05 September 2008

A's begin to address traffic concerns

An article in today's Fremont Bulletin (Wes Bowers) notes that on Wednesday, Wolff Urban Development Sr. VP Paul Menaker spoke at length at the Fremont Rotary Club about the state of the Cisco Field and ballpark village project. Most of the news relates to traffic and parking management. There's nothing to report on public transit, other than the A's are in talks with every transit district that services Fremont and the surrounding area. Menaker noted that BART service to the Warm Springs station is scheduled to begin in 2015. Construction of the Warm Springs extension is slated to begin next year, with the Santa Clara County extension to follow pending approval of a countywide sales tax hike in November.

Menaker's discussion appears to have centered around infrastructure. While area freeway interchanges are plenty beefy, the A's propose additional lanes and even another on-ramp to accommodate the projected 10,862 auto trips for each game. I'll go point-by-point on several of the new developments:
To accommodate autos, Menaker said parking would be sited in various designated areas on the east side of I-880. He added parking had originally been slated to be in the Fountains Business Park.
That's a major departure from the original development plan. The area east of 880 is far more developed than the project area, which makes me wonder if the A's have acquired even more properties in Fremont. They'd also have to get the fans across the freeway safely, which would require either a long pedestrian bridge over the Nimitz or more shuttles. It's a bit of a headscratcher until there are more details. It's not stated how much parking would go in that area. 10%? 20%? 50%?

Saying the A's also know this will increase congestion in Fremont, Menaker said the team will make a number of improvements to existing roadways, including adding a second westbound turn lane from Stevenson Boulevard to Boyce Road.

A third westbound lane will be installed on Auto Mall Parkway from Cushing Parkway to Noble Way, and an additional offramp from I-880 to Auto Mall Parkway will be built.

A second right turn lane from Fremont Boulevard to Cushing Parkway will be installed, but only used on game days, he said.

He added various traffic light improvements will also be made, and also only apply on game days.

I believe that's Nobel Way, not Noble Way. The combined effect of these changes will be to make the additional traffic run more smoothly - though it may be as much aimed at the new residential and commercial traffic as it is the ballpark. The onramp is an intriguing proposition, though I have no idea where it would go.

As motorists near the stadium, there will be permanent signage directing where they can and cannot park. He said the team would pay for all aspects of traffic management, including traffic and security officers.

"Everything we do in parking management will be to keep people from parking in Costco's lot and Pacific Commons," Menaker said, adding the team will pay for security personnel, monitors, and enforcement which he called security zones.

As for parking, the A's are proposing a validation scheme for shoppers and employees. Previously I expressed skepticism about validation and remain so, simply from the notion that the big box retailers generally frown upon validation in general.

While I am impressed with the expansive nature of Menaker's traffic discussion, there remain questions about how to placate all of the various constituent groups in the area. The additional infrastructure, which the A's say they will pay for, will be expensive. I'm curious to find out how they will pay for it, as well as further traffic and parking plan details. The role of technology may be important as well, since RFID could help streamline parking management.

At this point I'm only certain of one thing: the traffic and parking study will be a bit larger than a fold-up pamphlet.