OAKLAND -- The number of lanes on 35th Avenue between Monterey and MacArthur boulevards may be reduced to improve traffic safety, though many in the community are against the proposal.
Lane reductions -- also called "road diets" -- have been successfully used in other parts of Oakland, according to Joe Wang, a supervising traffic engineer for the city. "Studies have shown that the road diet typically reduces accidents by as much as 17 to 19 percent," Wang said.
Many residents agree that there are problems with speeding and accidents in the area -- a fatal accident occurred there five years ago. However, they do not agree on what should be done.
Recently, the city paid for an independent study of the situation after numerous complaints from residents, according to Wlad Wlassowsky, the city's main civil engineer. "The road diet was one possible recommendation," Wlassowsky said. "People can only go as fast as the car ahead of them."
Some residents question the process. "This is the only option that has been presented to us," said Amy Morgan, a Redwood Heights resident.
District 4 City Councilmember Libby Schaaf created a working group of officials and residents in the spring, after community members voiced concerns about the lane-reconfiguration plan at a public meeting in March.
"I'm not taking a position at this time," said Schaaf. Her aim is for "people on both sides to become educated about the data before a final decision is made. I'm looking for consensus."
In 1971, 35th Avenue was widened to four lanes from two to accommodate increased traffic from commercial and residential developments on Redwood Road and other nearby areas.
"It did not work with two lanes 42 years ago with less traffic, and it will not work now," said Barbara Ciu, who's lived in the area for 73 years and supported the initial efforts to widen the avenue. "Now, with more traffic, I suspect it will create more problems than anyone wants to admit."
But Thaddea Pojanowska, a 20-year resident of the area, disagrees. She says she's witnessed several accidents on 35th Avenue, including a rollover in front of her house last year. "How many people have to die or get injured before something is done?" she asked. "I feel unsafe."
There are also several bus routes and it is an important route for those attending Skyline High School, Merritt College and the American Indian Charter School.
Opponents also are concerned about air quality and increased traffic on neighboring streets, especially during peak rush hours. They have collected nearly 500 signatures against the proposed road diet.
"It is difficult to move forward with this much opposition," said Wang, adding that five of every six phone calls and emails received by his office have been against the road diet.
"We don't have a groundswell of support to move forward." explained Wlassowsky. "I think we aren't quite there yet."