HAYWARD -- Starting March 15, driving through downtown will never be the same again, as a contentious one-way traffic loop begins.
The loop, which was fought by merchants who fear it will drive away business, is the linchpin of a six-mile road project through the city intended to ease commute traffic that cuts through Hayward between Interstate 580 and the San Mateo Bridge.
Rudy Grasseschi, whose family has run The Cobblers on Foothill Boulevard for more than 60 years, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the loop, which is just south of his business.
"We fought it, and 95 percent of the public opposed it," he said. "But now that the loop is about to happen, for the benefit of the city, the residents who live here and the downtown businesses, I hope it works. I hope it works."
After the loop is put in place, drivers heading south on Foothill will have to turn right at A Street, drive two blocks to Mission Boulevard and then make a left turn to continue south.
Foothill will be one-way north from its intersection with Jackson Street-Mission, and Mission will be one-way south from A Street to Jackson-Foothill. A Street will be one-way west from Foothill to Mission.
Work began on the Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project in 2010. Since then, motorists and pedestrians have endured torn-up sidewalks and streets, detours, traffic jams, rough roads, long red lights and open trenches. But much of the project is complete, with underground utilities, smooth streets, landscaped medians, wider sidewalks and new LED streetlights along much of Foothill and Mission.
The loop has been argued about since it was first proposed to resolve a 50-year-old battle over how to move traffic through the city without a massive new freeway. The project is being funded largely through Measure B, Alameda County's half-cent sales tax originally designed to go toward a freeway on the Foothill-Mission corridor.
A divided Hayward City Council approved the road project by a 4-3 vote in 2007. Only two members of that council remain: Barbara Halliday, who voted for it, and Mayor Michael Sweeney, who opposed it.
Before the loop is put into place, traffic signal light bridges need to be installed along Foothill Boulevard. The massive bridges will span across the boulevard at A, B, C and D streets and the Foothill-Mission-Jackson Street intersection, with traffic lights hanging from them. Three of the bridges will span 95 feet across Foothill, while the ones for D and Jackson-Mission are 135 feet.
The foundations for the bridges were built earlier and covered with asphalt for pedestrian safety. Next week, Top Grade Construction "will be opening up the foundation locations at the corners and getting all that cleaned out and ready to erect columns," said Kevin Briggs, project manager for the city.
Three of the five signal bridges are scheduled to be delivered March 4, along with all of the bridges' support columns. After all 10 columns are put in place, the tricky part begins.
On March 11, "they plan to erect the signal bridge at A Street," Briggs said. The bridges at B and C streets would go in the following nights, though weather could affect the schedule.
The work will be done late at night, but there will be some detours while the three bridge spans are installed, Briggs said. The hope is that the detours will not be lengthy. "It all depends how well we have measured, how well everything fits together," he said.
The last two signal bridges will be installed the week of March 18, and final paving and striping of the loop is scheduled for May.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.
City staff members will go over plans for the one-way downtown loop at a public meeting at 9 a.m. Feb. 28 in Conference Room 2A of Hayward City Hall, 777 B St.