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New Pedestrian Bridge Planned to Cross Oakland Estuary at Jack London Square

Reader John Callahan alerted us to a report on the City of Alameda website about a planned Oakland Estuary lift bridge for bicycles and pedestrians to cross the Estuary at Jack London Square. Reviewing the 136-page report and the site, it appears the process began in 2002. The initial study was published in 2009. The current drawing of the result looks like this:

Estuary Foot Bridge
The current drawing of the planned Estuary bridge crossing. The report indicates potential usage of 2500 to 4000 bicyclists/pedestrians per day.
© 2022 City of Alameda

We’re not sure how many Oakland/Alameda sailors have been involved in the planning process over the past 20 years, but from our quick look at the plans the 45-ft bridge-down clearance looks as if it would create a problem for quite a few sailboat tenants currently berthed in Estuary marinas.

Oakland Estuary Bridge Drawing
A drawing of the bridge shows 45 feet of clearance with the bridge down and 175 feet of clearance with the bridge up.
© 2022 City of Alameda

The report indicates that public involvement was requested in 2008 from various interest groups and Bay Area transportation agencies.

Site location
Map showing current planned location for the bridge.
© 2022 City of Alameda

This certainly looks as if it could have a dramatic effect on sailing activity and events on the Oakland Estuary. Larger boats finishing races down the Estuary, or the Master Mariners gathering at Encinal Yacht Club, plus regular traffic from all the marinas and yacht clubs appear as though they could be seriously impacted.

If any sailors have been involved in the planning process we’d love to let our readers know if these issues were discussed or how this plan is intended to accommodate Estuary boat traffic. Leave your comments below or email us at [email protected].

30 Comments

  1. Chuck Cunningham 4 months ago

    As a current berth lessee in Marina Village Harbor, we would oppose the pedestrian bridge being built. The bridge would only serve the development of residential units on the island. A regular ferry service would be much more economical and useful. The Estuary serves a wide variety of both commercial, emergency and recreational establishments.

  2. Duncan P 4 months ago

    I’m a regular visitor to Alameda and Jack London Square on my small (but taller than 45’) sailboat and enjoy flying a spinnaker down the estuary when it’s too windy in the slot. I’m not a racer, but see a lot of sailboat flying chutes pas Jack London. This low bridge sounds like it would creat congestion, unpredictable opening delays and potential accidents. Has this all been part of the impact study?

  3. Steve Haas 4 months ago

    I can hardly believe I put from marinas and yacht clubs was requested or we would have heard about already. This will be real hard on the sailing community.

  4. Jonathan Ogle 4 months ago

    This will never happen. Sailors will be up in arms, there is frequent tug and barge activity on the Estuary and the Coast Guard with their big ships is beyond the bridge. It will be in the up position all the time. And when it is down, that looks like a lengthy walk for most people, to get from a sparsely inhabited part of Alameda over to Jack London Square, not downtown Oakland. It is not clear who it would serve.

  5. Dennis Hager 4 months ago

    This makes no sense to me at all: Ferry service is available between Alameda and Jack London via a Clipper Card as you would with BART or its a 5 min drive from Alameda to Jack London thru the Webster St tube. Why on earth would they build another draw bridge that would block so many recreational and commercial users of the Estuary?

  6. steve grogan 4 months ago

    I am slso interested where they got 4,000 per day figures for bicyclists/ pedestrians. I live in Alameda and doubt if I see those numbers per MONTH throughout the island, except maybe beach going pedestrians on Shoreline Drive. Maybe it will be 4,000 owners of 1.5 million dollar condos riding or walking to their high paying jobs in Oakland.

  7. peter metcalf 4 months ago

    Hello Rochelle,

    I just learned about the pedestrian bridge via Latitude38.com which also has a hardcopy edition available at every marina on SF Bay, sometimes outside, as at the Berkeley Marina, and sometimes inside, as at the Berkeley Marina.

    The maximum height of the drawbridge portion concerns sailors for reasons of masthead height above the water and span of that raised portion, based on whatever datum the city uses for judging heights. Tides impact masthead height. The span of the raised portion is important because sailboats don’t sail straight when it would be convenient for powerboats, nor do they simply douse sails and sit still while waiting for bridge clearance. They may turn on their engine and face the wind, drifting with current one way or another, or sail back and forth (again, subject to wind and tide). In fact, sailors do call ahead, but the vagaries of wind and tide mean that an ETA to crossing under the bridge may be in error. So, the bridge keeper must be alert, and make judgement calls regarding a number of factors. How many pedestrians and cyclists (if the assumptions of bridge traffic assumption is justified by its construction) will be waiting for how long while the bridge raises and finally closes? How many boats will be waiting? I assume you have taken into account the passage of ships too, although I’m not familiar with ship destinations on the estuary.

