Estuary Crossing: Frequently Asked Questions

A bike and pedestrian moveable bridge faces significant challenges, but as you read through the following FAQs, you will see that many can be addressed. A bike and pedestrian moveable bridge is very possible, people really want it, and it’s certainly worth studying further. Read on.

1. Is a bike and pedestrian moveable bridge even possible here?
Yes. In fact, Caltrans recently nominated a bike and pedestrian bridge feasibility study to the Alameda Countywide plan to move this concept along.

2. Will the Port of Oakland and container ship traffic be an issue?
No. Proposed crossings would be east of the port, so container ship traffic is not an issue.

3. Won’t a bridge impede recreational sailboat traffic?
This part of the estuary sees lots of recreational boat traffic. A moveable bridge built here would have to be high enough in the closed position to allow most sailboats passage, opening only for less frequent larger vessels. We guess that closed position height is probably between 45-70 feet, but will leave it to engineers to determine in the bike and pedestrian bridge feasibility study we are hoping the City of Alameda will support.

4. Can Alameda (or Oakland) afford a bridge?
Like other bridges around Alameda, this moveable bridge would leverage county, state and federal funding sources.

5. But what about other ideas, like tunnels, gondolas, shuttles, etc.?
The 2009 Estuary Crossing Feasibility Study looked at a wide variety of alternatives for bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the estuary. Taking input from the community and weighing many other variables, they identified three preferred alternatives, and ranked them in terms of time frame and complexity, as follows:
  • Short term: Tube improvements, i.e., smoothing the path and adding a few inches of width (complete as of 08/2016).
  • Mid-term: Water shuttle (Alameda Landing is working on a water shuttle as part of their development, hoping to be operational in 2017).
  • Long-term: Bike and pedestrian moveable bridge (no progress made since 2009).

A lot of thought and consideration went into this study. Instead of revisiting the options that were ruled out, we think it makes sense to pursue the recommendations, and feel strongly that it’s time to make some headway on the long-term alternative: the bike and pedestrian moveable bridge. That next step would be to proceed with a bike and pedestrian bridge study, which we hope the City of Alameda will support.

6. But why can’t we also include cars or transit lanes on the bike and pedestrian moveable bridge?
Building for cars, buses, and transit makes the project significantly more complex and expensive. There is also a lack of real estate for on- and off-ramps, particularly on the Oakland side. Ramps are much less of an issue for a bike and pedestrian moveable bridge.

7. But who is going to use it?
The 2009 Estuary Crossing Study estimated a future demand of 2,500-4,000 trips per day. Because biking has become even more popular than anticipated over the years since the study, we can reasonably expect these numbers to be much higher. Ask any traffic engineer and they will tell you that reducing the number of vehicles in the tube by just a few percent can tremendously improve traffic flow and reduce travel times.

8. I’m not a bicyclist (or a walker) and would never use this. Why do I care?

  • If traffic congestion through the tubes — or along any of the feeder streets — bugs you, you will benefit by others ditching their cars to bicycle (or walk) instead.
  • Fewer people driving not only means less traffic, but better air quality, so you’ll breathe easier.
  • If you have kids, you might have them ride their bike to Jack London Square or BART (or destinations like the beach or soccer fields in Alameda if you are on the Oakland side) instead of having to shuttle them around.
  • If you own property, you may see your property values increase — access and traffic are concerns for home buyers and renters, and a moveable bike/ped bridge would make the area much more attractive.
  • If you are a business, you will see more customers — there are lots of unique businesses and events on either side of the estuary that aren’t getting the patronage they deserve because people can’t easily get to them. To boot, because your new patrons will likely be bicyclists, and bicyclists tend to spend more at local businesses, you’ll be attracting an ideal demographic. If you employ bicycle commuters, you’ll find they take fewer sick days.
  • If you are a developer that likes to put big pretty pictures of bicyclists and messages about “breatheability” on your construction site walls, a bike and pedestrian moveable bridge will help sell that vision (and sell your homes) a little better.

9. But what about the Coast Guard? 
Yes, the Coast Guard is an issue here. Unfortunately, located as it is, way up the estuary, and needing to respond quickly to emergencies way out at sea, any infrastructure built across the estuary needs their approval. In the 2009 Estuary Crossing Study, the Coast Guard provided constraints for building here that were broad, leaving room for further research and exploration. Here’s where a new bike and pedestrian bridge study would be especially fruitful because it would bring the Coast Guard and bridge engineers together to focus and really “go deep” on Coast Guard constraints and how to address them. We suspect they would look more closely at some of the assumptions and leverage new design thinking, coming out with either a very clear and reasonable understanding of why the Coast Guard’s location would make a bike and pedestrian moveable bridge infeasible here, or better: a cool bridge design, which works for the entire community.