On Friday, November 19th, the US Department of Transportation and Oakland officials announced a $14.5 million federal RAISE grant for improvements on Broadway and MLK Jr. Way downtown. The grant was one of only three in California. It will extend bus lanes on Broadway from downtown to Jack London Square and up to Grand Avenue and adds buffered bike lanes on MLK Jr. Way from 8th Street to Embarcadero. The project also adds many needed pedestrian safety improvements on both streets.
OakDOT is aware that their bike plan calls for safer, separated bike lanes on MLK Jr. Way and we have reminded them. They have agreed to talk and they point out that there are other state funds that can upgrade bike safety. However, it is unfortunate that protected bike lanes were unilaterally removed from the bike plan and are not included on Broadway. People will bicycle the bus lanes, as they should, if bike lanes are not provided.
Overall, this project is part of Oakland’s attempts to keep the Oakland A’s baseball team here in Oakland by building a new downtown ballpark. As part of the city’s proposal to the A’s, Oakland will pay for the transportation improvements to the new ballpark. While Bike East Bay supports in general keeping the A’s, the city’s position to pay for the transportation improvements to the ballpark is highly problematic. The A’s new ballpark should pay for these improvements, at least a large share of them. As is, Oakland is now seeking state and federal grants to build projects that are not a city priority, but rather the priority of a private development, albeit a popular one.
We will continue to work with OakDOT to improve designs for safe bikeways as part of the project, and we welcome bus only lanes on Broadway with or without a new ballpark—they are very much needed. We expect the project’s EIR to complete early 2022 and a final vote up or down on the project to happen shortly after. Then we can get to work adding to downtown Oakland’s bike network.