The landscape of south Berkeley is set to get its long-awaited makeover, if the City Council approves a set of plans and specifications designed to make the Adeline-Ashby-Alcatraz corridor a bicycle and pedestrian-oriented commercial street.
Crosswalk improvements, north and south bike lanes, pedestrian lighting, new trees, bus shelters and public art are just some of the plans for the five block stretch on Adeline Street from Ashby Avenue to Alcatraz Avenue.
Improvements along the stretch are slated to begin soon and to be completed by April of next year, if the council gives its approval, Public Works Director Rene Cardinaux said.
Funding comes from a $1 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and $190,000 from the city’s General Fund. The city originally pitched a $2 million project, but received half, according to Bill Lambert, manager of the Office of Economic Development.
Cardinaux and Lambert said the streetscape improvements are a step toward reaching a major goal of the 1991 South Berkeley Area Plan, which is to link the isolated Ashby BART station with the rest of the community.
In the grant proposal to the MTC, Lambert wrote that “Business owners note that customers are discouraged from walking from one store to the next due to the traffic volume and width of the streets.”
The 175 foot stretch across Adeline is a “forbidding street to cross for cyclists and pedestrians, especially the elderly, children and the disabled,” Lambert wrote.
The six lanes of traffic along the stretch carry 35,000 cars a day in and out of Berkeley at an average speed of 34 miles per hour.
The mammoth BART station itself has also acted as a physical barrier between downtown and south Berkeley, the proposal said.
“The entrances to the BART station are below grade, making station access difficult and isolating the AC Transit stops on the upper level,” the proposal continues. “The physical discontinuity the BART station creates on Adeline, plus the width of the street and the volume of traffic, cuts the Adeline-Alcatraz district off from regional shoppers in the northern segment of Adeline, and forces its merchants to depend on a local customer base with very little disposable income.”
Lambert says that the improvements will not only enhance pedestrian amenities, but increase the flow of customers to and from the BART station, thus improving business.
South Berkeley is certainly looking up, Lambert said. With the improvements, combined with the Ed Roberts campus – a proposed $30 million office complex to house agencies which support people with disabilities – in the BART station parking lot, a new drug store and the thriving Berkeley Bowl, the Adeline corridor will “live up to its potential,” he said.
The area is already home to a number of important community facilities, such as the Black Repertory Theater, several churches, a post office and the offices of the Berkeley Housing Authority.
The plans include the installation of 150 pedestrian lights, 55 new tree grates, new landscaping that includes 30 new trees, new bus shelters, information kiosks and 40 new banners that are hoped to bring a sense of community identity.
Lambert also said that the Civic Arts Commission will be adding a public art piece to the overall streetscape.
“It all ties in together very nicely,” he said.