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MacArthur Maze Proposal Raises Concerns From Communities

The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) has proposed increasing the height of three bridges in the MacArthur Maze, a confluence of highways in Oakland used frequently for transbay transit. This project is called the MacArthur Maze Vertical Clearance Project (MMVCP). After pushback from local community leaders, the project has been postponed to review feedback from the communities that would be affected by the necessary closure of the Maze for the MMVCP.

John J. Bauters, a member of the Emeryville City Council and its representative on the Alameda County Transportation Commission, said that his concerns about the project include drivers increasing noise,   air pollution, and traffic congestion. He added that diesel fuel vehicles are “extremely hazardous to human health.” Bauters said the traffic would go through “sensitive parts of [the affected] communities,” such as schools, hospitals, clinics, and childcare centers.

Another concern of community members is increased traffic congestion. “The surrounding areas are going to be what I like to call a ‘carpocalypse’,” he said.

Bauters explained that CalTrans originally claimed that the replacement of the bridges would be beneficial because it would allow tall trucks to pass under them. However, according to Bauters, CalTrans did not have any data to support their claim that trucks avoid the Maze because of the height of the bridges. The current CalTrans standard for constructing new bridges is a height of 16 feet and six inches. When bridges that do not meet this standard need renovation or replacement because of structural integrity issues, they need to be built that high. However, none of the three bridges in the Maze have such structural integrity issues.

The MMVCP is funded through the California gas tax. Infrastructure improvements and public transit are what Californians were promised their tax revenue would go to.

George Pavlov, an Oakland resident who has been commuting through the Maze for 23 years on the way to work, had never heard of the proposed project before being interviewed. He agreed with Bauters’s point, that CalTrans had not consulted the affected communities before proposing the MMVCP.

Pavlov said, about the closure of the Maze, “[It] probably would not affect me too much because I’m pretty good at taking alternate routes; sometimes I go through West Oakland anyway because the Maze is too much of a delay.” He said he cannot stand up fully on the double decker AC Transit buses, some of which pass through the Maze. This speaks to “[American] infrastructure being not always up to snuff or suitable for all modes of transportation,” Pavlov explained.

CalTrans has been receptive to the concerns from local community leaders.