ALAMEDA -- Concerns about a sound wall to be built off Interstate 880 near Oakland and graffiti were raised during an informational meeting in Alameda on Tuesday night.

Caltrans officials held the meeting at the Alameda Free Library to give residents an overview of a four-year project to improve traffic safety on northbound Interstate 880 at 23rd and 29th avenues used by Alamedans to enter the Island.

The project includes replacing the freeway overcrossing structures which were built in the 1940s and are too low to accommodate some modern vehicles.

Safety improvements are planned at 23rd and 29th avenues to prevent rear end and sideswipe vehicle accidents that occur because of the current street configuration and traffic getting on and off the freeway.

Total cost of the project is now estimated at $101 million to be paid for with state, federal and local funds. Work should begin sometime later this year with completion anticipated in the summer of 2018.

Part of the plan involves diverting traffic out of a residential Oakland neighborhood and building a sound wall to muffle freeway noise.

But local property owner Joseph Conley said the plan doesn't help those who live west of the Interstate 880 freeway.

"I don't understand why you are doing it," he said. "You have just as many residents on the west side as you do on the east side."

Conely and others also said graffiti has been a problem in the area and asked what would be done to combat "tagging" on the new wall.


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Caltrans officials said they are do what they can and admit that even after they clean up vandalized walls, the graffiti artists paint them again within a few days.

RocQuel Johnson, public information branch chief for Caltrans District 4, said residents must work with local police to address the problem.

While residents said Oakland police won't respond to vandalism calls, Johnson said enforcement isn't part of the state agency's mission.

"We are not a policing agency, we are a transportation agency," she said.

One resident suggested that Caltrans plant fig vines which attach themselves to the wall, providing sound abatement and making it difficult for vandals to point the walls.

One Caltrans engineer said such a plan would also require a landscaping project but that the agency would consider the idea.

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