To Connect Oakland—Remove the I-980 Freeway

November 17, 2015, 7am PST by James Brasuell
A grassroots, ambitious vision called Connect Oakland is gaining steam in the East Bay city. The key element of the plan's ambition: replacing the I-980 Freeway with an urban boulevard and new housing.

John King explains the details of the so-called Connect Oakland plan, a proposal gaining political support in Oakland City Hall to remove the I-980 Freeway—"a broad swath of landscaped asphalt that separates residential West Oakland from the city’s downtown."

According to King, the plan would replace the freeway with "a boulevard lined with housing at all price levels, reknitting the urban landscape." The proposal could also "include space for BART beneath the boulevard, a tunnel that could connect to a second BART tube from Oakland to San Francisco."

Throughout the article, King, the San Francisco Chronicle's urban design critic, provides the historic context of the construction of I-980 and of the precedent set by freeway removals in the Bay Area. King describes Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco, for example, as a comparable example for the future direction of Connect Oakland.

The proposal has been pressed "for the past year by a handful of local architects and planners with good intentions but little clout," reports King, but city recently moved the idea into a new level of legitimacy when it requested "requested $5.2 million from the Alameda County Transportation Authority to begin planning studies of an I-980 conversion and a second BART tube."

As for King's take on the idea, he clearly approves of the spirit of the effort, proclaiming: "I-980 is a relic ripe for change, and its future shouldn’t be taken for granted."

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Published on Saturday, November 14, 2015 in San Francisco Chronicle