SAN LEANDRO -- Starting later this year, traffic could be a real challenge along Interstate 880.
Two of the city's major I-880 overpasses will be rebuilt at the same time that the freeway below is being widened.
Work will start on the Marina Boulevard and Davis Street overpasses in November, according to Uche Udemezue, the city's engineering and transportation director. The project will take about three years to complete.
The overpasses will be widened to three lanes in each direction, and pedestrians will be able to walk on both sides of the roadway, something they can't do at present, and bike lanes will be added in both directions. Davis Street west of the freeway also is being widened.
At the same time, Caltrans is adding three miles of carpool lane from Hegenberger Road in Oakland to just south of Marina Boulevard.
The total cost of the combined project is expected to run $112 million, with the bulk of that coming from state bond funds. Kaiser Permanente, which is building a new hospital south of Marina Boulevard, is paying $5 million, Udemezue said. The city is contributing $600,000 that it had received earlier from the federal government for interchange improvement.
Even if San Leandro had not decided to widen the overpasses, they still would have needed to be rebuilt because the columns on the current bridges aren't far enough apart to allow more lanes to be added on I-880. In addition, both are considered substandard by Caltrans and are not high enough to let all trucks pass under them, Udemezue said.
The old bridges will remain open while the new ones are being built. However, there will be nighttime closures, Udemezue said.
As part of the project, the interchanges also will be improved, with dedicated lanes for drivers getting onto the freeway.
"Right now, if you're going northbound on Davis to get onto 880, you have to share a lane with people going east into San Leandro. And traffic sometimes gets backed up," Udemezue said.
Drivers on I-880 also will be able to see decorative artwork cast into the concrete embankments underneath the overpasses.
"In the old days, when you built a new bridge, you just had concrete. Caltrans is going in the direction of more public art," Udemezue said.
The Davis Street bridge will offer a depiction of cherries, the city logo of San Leandro, and the Marina Boulevard overpass will feature butterflies, a nod to the monarch butterflies that winter at the Tony Lema Golf Course in the city.
"It will look good," Udemezue said.
Plans call for the Marina overcrossing to be finished first. If all goes as planned, the construction part of that project will be finished when the new Kaiser hospital opens in about a year and a half, he said. There would still need to be some landscaping work done.
Udemezue acknowledged that motorists will be in for some traffic headaches during construction, but added that the improved bridges and interchanges "definitely will be worth it."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.