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Biden’s infrastructure bill could help tear down I-980 separating West Oakland from downtown

By Nico Savidge, Mercury News, May 11, 2021

“[Interstate 980] connects Oakland’s Nimitz freeway with Interstate 580 and Highway 24 to Contra Costa County. But in the eyes of its critics, who include Oakland planners and Mayor Libby Schaaf, I-980’s massive trench might as well be a moat that seals off the city’s resurgent downtown and bustling nightlife in Uptown from historically Black and working-class West Oakland.

“Their solution is to fill it in, turning one of the Bay Area’s least-used freeways into a tree-lined boulevard and converting the 17 acres of prime land it takes up into new parks, housing and other development.

“The $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal President Joe Biden rolled out earlier this spring includes $20 billion in funding for projects to ‘reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments,’ which his administration argues would be a step toward correcting the Interstate system’s history of tearing through and segregating Black and Latino neighborhoods in cities across the country.

“Congress is also considering funding for freeway removal projects as part of a separate federal highway bill.

“Caltrans, which hasn’t taken a position on the freeway’s future, is seeking funding for a study that would consider turning it into a surface street, among other potential changes.

“Drivers from North Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek and beyond could complain about a plan that adds time to their most direct route to downtown, A’s games, or the Oakland airport. But [Warren Logan, “the policy director for mobility and interagency relations in Schaaf’s office,” and Jonathan Fearn, “a city planning commissioner and founding member of Connect Oakland, which advocates for removing I-980’s most disruptive stretch”] and others who want to convert the freeway argue that convenience hasn’t been worth the cost to West Oakland.

“As to whether replacing the freeway would fuel gentrification, Connect Oakland says they want decisions about what will replace I-980 to be driven by the needs of longtime residents, rather than developers.”

Read the full article here. (~6 min.)

Other Bay Area transit projects that could be funded by Biden’s infrastructure bill were previously covered here in April’s Planning news roundup.

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