Construction to ameliorate traffic congestion at the Gilman Street exit of Interstate 80 is still some two years away, but the City of Berkeley hopes two “roundabouts” will fix the traffic problem by the end of 2002.
The plan is to install a modern roundabout solution to control Gilman Street at the intersections with Eastshore Highway, the West Frontage Road, and on- and off-ramps for northbound and southbound I-80. Only in the preliminary stages of planning, the city is anticipating building roundabouts, but has not yet determined what the final result will be.
This will be a joint effort between Caltrans and the City of Berkeley.
“It has been much needed,” Councilmember Dona Spring said. “That is a dangerous traffic congestion where four or five major streets converge onto the freeway and there is confusion about who is supposed to go first.”
The city just received a $100,000 grant from Caltrans to do preliminary design and environmental analysis projects. The City Council is expected to pass a resolution to secure this grant at Tuesday’s meeting.
Spring said she is pleased that the grant has been awarded, since it will free up money to build a mural dedicated to Cesar Chavez and Doris Adurta at that location, a plan of hers that will add some color to the intersection.
“This roundabout solves multitudes of traffic problems,” said Councilmember Linda Maio, whose district includes the future construction area.
Maio explained that it is currently dangerous and inconvenient to merge onto the freeway from Frontage Road.
The ramps and frontage roads are currently controlled by stop signs at their Gilman Street intersections, while Gilman Street traffic is uncontrolled. This creates congestion for cars entering Gilman Street, which peaks during rush-hour traffic.
This intersection can get crowded with traffic heading to and from the Golden Gate Fields horse-racing track. The Gilman Street undercrossing of I-80 also serves as one of two ways bicyclists and pedestrians can access the Berkeley Marina and waterfront.
“It’s a perfect place for roundabout,” said Director of Public Works Rene Cardinaux. “Most places don’t have enough room for a roundabout but there is enough room there so that people will not get in each others’ ways.”
In 1998, the City of Berkeley had DKS Associates conduct a preliminary study of traffic problems and possible solutions. Eighteen different ideas were narrowed to three final recommendations – one traffic signal option and two concepts for roundabouts. These recommendations are just candidates for detailed study.
In the same year, the city was also given a price estimate between $500,000 and $770,000 for total construction costs. However, this was just a rough estimate and the price range is expected to change as preliminary design work gets under way, said Traffic Engineer Reh-Lin Chen.
The City of Berkeley is in the process of finding a transportation consultant who will develop a detailed preliminary design for installing the roundabouts. Proposals are due on July 12 and an interview process will follow until a consultant is hired by August.
According to Chen, the chosen consulting firm will do preliminary work on the site this fall, as will Caltrans. The rest of the timeline is still being worked out, but a project bid is scheduled to take place in June 2002 and construction should be finished by December 2002.