HAYWARD -- Downtown merchants' loud complaints about a one-way traffic loop are paying off, at least in part -- the city says it will give back some of the parking that the plan eliminated.
Shop owners and residents got a look at a map showing where parking may be restored Thursday at a city meeting, where they also were told that traffic will begin flowing one-way through downtown in March.
The miles-long Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project, which extends from Foothill Boulevard at Interstate 580 south to Mission Boulevard at Industrial Way, is intended to improve the flow of commute traffic through Hayward between I-580 and the San Mateo Bridge. During road construction, on-street parking was removed along stretches of Foothill, A Street and Mission downtown.
That didn't sit well with shop owners, and the City Council asked its staff to see if some parking could be restored after downtown construction is finished and the loop begins. The resulting revised plan calls for eliminating a lane of traffic to add back parking. The proposal goes before the council Tuesday.
"Can I have parking on Mission?" asked Allen Davidson of Eden Jewelry, whose store is at B Street and Mission. No, replied Morad Fakhrai, city director of public works, Mission is not wide enough to eliminate a lane of traffic.
Any additional parking would be temporary and is feasible only because traffic has decreased, Fakhrai said. "We did some traffic counts,
"What does temporary mean?" asked former City Manager Jesus Armas, who has a consulting business downtown.
Fakhrai said the city would monitor traffic levels, and if they increase enough, the traffic lanes would have to be restored. "It is temporary until traffic reaches those levels," he said. "We don't know when. It may not even be in our lifetime."
The lower numbers can be attributed to several things, he said, including the economic downturn. And many drivers are taking other routes to avoid the roadwork, which has been going on for more than two years and is scheduled to be finished by late spring.
Improvements at the Highway 92-Interstate 880 interchange and on the Interstate 238 connector linking I-880 and I-580 have helped, too, Fakhrai said. "More people are staying on the freeway and not going through Hayward," he said.
If the council OKs the parking plan, it will go into effect when the one-way traffic loop is put in place.
The loop will start at the Foothill-Mission-Jackson Street interchange, go north on Foothill to A, then west on A to Mission, where it will head south back to Foothill-Mission-Jackson. Armas wanted to know what the city was doing to alert motorists when the loop begins. "My concern is that people will one day find that they can't go the way they could before," he said.
The city plans to launch a media campaign before the loop is implemented with the help of newspaper, radio and television outlets, said project manager Kevin Briggs, and notices will be put on KHRT-TV, the city's community cable channel.
The city also will use Southland Mall's billboard overlooking I-880, and signs will be placed around downtown warning motorists of the upcoming change, he said. City staff members are working with Caltrans to use message boards on I-580 and I-880.
Until the loop begins, traffic likely will continue to be slow at times as a result of the roadwork. A downtown property owner suggested that the city extend the length of pedestrian lights because cars often block intersections
"Cars are backing up on A Street starting at 4 p.m. going east toward Foothill, and pedestrians get caught up in a maze of traffic," Ray Baker, who owns a building on A Street, told city staff members. Backups also are a problem on Mission, and the pedestrian lights are not long enough for people to cross streets safely, he said.
Drivers also often speed through the area, and the city needs to enforce traffic laws, Baker said. Rudy Grasseschi of The Cobblers shop on Foothill agreed.
"There is no traffic enforcement downtown," Grasseschi said later. "If you were to stand on the corner of Foothill and A during the day, cars are going 40 miles an hour, and the speed limit is 25."
Grasseschi, one of the merchants who has fought the hardest to get parking back in front of his store, said he was satisfied with the city's proposal.
"I've had people come in and tell me they've driven by my shop for years, but they happened to see an empty spot and finally pulled in," he said. "Parking is the No. 1 issue in downtown."