Hearst Avenue improvement project to begin summer of 2016

Kayla Baskevitch/Staff

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At an open house Wednesday evening, the campus and the city of Berkeley presented plans for a $3 million improvement project for a section of Hearst Avenue between Shattuck Avenue and Gayley Road.

The Hearst Complete Streets Project will construct approximately 900 feet of new sidewalk between Le Conte Avenue and Euclid Avenue and improve the current pavement condition. It will also implement curb extensions for pedestrian safety and add provisions for bicyclists.

The new bike provisions will include bike lanes and bicycle boxes — marked sections that allow cyclists to cross intersections ahead of traffic — that would make cyclists more visible to drivers.

According to project manager Aaron Sage, elements of the project have been discussed for several years, and this project combines many of these different elements.

“Our goal is to improve safety and mobility for all forms of transport — be it bicyclists, pedestrians or drivers,” Sage said.

The initiative will also include the installation of wheelchair-accessible curb ramps that would bring parts of Hearst Avenue up to the standards put forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Other improvements include new traffic signals and vehicle turn restrictions at certain intersections.

Eric Panzer, chair of Livable Berkeley, an organization that aims to improve the daily life of Berkeley residents, said he supports the initiative, though he acknowledges that it is not perfect.

“There will inevitably be certain tradeoffs, but the project on the whole is very positive,” he said. “I’m always in support of better pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

Clarence Johnson, a spokesperson for AC Transit, said he had some misgivings about the alterations because of the difficult maneuvers they would force buses to incorporate into their routes.

He cited the intersection of Hearst and Euclid avenues as an example in which a bus must move over a large distance quickly. Here the bus is forced to cross a bike lane twice in order to get in and out of the stop, which he said could potentially pose problems for cyclists.

Greg Riessen, a Berkeley resident, called the current project “much needed.” He said he often takes his 2-year-old son to ride his scooter around the UC Berkeley campus, and finds Hearst Avenue to be the most dangerous intersection.

Arty Zhang, a junior at UC Berkeley who works for the ASUC Transportation Division, said he has mixed feelings about the project. Although he likes that the project would take out some parking spaces and install bike lanes, he opposes the way the plan intends to integrate bikes into car lanes using markings on the pavement called “sharrows.” He also said he felt that other streets, such as Oxford Street or Bancroft Way, were in greater need of reconstructive help.

The project is expected to begin summer 2016.

Contact Ivana Saric at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ivanas26.