Soundwall Study Petition Effort In Home Stretch: Petitions Must be Submitted by March 12

Saturday, February 8, 2014

After almost a year of contention, Rockridge residents living near Highway 24 have their last chance to choose whether their area remains on a path toward eventual soundwalls by signing a petition in support of soundwall feasibility studies.

The studies, which would cost about $1.5 million, would identify areas that would merit soundwalls (based on a cost-effectiveness analysis), and do the preliminary engineering needed to pave the way for their construction. Study costs would be paid for with funds from the Caldecott Tunnel settlement (http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/pwa/documents/report/oak028543.pdf).

Soundwall studies opponents argue that the soundwalls are unnecessary and the studies would be a waste of money. Further, they point to other still-unfunded roadway and soundwall projects as indications that a Rockridge soundwall will never be built. They also argue that soundwalls are unsightly and will block residents' light and views.

Soundwall studies supporters point to a preliminary study - which led to the petition effort - that showed much of Rockridge next to the freeway already suffers from noise levels at or approaching those justifying soundwall protection.

With the added Caldecott fourth bore, plus continued traffic growth from Contra Costa County, it is practically guaranteed that soundwalls will be badly needed by the time they could be built. Supporters note that the area has been living with ever-increasing noise levels since the freeway was completed in the late 1960s, and that if the study isn't funded now, soundwalls will almost certainly never get built, no matter how high noise levels continue to rise.

As for other unfunded soundwall projects, supporters point out that some, like the Jackson Street on-ramp to I-880, would be enormously expensive due to engineering problems, as well as facing community opposition, while others, like soundwalls on I-580 south of 98th Avenue, languish for lack of local political support. Supporters also note that, as a recent article in the Oakland Tribune pointed out (http://bit.ly/MGKqar), soundwalls have become more aesthetically pleasing in recent years, and that, with the freeway being elevated through most of Rockridge, the only type of soundwall that would be feasible would be transparent plastic ones that don't block light or views, as pictured above on a portion of I-580.

The soundwall petition and information about soundwalls and the petition process are posted as PDF documents on the Fourth Bore Coalition website at http://www.fourthbore.org/documents-2/.

If you are not sure you are in an eligible area, a map showing the streets involved is also posted. If you are in an eligible area but haven't been contacted about the petition, or are interested in helping to circulate it on your street before the March 12 deadline, email the author at stuflash@aol.com to obtain additional information and materials or to arrange to submit signed petitions.

Stuart Flashman is a member of the RCPC board of directors. The views expressed in the article are his own and not necessarily those of RCPC.