Can the East West Connector be updated to support transit, active transportation goals of Measure BB, Dumbarton Corridor

The East/West Connector roadway being proposed to eat up all of Union City’s Measure BB transit, intermodal station, and active transportation funds isn’t a transit and active transportation project, say TransForm and Bike East Bay, organizations that were deeply involved in crafting the Alameda County Measure BB expenditure plan and organizing in support of its passage.

The East West Connector project, conceived in the 50s and in the works since the 80s, comes from an era when adding room for more solo drivers, and speeding up drivers were seen as the best way to relieve congestion and reduce pollution, as can can be seen in the project objectives in the East West Connector Environmental Report. This strategy has been disproved by research but lives on in legacy projects like the East West connector.

But might there be a way to evolve the East West Connector into a good use of Dumbarton Corridor transit and active transportation funds?

Proponents argue that the Measure BB language was crafted to omit Dumbarton Rail due to Sierra Club objections, and therefore the alternative is to repurpose the transit and active funding should be used for a high-traffic roadway to carry more cars.

But these are not the only choices on the table, especially since the comprehensive 2017 SamTrans Dumbarton Corridor study, which included a robust set of options for speeding buses and carpools on the corridor, and the Dumbarton Forward initiative from MTC, to accelerate these transit and high-occupancy vehicle improvements.

To speed buses on the East Bay side, the SamTrans study proposes “Decoto Road Transit Signal Priority and Queue Jump Lanes: This would provide signal synchronization, transit priority, and queue jump lanes on Decoto Road between the Union City BART station and the Highway Bridge to enhance through movements for buses in the peak period. Queue jump lanes would require either conversion of both westbound and eastbound right turn lanes or the area adjacent to the right turn lanes to queue jump lanes.”

These Decoto improvements would be complemented by improvements speeding buses and carpools to and from the bridge, and ending tollbooth delay.
* SR 84 eastbound express lanes from toll plaza to I 880/Decoto Road
* SR 84/I 880 express lanes direct connectors
* SR 84 FasTrak lane conversion to express lane
* SR 84 all-electronic tolling

Adding these improvements for buses and carpools would be an actual transit project, and a good use of Measure BB funds.   The SamTrans study indicates that along with other bus and HOV improvements on the bridge and West Bay, would take thousands of cars off the road.

Adding to the street grid, along the alignment proposed for the connector, could be helpful for circulation in the area. But with many more passengers taking speedier buses, the new road could be designed not as a 4-lane high-traffic “stroad”, unsafe for neighborhood residents, it could be designed as a two-lane neighborhood street with a 20/25-mile design speed, much safer for walking and bicycling.

The part of the project that might be actually helpful for multi-modal accessing to the station – although costly and risk-prone – are the “three grade separation structures for new roadway alignment extending beneath BART, UPRR Oakland Subdivision, and UPRR Niles Subdivision.”

What do you think about how to make the proposal better for transit and active transportation, better at relieving congestion by getting cars off the road?



Transit corridor coordination, traffic relief, and voter trust

Reconfiguring the project to be much more strongly supportive of transit and active transportation could make it worthy of using Measure BB transit and active transportation funds.

If this was made into transit-friendly project, it would be complementary to the Dumbarton transit investments in Regional Measure 3, and SB1 congested corridors program.   Money from the different pots of funding would be pooled together to fund powerful improvements to transit and person-throughput, relieving congestion by taking cars off the road.

But as it is now, what our region is doing is pouring new money into a bucket for transit and active transportation, while siphoning off money from a hole in the other side of the bucket.   The “bait and switch” is a risk to voter confidence in transit funding.