meeting, BPAC Commissioner David Ralston announced an upcoming Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) federal planning grant opportunity to support green infrastructure and active transit connections along the I-880 corridor in East Oakland. This plan would include potential freeway lid crossings to provide equitable access for East Oaklanders to the Bay Trail and waterfront as well as co-beneficial emission reduction and carbon capture opportunities. Ralston sought a letter of support from the BPAC.

Project background

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), working with regional partners such as MTC and the State DOT, is preparing a planning grant application for this year’s round of federal RAISE infrastructure funding. The RAISE program (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) is a federal grants program previously known as BUILD. This program provides $1 billion in federal FY 2021 discretionary grant funding for capital projects and planning projects.

The proposed planning project focuses on the heavy-diesel “goods movement” corridor of the I-880 Freeway as it passes through the severely impacted environmentally justice disadvantaged communities of greater East Oakland (Estuary to 105th Ave., an approximately 5-6-mile segment). The project will undertake planning feasibility, technical assessments, and conceptual-development designs for utilizing Caltrans (State) ROW along this corridor for the innovative installation of co-beneficial green infrastructure that can:

  • Mitigate/reduce PM, Black Carbon and other Diesel emissions (as well as noise) to adjacent communities; 
  • Sequester carbon and GHG from vehicular traffic;
  • Provide vegetative canopy to reduce urban heat island;
  • Enhance the capacity of groundwater recharge and provide flooding mitigation;
  • Enable and fill key active transit network gaps (such as connections between local neighborhoods, the East Bay Greenway and the Bay Trail);
  • Provide opportunity for green jobs works programs.

Planned project components

  • Develop specific conceptual design alternatives for three proposed freeway lid/green park crossings: (“Estuary Landing” @ 14thAve-16th Ave.; “Tidewater Paseo Crossing” @ 50th Ave; Coliseum MLK “Waterfront Green Pavilion” @ Hassler Ave./Hegenberger)
  • Provide environmental/final construction design support for the Caltrans/City upgrades and pedestrian/bike capacity of three existing bridges (66th Ave; Lindheim Bridge; and 98th Ave.)
  • Study the opportunity for co-beneficial green corridor planting/greenbelt infrastructure implementation within the existing freeway ROW (parallel to the freeway corridor and especially adjacent to residential communities). Such green infrastructure will include vegetative buffers, freeway moss/living sound walls, next generation biofilter trellises, etc.
  • Consider other freeway infrastructure modifications to develop inter-modal function, enhance ZEV truck movement/access, and enable improved pedestrian/bicycle crossing opportunities for residents, workers, and commuters (masterplan).

Project origins, development, and need:

The I-880 freeway northern segment has the highest volume goods movement corridor in the Bay Area Region. Truck volumes in the Northern Segment are over 20,000 truck AADT. 5+-axle trucks comprise the largest share of trucks traffic. The segment includes the Port of Oakland, Oakland International Airport, and a high concentration of active industrial land uses in East Oakland. This segment also has the highest health risk vulnerability to freight traffic to adjacent communities. For example, the East Oakland I-880 corridor—from High St. to 98th Ave. contains the worst-off (CES 3.0) disadvantaged communities in Bay Area with severe air pollution issues.

DRAFT Letter of Support

RE: Oakland RAISE – I-880 Freeway Green Infrastructure Retrofit and Active Transit Corridor Planning

Dear Secretary Buttigieg and US Transportation Department Grant Committee:

The City of Oakland BPAC supports the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) planning application for the 2021 RAISE grant for this innovative and needed freeway green infrastructure retrofit project. This planning effort will help prepare, assess, and move us forward in the long-term goals to establish safe accessible active transit opportunities between East Oakland neighborhoods and the natural resources of the waterfront and the Bay Trail.

For over 70-years, the I-880 freeway has divided and fragmented these largely Black and Brown working class communities and propel the heaviest concentration of diesel trucks in the entire Bay Area through this corridor. Residents, suffering from the ongoing freeway pollution, have the worst health outcomes in the city including high asthma rates, on top of the cumulative impacts of persistent poverty.

The Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission advises the City of Oakland’s Department of Transportation on active transit infrastructure needs as articulated in the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan (2019). One of our key goals is to help enable mobility and active transit in an equitable manner across all sectors of our city. The East Oakland neighborhoods have a historic deficiency of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure investments and there are many existing gaps that prevent a continuous path network for would-be bicyclists and walkers. There are significant gaps that also result from the freeway and surrounding industrial land-uses that make biking and walking unsafe, uncomfortable, and inaccessible.

The fact that the freeway corridor is within State right-of-way has unfortunately limited the City’s ability to adequately plan for or propose necessary improvements. This planning effort is an important opportunity for the City, the State, and the Region to combine forces and address these critical mobility gaps by assessing the feasibility for the next generation of co-beneficial freeway land-bridges that also can help mitigate freeway pollution and provide needed green spaces in East Oakland.

Sincerely,

Summary of discussion

  • The proposal is aligned with many of the goals in BPAC’s Strategic Plan.
  • Deep East Oakland needs access to the waterfront and this kind of initiative would bring “greenery to the scenery”.
  • A motion to write a letter of support was made (Campbell), seconded (Burnette), and approved by consent.

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