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Buchanan Bike Path Construction Starting Soon

Bikeway will fill in most of the gap between the Ohlone Greenway and the Bay Trail.

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. 

Senior A. Titude December 18, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Yay! Wish they could do something, even temporarily, where the entrances to the Arco station are on Marin. That's a nasty piece as cars cut across from the left lane to enter the station without signaling or looking.
Jake Stayman December 18, 2012 at 06:17 PM
It's sad to lose so many trees along the side of the school, which include several redwoods. I hope they don't have to take out any of the trees inside the school yard (a few of which are quite close to the fence). Does anyone know about that?
Amy Smolens December 18, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I have been involved in the planning of the Buchanan improvements from the beginning, attended the recent groundbreaking and am very excited to see that construction is imminent! The project will also include a westbound bike lane and eastbound sharrows, which will make bike travel in both directions much safer for everyone. I am concerned, however, with the implication that a right-turn lane may be added without provision for eastbound cyclists. That is a dangerous proposition, especially considering Buchanan will not only be a major bike route, but one to and from an elementary school, a park, the Ohlone Greenway and the Waterfront. I uploaded some relevant photos showing examples of bike lanes located between turn lanes and through-lanes. These particular ones are in Orinda, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Oakland and Utah. They show the design of "bike lane between turn lane and through lane" as a basic and common design to create a safer experience for cyclists. These make the point that what we are asking for is a basic and common necessity for safe cycling on a busy road like Buchanan. I look forward to discussing this with the Traffic & Safety Commission and City Staff.
Jake Stayman December 18, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Why not reduce the two eastbound lanes down to one lane for those three blocks between San Pablo and Cornell? Why not have the merge from two lanes to one occur before San Pablo instead of after? That could also make room for the right-turn lane and bike lane, per Amy's suggestion below.
Mary Flaherty December 19, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Jake, I asked a city staff member; will post when i hear back.

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