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MacArthur improvements await funding

A $20 million community-driven project to improve MacArthur Boulevard  is on hold until the City of Oakland can secure funding.

BEFORE: The Interstate 580 freeway’s dissection of MacArthur has made it difficult for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users to access the Laurel Business District. (Bridget Stagnitto)

The plan, titled LAMMPS (Laurel Access to Mills, Maxwell Park and Seminary Avenue), is aimed at improving transportation conditions for pedestrians, public transit users, bicyclists and drivers along MacArthur between High Street and Seminary Avenue, according to the City of Oakland Public Works Agency website.

LAMMPS — initiated by the Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council and Mills College in 2004 — aims to make the MacArthur corridor safer, easier to navigate and more attractive.

According to the City of Oakland’s January 2011 LAMMPS report, the total estimated cost of completing the project is $20 million in 2010 dollars.

The Campanil reported last year that LAMMPS is based on Mills College alumna Alysha Nachtigall’s 2008 graduate thesis. It analyzed and offered solutions to problems caused by the Interstate 580 (I-580) freeway, which blocks adjacent neighborhoods’ and Mills College’s own access to the Laurel.

AFTER: LAMMPS would redesign the I-580 underpass to accomodate a dog park with public art installations and a fountain that will be lighted as a nighttime focal point. (Source: January 2011 City of Oakland LAMMPS Report)

Nachtigall’s thesis earned a $257,000 transportation grant from the California Department of Transportation. Mayor-Elect Jean Quan’s office donated $60,000 more to the planning effort.

Area residents, community leaders and local business owners have developed a community-based concept plan over the course of a series of meetings and workshops. According to a March 2010 press release, Mills hosted public meetings facilitated by the city of Oakland at which the public gave input about pedestrian and bicycle traffic along MacArthur between Seminary  and High.

The concept plan is about making the MacArthur segment more accessible for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.

The plan proposes the removal of one lane in each direction, which would open up space for bicycle lanes all along the segment.

BEFORE: MacArthur and 58th, on Mills’ south side, has lack of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, poor street lighting and bus stop locations that do not serve the greatest concentrations of users. (Source: January 2011 City of Oakland LAMMPS Report)

Other proposed features include building accessible sidewalks and adding crosswalks, enhancing and relocating bus stops, planting trees, installing pedestrian-scale lighting and introducing a new traffic signal at Pierson Street to improve traffic and safety by the freeway.

The plan also suggests that the I-580 underpass become a “clear and safe passage for pedestrians, bicyclists, buses and private vehicles,” according to the LAMMPS report. The underpass would offer a dog park, places to sit and public art installations. At community meetings, suggestions have come up for Mills to donate sculptural art pieces through its Arts Program.

But the next step is funding. The LAMMPS project would cost $13 million for construction; $4.5 million for design and management;  $250,000 annually for operations and maintenance and $2.5 million for undergrounding utilities along the target MacArthur segment. That totals to $20 million.

AFTER: LAMMPS would improve the MacArthur/58th area with lighting and bicycle lanes are on both sides of the street. A multi-use path would border Mills College. (Source: January 2011 City of Oakland LAMMPS Report)

“It isn’t exorbitant when you think of road projects, but the money’s just a little hard to come up with,” said Mills College Campus Architect Karen Fiene, who serves on the LAMMPS Steering Committee. Assistant Vice President for Facilities Linda Zitzner and Sustainability and Recycling Coordinator Britta Bullard have also been involved in the LAMMPS project.

Fiene didn’t have any immediate answers as to how Mills students and other community members can get involved in the LAMMPS project, but she does welcome those interested to contact herself ( and Zitzner (

“We’d be happy to do what we can and keep people appraised,” Fiene said.

Phase 1 of the LAMMPS project focuses on improving MacArthur between Mills’ Richards Gate and High specifically.

“The nice thing is that Phase 1 really does impact students. It’s a huge link for students,” Fiene said, “just being able to have access to the Laurel and feel safe doing it. It’d be great for the business people there, too.”

Meanwhile, Mills students deal with the existing MacArthur Boulevard, which many deem unsafe and unattractive.

Marita Fodor, a sophomore Child Development major, rides the Mills shuttle to Rockridge, then takes BART from there to her South Hayward home.

“It takes me two hours to go to school every day,” Fodor said.

There is a Seminary Avenue/Camden Street bus stop at Mills’ back gate, and Fodor knows she could take the 45 bus to the Coliseum BART station and take BART home from there. That route would actually halve her commuting time. And it would cost less money.

Still, Fodor and her parents don’t think the area by the MacArthur-Seminary intersection is safe enough.

“Although it would be cheaper, my parents said, ‘I don’t really want you to take that bus because of the area.’” Fodor said, “I don’t really blame them.”

Fodor said it’d be great if MacArthur were safer and more beautiful, but perhaps Mills should focus on what’s going on inside its gates.

“Right now, I think we just really need to focus on the school,” Fodor said, referring to the recent staff layoffs and resulting student outrage. “Once we get that straight, then I think we can go out into the neighborhood. But right now I think we just need to focus on this family that we have right here, take care of the one we already have right now.”