    The reason I write, however, is that I really don’t want Alameda to waste public funds creating a hazardous situation. I don’t need to look on the mainland side of the estuary – one glance at the aerial photograph of the Alameda side is sufficient to reveal the hazard for any cyclist, and the worst for any pedestrian foolish enough to walk in the area of the Alameda bridgehead. It’s an industrial area, full of warehouses, if I’m not mistaken. Maybe, as in Sausalito, warehouses have been converted to store front businesses serving smaller (sailboat) maritime clientele. Regardless, the situation doesn’t compare with say, Jack London Square, which doesn’t see a lot of foot traffic and is reminiscent of Oakland’s history not only as relating to Jack London, but relating also to urban renewal. It’s simply not a popular and welcoming destination except when approached by sailboat. It’s in a part of town that is distinctly unwelcoming.

    The situation at the Alameda bridgehead is destined to become an area of high theft. Bicycles are a hot item for fencing, even hotter as high end bikes become more popular. To give you a clue, the average bike at REI costs (I’m guessing) $1000. Bikes are not easily traced. The Berkeley Police Dept doesn’t even want to know about bike thefts because they are so common and they are not easy to solve. The issue is in the numbers – many thefts of $1,000 are not worth the effort to solve, whereas a house burglary or theft of a $100K car is worthwhile. Yet the total monthly value of theft is probably comparable. You may also be aware that cars with a bunch of bikes owned by individuals in a cycling club of teenagers have been stopped at gunpoint, the thieves stealing both the car laden with the bikes and the unloaded bikes too, if they can expeditiously load them back in the car. At this point, no one has been shot, so far as I know. But the risk, with a gun held to a person’s neck as in one theft, is pretty clear.

    That is what I predict will occur at the Alameda bridgehead. As far as pedestrians are concerned, only an idiot, or profoundly ignorant adult, or a child, or someone with a desire for a physical altercation and challenge to their safety, would walk across a bridge into an area where their lives would certainly be subject to the whim of thieves, perceiving them as the easiest of targets in an area of good hunting for lack of police protection and high density of foot traffic, and I might add, lack of video surveillance, which is only one component of safety, and as has been proven countless times, is an ineffective deterrent to crime, including armed theft and murder.

    So, barring the bridgehead becoming a popular tourist destination, the entire plan of a bridge built for cyclist and pedestrian use must be discarded by anyone who cares about people’s safety. I would hazard to guess, this does not include the developers of the bridge, nor the architects and engineers, and all their support personnel. Of course, few secretaries choose to quit their jobs when their engineering company employers choose to go forth with a project that is patently profitable at the great expense of human lives.

    The best possible outcome of building the bridge is that it would not be used. Period.

    Sincerely,
    Peter Metcalf

  8. Mike Bravo 4 months ago

    This looks like another developer project at taxpayer expense. As stated, a ferry would be less expensive and more in sync with the area if needed.

  9. Jeff Berman 4 months ago

    Makes no sense, way too much money, way to impact full for mariners and our community.

    How about a simple cable ferry! Or other simple more fun answer for pedestrians!

    • Peter Metcalf 4 months ago

      My thought exactly, but I wanted to keep my answer free of insult, namely, turn the bridge into an amusement park. Have cable cars crossing the estuary. Who wouldn’t thrill to the sight of…oh…whatever. At least it would be more fun than a walk on cement hoping a sailboat or ship would pass underneath – which of course, it wouldn’t. Unless people are allowed on the raised portion, as I first imagined. I always wanted to be on a drawbridge as it opened.

      BTW, I when I wrote in my long comment above, “(if the assumptions of bridge traffic assumption is justified by its construction)” what I meant was the inverse: (if the construction of the bridge is justified by assumptions of bridge traffic – and I’m learning more and more not to trust assumptions or to make them myself)…And I want to clarify, now that I’m more settled, I was wrong to use the word “idiot.” There are no idiots. Just anger, grief, frustration, etc., and a sense of powerlessness to create a change with regard to the actions of others. This includes, at times, another’s death. So, a little compassion is in order, sooner being better than later.

