Final EIR Eve

Preferred vehicular overpass on Brush Street over tracks to Embarcadero West

Christmas is coming early for yours truly. For me it started with this comment I made after watching Zennie Abraham’s recent discussion with Mike Jacob of PMSA.

Sure enough, this afternoon the City of Oakland announced that the Final EIR will be released tomorrow, December 17. As Jacob noted, it’s customary for municipalities to release such docs on Fridays, and since two of the next three come right before holidays, it had to be tomorrow or 2022. So we’ll get 3,500 pages, which will include the accrued comments from the Draft EIR cycle. Apparently it was decided that despite numerous protestations, the City would not recirculate the Draft EIR to elicit additional comments. 

Now we are approaching the point where the rubber meets the road. It all comes down to what it will take to get this EIR certified. The A’s were able to get CEQA streamlining approved in August after a favorable court ruling. After all parties – businesses, community, other public agencies – review the Final EIR, they’ll get to comment for another brief period. Then come the agency approvals, followed by the certification and the development agreement between the City/Port and the A’s. That last part is the deal to be struck between the parties: how will it be phased, which items are prioritized first, who pays for what, etc.

Here’s a cheat: Friday’s drop is not the Cliffs Notes version of the Final EIR as it’s 3,500 pages combined. However, if you go through the comments at the project website and combine them with the Draft EIR, you’ve got about two-thirds of the Final EIR. Not interested? Well then, you’re probably not interested in the Final EIR’s 3,500 pages either. I understand the desire to have everything distilled into simple passages, that’s part of why blogs like this exist. This time, I’m not going to let you off easy. I will give you two items that are certain to be at the top of the punch list for Howard Terminal.

The least sexy part of this project is the building of bridges over the railroad tracks, bridges that are a required mitigation. I tweeted about this in November.

The bridge pictured is L-shaped and runs south from Brush Street, over the tracks, and turns west onto Embarcadero West to the parking lots and garages to be constructed near the ballpark. Federal regulations require that there is at least 30 feet of vertical clearance above the active tracks, which makes the bridges have fairly steep approaches from either end. It’s steep enough that the bridges don’t conform to pedestrian standards, so they’re not likely to have sidewalks. Instead, the one designated safe pedestrian crossing will be at Jefferson, where a ADA compliant bridge with proper ramps will take fans from the ballpark to the transit hub and other points north to downtown. It’s possible that fans could cross the tracks at grade, but Union Pacific and other rail companies are fighting to have all of Embarcadero West fenced off to prevent people from chancing it. They’re even arguing that the scope of the project EIR should extend past the lot boundaries due to spillover impacts, which could introduce additional mitigation measures.

The irony of the whole situation is that the 4-lane vehicular bridge is not considered enough to handle gameday car traffic, so an at-grade crossing (probably at Market Street) would still be necessary. If you want to get a feel for what that bridge would be like, the Hegenberger overpass over the tracks near the Coliseum carries six lanes of traffic and prohibits pedestrians on part of it. As for the capacity of the planned pedestrian bridge, BART has thoughts:

BART is particularly concerned about pedestrian access and safety on Embarcadero West at the Project’s frontage where at-grade passenger and freight rail operate. The proposed 20-foot wide pedestrian and bicycle overcrossing of Embarcadero West at one intersection will be inadequate to provide a safe and convenient crossing, particularly during post-event surges. We foresee that crowding, convenience, and poor judgment will lead to conflicts, operational delays, injuries, and possibly death. The proposed fencing along the railroad tracks still leave gaps at four or five intersections where conflicts will occur. Due to the frequent passenger and freight rail activity along Embarcadero West, mitigations should look to separate rail activity from Project-related trips.

– from BART comment on Howard Terminal project

When I explained previously that two-thirds of the Final EIR was already in the Draft version and the comments, I left out the missing part: the responses to the comments. Now that I’ve spent several weeks digesting the comments, I’m ready for the responses. I advise you to wear long pants, because we’re about to head into the weeds.

One thought on “Final EIR Eve

  1. This stadium is about to happen in Oakland! Cue up Kool and the Gang: “Celebrate good times, c’mon – its a celebration!”

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