OAKLAND -- Next week, city staff, consultants and the public will discuss the issue of noise barriers -- or sound walls -- for sections of Highway 24 running through Rockridge, including across College Avenue.
The Thursday meeting will cover the process and timeline for the project, and there will be a question-and-answer period.
"If you're curious, if you're interested, come on out," said Wladimir Wlassowsky, Oakland's transportation services division manager of public works. "We'll try to answer all your questions."
The sections under discussion are eastbound between Vicente Way and Broadway Avenue, westbound between Ross Street and Telegraph Avenue and, although considered less likely, westbound between Patton Street and Ross Street.
In order for sound walls to be considered, a study of how loud the highway is must be made. A preliminary study done in 2009 by Wilson, Ihrig and Associates, an Oakland-based acoustical consulting firm, found several areas that might be eligible for sound walls, but in order to be considered further, a study called a Noise Barrier Scope Summary Report is necessary.
"The studies are actually quite costly," Wlassowsky said.
The city will pay with money it received from the state as part of a settlement over the building of the Caldecott Tunnel's fourth bore. The agreement provided $8 million for projects in the neighborhood determined by various local stakeholders.
The money won't cover
"It fluctuates as the economy fluctuates," Wlassowsky said.
Not everyone supports the idea of sound walls. Jon Gabel, who lives two rows from the highway, thinks the methodology and the policy process are flawed and has set up a website, www.rockridgesoundwalls.org, to back up his claim.
Gabel, a former board member of the active neighborhood group the Rockridge Community Planning Council, thinks the computational model used by Wilson, Ihrig's study to predict future noise comes up with levels that are too high. He also finds fault with the decision-making process, saying there hasn't been enough input from residents and the city hasn't been clear on what will happen.
"It's really bad," he said. "The whole thing is kind of rigged at this point."
Some of the issues that will have to be resolved before construction goes ahead include figuring out what the walls will look like and making sure an as-yet-undetermined percentage of local homeowners in the first two rows of houses are in support.
"If people just don't want it, it's probably not worth putting money in the study," said Zac Wald, chief of staff for District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner.
Stuart Flashman is a board member of the Rockridge Community Planning Council, which has its own sound wall information page at www.rockridge.org. He supports building sound walls and thinks others do, too.
"My sense is, just talking to neighbors here, is that they would like the sound walls built," he said.
But he did add the look of the walls would be a factor for many and supports clear panels over concrete walls.
"With the earthquakes, you'd worry about it destabilizing the structure," he said.
Gabel did his own informal poll and estimates support at around 50 percent.
"There's no easy way to satisfy everyone," he said.
According to Wlassowsky, after the next round of studies, any spots identified as ripe for a sound wall will go to the Alameda County Transit Commission, which implements projects funded on the regional and state level. The funding comes from Caltrans. It's a long process, and Rockridge is only at the beginning.
"It could be many, many years. We're not even close to being there yet," Wlassowsky said.
Attending the meeting will be Wlassowsky, Victoria Eisen, a consultant working on fourth bore mitigation projects, a representative from Wison, Ihrig, who performed the 2009 study, and staff from Caltrans and the office of Councilmember Brunner.
Topics to be discussed include a history of the Caldecott Tunnel settlement funds, an overview of how sound walls work and what they look like, notes on the 2009 noise study and an explanation of the next steps.
What: Sound wall public meeting
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Rockridge Public Library, 5366 College Ave.
Information: For more questions, contact Victoria Eisen at 510-525-0220 or email@example.com.