As part of its efforts to revitalize the city’s infrastructure, Berkeley City Council voted to approve a contract for the enactment of the Southside Complete Streets project Tuesday. The council also agreed to apply for a $6 million Alameda County Transportation Commission grant that would go towards the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets project.
Both projects will implement infrastructure changes that will improve pedestrian and cyclist safety while expanding and repairing the current transit system, according to the city press release. These decisions were made in an effort to cultivate a more pedestrian and biker-friendly environment for city residents in and around campus.
“We’re very excited about both those projects,” said Alex Knox, executive director of Telegraph Business Improvement District. “It’s clear that there are a lot of opportunities to improve the safety and accessibility of our streets or sidewalks, as well as public spaces in the Southside areas around campus.”
The projects are currently progressing through the design and public engagement phase of the developments, according to Knox. Once that process is complete, they will move onto the administrative and engineering plans conducted prior to actual construction.
Councilmember Rigel Robinson said the projects would assist the city’s plans for sustainability, citing disparities between Berkeley residents’ more “green” lifestyles and current street designs and transportation modes.
“We want to design streetscapes that encourage sustainable modes of transit, while also ensuring the safest possible mobility for all of our residents,” Robinson said. “We need more protected bike lanes, we need better-paved streets and we need to design our streets to ensure that public transit is able to get where they need to reliably and on time.”
According to Ben Gerhardstein, member of the Walk Bike Berkeley coordinating committee, the projects being initiated by the city have been “long overdue.”
Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay, echoed these sentiments and said the improvements to both the streets and the transit system would help both city residents and people who work near campus.
“UC Berkeley is one of the largest employers in the Bay Area and so all these people are coming to campus to work and to go to school,” Campbell said. “They get on these streets and park their cars and the roads are all clogged up. Improving bus service into Berkeley will benefit everyone.”
Most of the project continues to be in design, however, with the process being far from complete, according to Campbell.
“My hope is that in a few years, students all over the Southside will be enjoying a truly revitalized and much more pedestrian-oriented environment,” Robinson said.