  10. Klaus Kutz 4 months ago

    What are these bridge planners smoking?
    It’s a boondoggle in the makings.

  11. Ginger Cox 4 months ago

    I am not sure if this will be open for public comments. It looks like their minds are already made up, as usual.

    It would require both sailors and pedestrians long wait time. How many people are allowed on the bridge? Will people from the new Oakland be tempted to park in Alameda and walk over to the game (back and forth)? Are there any contingencies planned if our office our boats crashed into the bridge due to weather and water elements?

  12. Pat Broderick 4 months ago

    Well, it would prevent Elon from berthing in Alameda! My real question involves bridge tending. How is that going to work? Live tender on site 24 hours (salary, benefits, retirement)? Call ahead and hope someone shows up (D Street Bridge in Petaluma for instance)? Automated on demand (FastTrac)? Specific time schedule for up and down (up on the hour/how long)? No matter which, it will be a real “boat” block for most sailboats.

  13. greg knipe 4 months ago

    it makes sense that sailors want more public marinas.
    it done not surprise me that sailors, rarely urban pedestrians or cyclists by lifestyle, would object to a pedestrian bridge. the most humorous objection above is that it may be simply for the use of wealthy condo owners, new to the area, so they can get downtown without driving. its amusing to have sailors comment on the wealthy and their needs. each, accessing a public marina nearby. to sail. a poor mans sport then? boaters saying “let them take a ferry”… indeed.

    • Ryan Schofield 4 months ago

      Existing Ferry service between Alameda and Oakland is not used much for people going across the estuary from my observation when I have taken the ferry to SF.
      Why do you think all boaters are rich? I’m a boater and I am not rich. This bridge would fundamentaly interfere with boats access to the bay. In addition the bridge might benefit the few, and harm the majority. Don’t build this bridge.

  14. Makana 4 months ago

    It looks like this will kind of wipe out Estuary sailing; if I interpret the hazy drawings correctly, the bridge will be seaward of almost all the sailboat slips on the Estuary. I think it may go over or through my slip (at Jack London Square). When would it be built? The start of construction might be a good wake up to answer the call of distant shores.

    I’m a big cycling proponent, but the bridge designs do not look appealing to me as a cyclist or pedestrian. I think having to ride an elevator or ramp to gain the minimum vertical clearance in any of these designs would dissuade the casual and joyous use, even as it bisects the estuary and chokes off its natural use.

    I would wager, with the increased amount of people living and enjoying the greater JLS area – a recent development – that a well done, small scale cross-estuary water taxi would work well NOW. Assuming, that is, that there was something to draw people to make the crossing. Put a couple good waterfront brew pubs on the Alameda side, provide an nice water taxi with good availability, provide an attractive water taxi dock, and I bet people would use it. The people who come to the estuary, even non-sailors, love to be on and near the water.

    But, if it’s not even feasible to provide for, say, decent and safe public restrooms at the waterfront, then the free spirits of cyclists, pedestrians, and any other visitors is going to be a bit repressed. Some monster scale bicycle bridge is not going to make things better.

  15. Laurel Kaleda 4 months ago

    As sailors out of Alameda for 50 years, this announcement comes as a disappointing and disheartening surprise. Having dealt with the southern bridges to the island over the years, it’s not hard to imagine the chaos that opening and closing such a bridge would cause.
    No one has mentioned such a possibility to our knowledge in all the years and studies that are cited. It certinaly was not a factor mentioned in the permitting process for the 100’s (? Thousands) of new housing units on Alameda.
    We’d like to understand who and why the Coast Guard, with it’s current class of cutters, would approve such a bridge on it’s cutters’ immediate route to the Bay. . Is the operator of the Commodore fleet of tour boats aware of these plans?
    Why would such a bridge be sited where essentially all of the boats in Estuary-based marinas (Jack London, Marina Village, Fortman, Grand, etc.) would need to cross under it? Our sailboat is in Marina Village and we would definitely require the bridge to raise for our 54’ plus antennas over the water to pass safely’
    The sailing community needs to be fully aware of this plan and its implications. Getting the word out through Latitude 38 is a good start.
    Ray and Laurel Kaleda, S/V Nuance

  16. FRED HUFFMAN 4 months ago

    Forget the bridge idea!
    Ferry boats will do the trick and be more fun.

