With or without A’s ballpark, Oakland moves ahead on infrastructure projects

City aims to spend $259M on streets, sidewalks, lighting and a bike path into Howard Terminal

Councilmember Carroll Fife with rendering of proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal (City of Oakland, Oakland A's)
Councilmember Carroll Fife with rendering of proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal (City of Oakland, Oakland A's)

It could become a bike lane to nowhere.

Despite a stalled Oakland A’s ballpark at Howard Terminal, the city aims to spend $259 million in state grant money to build a bike path and other infrastructure into the port, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Officials say the money would be wisely spent on long-needed projects to improve West Oakland, even if negotiations falter for the $12 billion ballpark and mixed-use housing development.

With the project to build a $1 billion ballpark and thousands of homes and commercial enterprises stuck at first base in the harbor, the Oakland Athletics could leave town after their lease expires at the end of the 2024 season. The A’s are now looking at sites in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, Oakland aims to move ahead with the infrastructure for the proposed development between Jack London Square and the nation’s ninth busiest container port.

The $259 million in funds for improved streets, sidewalks and lighting comes via the Port of Oakland in a grant from the California State Transportation Agency, with no strings attached.

If the city and port formalize an agreement to share the money, officials could begin renovating areas between Embarcadero West, Eighth Street, Oak Street and Mandela Parkway – city blocks that contain businesses, homes and transit stops north of Howard Terminal.

The improvements include a transit mobility hub planned on Second Street, near Jack London Square, where city officials envision “game day crowds and daily commuters may easily and comfortably wait for buses, access bike share, valet bike parking, scooters and other types of mobility devices.”

They also include a protected bicycle lane on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, between Eighth Street and Embarcadero West, that leads straight to industrial harbor land.

But critics say that, without housing and a new stadium, the renovation would be pointless. Howard Terminal, once used to offload marine cargo, is now a staging ground for truckers entering and exiting the port.

“It is disingenuous to say this project is what’s most needed in District 3,” Councilwoman Carroll Fife, who represents West Oakland, told the Mercury News. “No one is over there at Howard Terminal right now.”

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She suggested the projects would prioritize certain infrastructure to sweeten a deal with private enterprise. Other city officials have argued the Infrastructure doesn’t need the Howard Terminal development to benefit local residents.

Interstate 880 underpass improvements would help reconnect neighborhoods cut through by the highway by adding signage, lighting and art, according to the Mercury News.

Traffic signals would be upgraded on Adeline Street, between Seventh Street and the seaport, to reduce congestion and potential collisions among trucks going to and from the port off I-880. Sidewalk gaps on Third Street will be filled in to improve pedestrian paths.

But other projects appear to mostly benefit the A’s development, including an overcrossing at the street-level Union Pacific Railroad tracks on Market Street and Embarcadero West, which would provide vehicles straight-line access to the ballpark site.

Some residents say the city is rushing to get these grant projects funded, so it can get the A’s to agree to a deal.

“Why are we using our monies to fund a rich man’s dream to provide housing and development for people who don’t even live here?” longtime resident Cathy Leonard said. A new stadium and luxury housing, she said, could “further destroy and uproot the remaining Black families in West Oakland.”

Others urged the city to hold off at least until January, when the city’s new mayor will be sworn in, along with two fresh faces on the City Council.

Shipping and trucking businesses that opposed the ballpark development and rely on the port economy are taking exception to the infrastructure projects.

“During supply-chain gaps at the height of COVID, the state gave money to the port for offsite infrastructure improvements for the A’s,” Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told the newspaper. “For them to turn around and say, ‘Well, there might be other co-benefits’ is right-in-your-face stuff.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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