This is in response to issues raised in Steve KoneffKlatt's letter to the editor on Saturday, August 5.
Mr. KoneffKlatt said he called a few department heads, the city manager, a council person and myself to get information on why it took “a long time” for a fire truck to respond to a burning mattress near his residence on Parker Street. Mr. KoneffKlatt’s perception was that there was “no emergency plan to cover potential problems” during the reconstruction of College Avenue.
As Public Works Project Manager for College Avenue street reconstruction, I am the person most intimate with how the plan was devised and how the plan is proceeding. Both myself and our department's public information officer attempted to telephone Mr. KoneffKlatt to respond to his concerns. Neither of us received a return call.
The City is very concerned with addressing issues before they become a problem. In preparation for this project, Public Works met with several city departments, including the Police, Fire, Health & Human Services departments, and Solid Waste and Streets Divisions of my department.
We discussed and created alternative plans to provide basic city services such as early morning refuse pick-up, street sweeping, traffic circulation, on-street parking, and access and egress of emergency vehicles.
In checking with the captain at Fire Station No. 3, it was determined that the fire was reported being in the 2600 block of College Avenue instead of the actual Parker Street address (east of College Avenue). The captain reported that it took the fire truck no more than 60 seconds longer to get to the Parker Street address (about a city block away) due to this miscommunication.
Fire House No. 3, located on Russell Street east of College has been informed daily of the work status on College Avenue so that alternate access routes are provided for emergency vehicles. Before College Avenue construction began, some of the concrete bollards at the intersections of Piedmont/Parker and Piedmont/Derby were either relocated or removed to allow fire trucks and other emergency service vehicles through existing traffic diverters going north.
All the traffic diversion barriers sprinkled throughout the neighborhood certainly impact a quick and direct route to an emergency.
Neighborhoods with as many diverters also pose an additional difficulty in planning emergency access routes. However, emergency access issues were addressed and planned for, even with the difficulties. Indeed, Public Works spent more time with the Fire Department in coordinating this effort than any other department we worked with.
We knew from the beginning that this would be a highly visible project.
And, of course, there are challenges in trying to control every variable that has the possibility of occurring. The city, however, has done its homework in coordinating and facilitating the project's operation, eliminating as much disruption as possible to the neighborhoods. But after all, this is construction, and by its very nature there are going to be impacts.
Despite Mr. KoneffKlatt's perceptions, public safety vehicles were given top priority on College Avenue during this project as they are given top priority on the streets of Berkeley throughout the year.
Project Engineer, College Avenue Project