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Caltrans Offers Interim Solution to Confusing Gilman Street Interchange

Friday July 16, 2004

With a long-range solution to the Gilman Street/Interstate 80 interchange stalled by the Bush administration’s refusal to approve the federal transportation bill, a Berkeley traffic engineer and CalTrans have come up with an interim solution. 

Scheduled for implementation by mid-September, the plan calls for installation of new striping that will channel traffic through what now amounts to a vehicular free-for-all beneath the freeway. 

Currently, Gilman has no center nor lane lines as it approaches the interchange from the east, said Peter Eakland, associate traffic engineer for the city. 

Because lanes aren’t marked, cars tend to speed through the heavily traveled interchange, he said. Clearly defined lanes should decrease driver uncertainty and with it, speed. 

“We’ve had quite a few comments that people feel uncomfortable with the interchange,” Eakland said. 

In addition to lanes, the plan incorporates islands marked by stripes to guide cars coming off the northbound freeway into and through the intersection. 

The plans also add five-foot lanes on either side of Gilman under the freeway, both to provide safe transit for cyclists and to provide greater visibility for traffic headed westbound off the freeway towards Golden Gate Fields. 

“We’re trying to make it so people have a better idea of where they’re going and to provide ample room for bicycles,” Eakland said. 

Because of the small scale of the project, CalTrans can provide the labor from its own staff. “Everything should be done in a month or two,” Eakland said. 

The striping solution is only temporary, and the definitive fix remains the two-roundabout solution currently included in the stalled federal transportation bill. 

“It seems doubtful that there will be any transportation bill before the election,” Eakland said. “The federal Department of Transportation will have been operating without a budget for a year come September. They’ve been funded only through continuing resolutions.” 

Major federal transportation bills are passed every three or four years he said, and in-between funds are allocated only for projects authorized in the bills.  

“The striping will make things safer by eliminating some of the weaving drivers do within the interchange because of the confusion” caused by the lack of clear indications of where they should drive, Eakland said. 

The new plan does not include any traffic signals to replace the stop signs currently in place. l