  17. Brad Smith 4 months ago

    In the good old days they would just build it and worry about the fuss later. No kidding. I just finished South Pacific Coast: An illustrated history of the narrow gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad – January 1, 1968
    by Bruce A. MacGregor. There have been many a bridge over time, how long is this one supposed to last?

  18. Maryann Hinden 4 months ago

    First they eviscerated Alameda Marina and now they are messing with more boaters by this ill-considered pedestrian bridge. There are several annual races that start in San Francisco Bay and finish at Encinal Yacht Club; there may be other clubs that are affected as well. There are many sailboats berthed at Marina Village, Grand Marina, etc. which will require the bridge to go up to pass through so they can sail and race on the Bay. The Estuary is the nicest place to keep a boat, IMHO, because of the relatively benign conditions and opportunity for non-white knuckle sailing. I guess the dollars going into developers’ pockets for residential housing matter more than providing opportunities for people to engage in a wonderful sport.

  19. Neal Holmlund 4 months ago

    Fantastic! I am a sailor and cyclist, and I travel frequently by bike from Oakland to Alameda. This project can be a win-win with proper planning.

  20. David Dodds 4 months ago

    Is a tunnel that much more expensive?

  21. Mark Green 4 months ago

    Interesting that in the 2021 Estuary Crossing report all of the bridge alternatives show 60+ foot clearance at mean high water, with 70 feet listed in the alternatives table. With a 600 foot span with that does not seem unreasonable.

    • Maryann Hinden 4 months ago

      For anyone commenting that sailing is not a poor man’s sport, I’d like to remind them that the larger boats which would be affected by the 45′ height limitation usually depend on 4+ crew to sail them (even more for racing). People who might not be able to afford a boat on their own can enjoy crewing on larger boats and will be affected when the boat owners decide to abandon the Estuary because of the hassle of getting past the bridge.

      When a boat is berthed in a slip, many support services grow up around the marina – boat yards, yacht clubs, sailmakers, riggers, restaurants, etc. Apparently, the powers that be in Alameda have decided that they are not as interested in supporting boaters as they are in overcrowding the island with much more housing than it can currently handle.

  22. Alex Hanford 4 months ago

    There was a more recent report published in 2021 with a more detailed analysis of the proposed options. (https://www.alamedaca.gov/files/content/public/departments/planning-building-and-transportation/transportation/estuary-crossing-report_20210125.pdf) all the bridges included in the more recent report include a 70ft clearance at MHW – not 45′ as shown in the 2009 report, see sheet 57 of the report for the bridge elevation. The 70ft clearance should accommodate all but the largest boats stored on the estuary (Santa Cruz 52 has I = 64.50ft, so bridge clearance likely around 70ft?).

    • David Brown 4 months ago

      Are you saying the people planning this thing might not be completely clueless? Why ruin a good kneejerk reaction opportunity.

    • Litespeed 4 months ago

      A 70 ft height? Seven stories high.

      As a hardcore cyclist, this might be good training to do hill repeats on. And no one will mind, that bridge will be empty – no casual cyclist is going to ride up that.

      Bridges over active waterways are always a tough proposition. This seems like a terrible approach to a tough set of requirements. If only bicycles could swim.

  23. Candy Morganson 4 months ago

    This is a really ridiculous idea on so many levels. The potential negative impact to Estuary boaters would be huge. I keep my boat in Marina Village & with a 65′ mast plus antennas, a 70′ clearance would be highly questionable. As an earlier comment mentioned, how do they plan to have a 24/7 bridge tender since all types of vessels, including USCG, use the Estuary both day & night? Augmenting ferry/water taxi service makes much more sense since docks are already in place. Maybe Alameda is in cahoots with Oakland as it appears there is no place to accommodate the traffic for the new stadium complex that also appears likely to be built as the Howard Terminal has now been decertified as a port. Do they think using Alameda as a parking lot is the solution?

  24. Ryan Schofield 4 months ago

    I seriously doubt the City of Alameda sought out comments or input from the marine community in Alameda. Unfortunately this seems just another nail in the boating sailing community in Alameda. Sad to see the Council and Mayor showing such a lack of interest in the boating community in Alameda.

  25. Ray Durkee 4 months ago

    I have lived in Alameda for 32 years and have a boat on the Estuary and this is the first I am hearing of the plan. Wondering if anyone has bothered to ask the Coast Guard what they think of this plan as they have two 147′ Cutters sail of here as well as probably 2000 sailboats that would need to have this lifted for 2x for each sail on the Bay. Really hard to imagine this idea has gotten this far.

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