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During the development of the Albany Active Transportation Plan in 2010, it was brought to the City’s attention that pedestrian access was impeded by vehicles parked on the sidewalk along the hilly segment of Washington Avenue between Pierce Street and Cerrito Street.  Moreover, residents of Washington Avenue raised the issue that the street was being used as a shortcut, particularly in the evening hours by presumed patrons of the bars located on San Pablo Avenue, and that there was speeding on the 15 mph zone of the Washington Avenue hill.

Staff conducted speed surveys and vehicle counts, which confirmed residents’ concerns about speeding and cut through traffic.  A couple of accidents occurring in the early morning hours were reported during the analysis period, which could confirm residents’ concerns about motorists driving under the influence on their street. Another challenging condition of the street is emergency response access due to street width (21-22 feet) and vehicles parked on the street.  In summary, this segment of Washington Avenue has challenging physical conditions, which include lack of visibility, impeded pedestrian accessibility, vehicular speeding, cut through traffic, and difficult emergency response access. 

City staff applied to the University of California Transportation Center Technical Assistance Program to assess safety along this segment of Washington Avenue and around the Albany High School area.  The analysis, carried out by Kittelson and Associates, proposed the installation of bulb outs at the Gateview and Cerrito intersections, red curbs and tree grates along the 800 block of Washington, and the installation of a raised crosswalk at Catherine’s Walk.  This concept was presented to the Traffic and Safety Commission in 2013.  Subsequently, the City Council approved the conceptual design with the exception of the tree grates in 2014 and recommended to staff the evaluation of implementing mini roundabouts at the Gateview and Cerrito intersections before proceeding with development of construction plans. Council asked staff to consider two phases for the implementation of these safety features. One phase would be first to stripe the proposed traffic calming measures, evaluate their effectiveness, and continue with the installation of hardscape features if the evaluation is favorable. 

The City commissioned Kittelson and Associates to work on this project.  The firm presented a roundabout concept to the Traffic and Safety Commission in the spring of 2015.  Residents of the block supported the roundabout concept in general, but there were always concerns about the red curb plan and the loss of parking, which seems to be the only feasible alternative to allow pedestrian and emergency response access along this block of Washington Avenue.  They requested that the red curbs be implemented at the same time as the raised crosswalk and that the intersection improvements be implemented at a later phase.  

After several public meetings,  in the summer of 2017, the Traffic and Safety Commission recommended the installation of red curbs and raised crosswalk, and further evaluation and cost estimate of a neighborhood proposal for parking turnouts along the 800 block of Washington Avenue.  If feasible, these turnouts would help mitigate the loss of parking due to the installation of the recommended red curbs.   The City has allocated Vehicle Registration Fee funds administered by the Alameda County Transportation Commission in its Capital Improvement Program for preliminary work of this project.