Work will start in January on the new bike path on the south side of Buchanan Street from Pierce Street to San Pablo Avenue, said Jeff Bond, Albany’s Community Development Director. The construction should take six to seven months, he said.
Buchanan has the highest traffic volume of any street in Albany, and this gap between the greenway bike trail and the Bay Trail was rated the top-priority bicycle improvement in the 2006 Alameda County Countywide Bicycle Plan, according to a city report.
Although it’s called the Buchanan bikeway, “This is not just about bikes,” Bond said. “It makes safety improvements for pedestrians and drivers. Right now there is no good way to get across Buchanan west of Jackson.”
At Pierce Street a new traffic light, crosswalk and streetlights will be installed. That will allow bikes to cross Buchanan to the bike lane over the train tracks and then under the highway, to reach the shoreline. It will also give pedestrians access to the Pierce Street neighborhood.
The paved path will be 10-feet wide, striped for two-way traffic, and separated from Buchanan by a 4-foot-wide landscaped median.
If you think that won’t fit in the space that’s there now, you would be right. Light posts will be moved, and 20 trees are coming down. Bond said more trees will be replanted than are taken out. Some of the smaller trees removed may be replanted, he said.
The project required agreements with a slew of agencies, because of property owners along Buchanan: the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Ocean View School, U.C. Berkeley’s Gill Tract, and Caltrans which oversees San Pablo Avenue.
Here’s what’s happening, starting from Pierce Street, heading east toward San Pablo:
From the new intersection at Pierce, the trail will sweep around the large stand of redwood trees; they will not be removed. After the trees, the trail bends back toward the street, across what is now part of the U.S.D.A. lawn. The U.S.D.A entrance will be reconfigured, Bond said, to be safer.
Next to Ocean View Park, trees will come out.
At Ocean View School, the fence will temporarily be moved several feet closer to the playground, during work. Bond said that move is planned for the upcoming school break, Dec. 22-Jan. 6. After the project is finished, a new chain-link fence will be installed, where the current one now is.
The intersection at Jackson won’t need many changes, Bond said.
At the Gill Tract, (where Buchanan Street turns into Marin Avenue) the fence will be permanently moved in two feet to make room for the new trail.
At San Pablo Avenue, a right turn lane will be added for cars. This complicates the configuration for the bikeway, which was discussed in depth on Albany Patch in June.
Bond said several solutions are being considered with the contractor, but a decision has not yet been reached. Anyone interested in offering input should contact the Traffic and Safety Commission.
Also at San Pablo, three large palm trees will be removed and relocated.
When bikes cross San Pablo Avenue, they will have to merge with traffic on Marin for three blocks until the bike lane starts at Cornell Street. Bond said a bike lane on lower Marin is a future phase of the project, several years away, which will require putting utilities underground to make room.
Another, unrelated piece of work will be done while the Buchanan shoulder is torn up: pipes will be installed for future recycled water. Bond explained that the East Bay Municipal Utility District will clean some of the water at its plant near the Bay Bridge, to be reused for landscaping. Eventually EBMUD will install a delivery pipe paralleling I-80. When the agency does, Albany will be ready to connect, with a pipe coming up Buchanan Street to deliver recycled water to city parks, University Village (already outfitted for receiving the water) and the Ohlone Greenway.
The Buchanan bikeway project will cost $3.3 million. It is being paid for by a combination of federal grant money ($1.7 million), a county grant, and Measure F and gas tax funds. The federal grant has a January 2014 deadline for use.
The contractor is Prism Engineering, Inc. Prism recently rebuilt the intersection at Marin and Santa Fe Avenue.