Starting Monday the east entrance and parking lot of Ashby BART will be closed for 18 months to allow construction of the $45 million Ed Roberts Campus.
Described as one-stop shopping for disability services, education and research, the transit-oriented campus will be built on top of the parking lot on the east side of the BART station facing Adeline Street. It will include a dozen non-profits, a child development center, a fitness center and a cafe complete with a spiral ramp up to the second floor, accessible meeting rooms and spacious elevators.
Groundbreaking is set for Sept. 4 and the project, according to BART and the Ed Roberts management, will be completed by February 2010.
Although planning for the project has been going on for the last 12 years, some BART commuters who stopped by at the makeshift BART information desk set up inside the turnstiles from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday said they were hearing about it for the first time.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Sarah Cone, who takes BART from San Francisco to Berkeley everyday. “But it’s not a big problem. I will just have to walk a little extra to get to my house. I guess.”
Kevin Hagerty, manager of BART’s Customer Access Department, said BART agents had flyered cars parked at the station since the beginning of August.
“Most people at the station are not surprised,” Hagerty said. “The project’s been in planning for 10 years. We are here today to answer questions and provide information.”
Hagerty said that BART—which is funding the project along with the federal government, private foundations, the City of Berkeley and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission—was working closely with the project developer and city officials to minimize the disruption BART customers would face during construction.
BART will be offering an attendant-assisted parking program in the Ashby stations’s west parking lot—which is home to the flea market every weekend—on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“After the self-park stalls are filled, we will give people the option to leave their vehicles with a professional parking operator who will park their vehicle in parking lot aisles or behind the self-parked spaces,” Hagerty said.
“When they come back from work they will give the attendants the claim checks and get their cars back. Since there will be no attendant parking on weekdays and the flea market will continue to operate there will be limited parking then.”
“What about the shuttle buses?” asked a nurse who works at Alta Bates Summit and Medical Center which offers shuttle services to its employees from Ashby BART.
Hagerty said that all existing shuttle services, cabs and car-share services which stop at the east side would be relocated to the west side.
“The whole east side of the parking lot is going to close,” he said, adding that the west entrance and parking lot would not be affected during construction.
“People who live or work on that side will have to cross Adeline and come in through the other side,” he said
A few cab drivers who said they currently park in the three city-allocated parking spots on the east side expressed concern about the relocation.
“There will be three spots on the west side for three taxis but what about the other 10 or 15?” said M. Singh, who parks his cab on the east side. “It’s a very big problem for taxi drivers. I don’t know what to do. Earlier we could park on Woolsey but the city stopped us from doing that two months ago.”
Mandy Dhillon, another cab driver, said the City of Berkeley had started fining drivers if they parked their cabs on Woolsey.
“It’s a big problem,” he said waiting for passengers outside the station. “You have a whole lot of cabs but only three can park at the station.”
Some BART commuters said they were still confused with the new access plans.
“We have got a game plan on how to accommodate access but we will keep looking at the challenges and address them,” Hagerty said. “A few people are asking us to clarify the parking but most are curious about how the building is going to look. Since the west side is more congested it will take a lot more time for people to adjust. We expect confusion on the first day. But we will have extra BART staff out here to make sure people understand the process.”
Drivers will continue to pay the current $1 weekday rate for parking and monthly reserved permit holders will keep parking in their existing designated spaces.
The City of Berkeley will also allow extended-hour parking on the west side of Adeline Street between Ashby Avenue and Woolsey Street.
“Right now it’s got a one-hour parking limit but the city will be eliminating parking restrictions, except from 1 to 4 a.m., so that people will be able to park all day,” Hagerty said.
Bike racks will be relocated from the east side of the station to the west side right next to existing bicycle parking.
“We will allow people to use the curb area adjacent to the station entrance while actively dropping off and picking up other BART riders,” Hagerty said.
Ed Roberts Campus Project Manager Caleb Dardick said BART patrons had reacted very positively to the news of the construction.
“They were very supportive,” Dardick said. “Once construction is complete they will be able to access the station through a new elevator and stairs. The building will level with Adeline Street. We will basically be excavating the parking lot.”
Barbara Richardson, who has been parking her car at the Ashby BART for the last two years, said she would start taking the bus from Monday.
“Right now I barely get a spot on the east side when I get here,” Richardson said. “There are far less spots on the west side. There’s no way I will find a place to park there.”
For more information, see www.edrobertscampus.org.