OAKLAND -- A community meeting to discuss the city of Oakland's proposed "road diet" on Broadway, between Broadway Terrace and Ocean View Drive, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Rockridge library, 5366 College Ave.
City staff and their consultants will host the meeting.
Victoria Eisen of Eisen/Letunic, the city's consultant on the project, described the scope of the proposed work, which is primarily designed to improve road safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
"The project consists of roadway resurfacing and, as a part of that, changing the number of traffic lanes from four to three," Eisen said. "There will be one traffic lane and one bike lane in each direction, plus a continuous two-way turn lane throughout."
Other work, which is funded by Alameda County's Measure B sales tax, would include: upgrading crosswalks at all intersections to high-visibility; constructing "bulb-outs" at Taft Avenue, Kales Avenue and Ada Street; and installing a pedestrian-activated "HAWK" signal at Lawton Avenue.
The Broadway project, which is currently in the design and outreach phase, is part of the city's bicycle master plan that was approved by the City Council in 2007.
Ronnie Spitzer, representing the neighborhood group Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), said the idea for a road diet on Broadway originated from the community a few years ago.
"The road diet proposal originated in 2005 when neighbors concerned about the high speeds and difficulty crossing Broadway started a conversation with the city on options," said Spitzer, who added that RCPC has heard from neighbors who are both supportive and opposed to the project. "Over 150 people signed a petition at that time in support of the road diet. Some people have expressed concerns about making left turns from side streets onto Broadway and pulling out of their driveways on Broadway. One purpose of this meeting is learning what the modeling shows for these issues and whether people feel any possible trade-offs are acceptable."
One neighbor who strongly opposes the road diet proposal is Janice Yager, who has lived in Rockridge for 40 years and who has a doctorate in environmental health sciences from UC Berkeley. She thinks the project will create traffic congestion and increase air pollution for both cyclists and neighbors.
"The current four lanes on Broadway are at capacity morning and evening -- if there is only one auto traffic lane in each direction, it will result in increased congestion and thus vastly increased neighborhood air pollution," Yager said.
She said there are "scores" of studies showing that traffic congestion increases neighborhood air pollutant exposure that is associated with multiple adverse health effects, including increased wheezing in infants.
"For a neighborhood that already suffers massive air pollution from daily backed up traffic on Highway 24, future additional neighborhood air pollution related to increased congestion on Broadway due to the road diet plan is unconscionable," Yager said.
Jason Patton, Oakland's bicycle and pedestrian program manager, said that road diets help regulate traffic, especially speed and safety. He added that national research shows that road diet projects reduce crashes by an average of 29 percent.
"Road diets can lead to more regular speeds by reducing speeding and unnecessary braking. But in the big picture, sustainable transportation requires reducing the quantity and length of motor vehicle trips by supporting walking, cycling and transit," Patton said.
District 1 Councilman Dan Kalb, who represents Rockridge, supports the road diet plan for Broadway, based on safety concerns and equality for bikers. He doesn't think that traffic congestion, even at commuter hours, will be a significant issue as Broadway is not a high-traffic thoroughfare.
"Safety is my top priority -- that Broadway is safe for cars, bikes and pedestrians," said Kalb, citing motorists' speeding 5 mph to 10 mph over the limit. "I've heard of many near-misses on Broadway."
He said that more bikers would use bike lanes if they had a throughway, which the Broadway renovation would provide.
"A bike lane on that section of Broadway would provide a sense of safety to cyclists and I think it would be widely used," Kalb said. "Cyclists need the same options as motorists, to get from A to B on a safe route."
According to Patton, Oakland has completed 38 road diet projects since 1995.
"One of the best known is Lakeshore Avenue -- along Lake Merritt -- which was completed in 2009," Patton said. "These projects are the most cost-effective means to improve safety for all roadway users while also improving access for pedestrians and cyclists.
"The Broadway project will realize many neighborhood benefits: improved pedestrian safety plus improved local access for motorists and cyclists. It will continue to allow through access for motorists who use Broadway as an alternate route to Highway 24 between downtown Oakland and the communities on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel."
After the outreach phase of the project, it will go before the City Council for final approval.