A project that would reduce the number of vehicle lanes on a nearly 2-mile stretch of Carlson Boulevard in Richmond from four lanes to two is facing community opposition.
The city plans to use a $500,000 state grant (Safe Routes to Transit) to install a number of safety improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders on the boulevard, which connects BART stations in Richmond and El Cerrito.
Planned additions include a median pedestrian island and crosswalk at the Richmond Greenway, bulb-outs at Macdonald Avenue and 24th Street, 40 ADA-compliant curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks at all bus stops. A map posted below provides more details.
Those new amenities, however, are not what’s drawing opposition. The plan also calls for turning one vehicle lane into a bike lane in each direction on Carlson from Broadway to Bayview Avenue. The 1.8-mile stretch of roadway currently has four lanes; two in each direction.
Also, bike lanes would be added on Carlson between Bayview to Tehama, but that stretch would remain with four vehicle lanes.
Project supporters, who include members of bike and pedestrian advocacy groups, say improvements are needed to slow down traffic on Carlson and to create a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians.
Dennis Dalton, a Richmond resident and member of the Richmond Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (RBPAC), said the project will shorten the path to cross the street, making it safer for residents. The lane reduction will also prevent drivers from treating the boulevard like a highway, he added.
“If this project is approved by city council, we won’t have speeders on the boulevard,” Dalton said during an open public comment session at the Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday.
But project opponents, many who are residents living in the area and who use the boulevard, believe Carlson will become congested. They dispute figures by project advocates stating the boulevard is currently not heavily-trafficked. They charge that a similar project that removed a lane from 23rd Street has led to congestion.
Mary Stewart, who says she lives near the boulevard and uses it as a commute route, says she supports adding bicycle lanes on Carlson, but not removing a vehicle lane.
“I think it will be a total trainwreck otherwise,” she said.
Madeline Law, president of Park Plaza neighborhood council, which represents an area located just west of Carlson, said the roadway should be constructed like Cutting Boulevard, which has both four lanes and bike lanes.
Garland Ellis, from the Annex neighborhood, warned the impacts of increased congestion to emergency vehicles.
“Every morning at 8 a.m., I go down Carlson Boulevard coming from Central Richmond toward El Cerrito. Two lanes, solid traffic, not moving at all hardly from Bayview to I-80,” Ellis said. “You go from Bayview around the corner back toward S. 47, it’s backed up halfway there. If you have a wreck on [Interstate Highway] 80, it goes back further.”
Jerry Yoshida, a resident of the Annex neighborhood, said the project doesn’t make sense as few people in the neighborhood near Carlson ride bicycles.
But project supporters say that’s part of the project’s purpose: to encourage more cycling and public transit use.
Using data from 2007, RBPAC reported that S. 23rd Street saw double the number of vehicles per day than Carlson: 17,400 vehicles versus up to 9,100.
“There is not enough traffic on this street to cause issues once the improvements go in,” a transit advocate told council.
Dave Campbell, advocacy director with Bike East Bay, said the substantial state grant the project received proves Carlson’s need.
“It’s a good project for walking, and it’s also good for connecting neighborhoods and schools to transit; good for bicycles and good for safety for the residents there,” Campbell said.