Should Oakland demolish I-980?

OAKLAND (KTVU) -- Interstate 980 in Oakland has landed on a list of freeways in the U.S. that should be demolished and Mayor Libby Schaaf says the idea has some merit and should be discussed.

I-980 is a two-mile stretch that links I-880 with Highway 24.

But many residents in west Oakland say it has severed their area from other parts of the city with the disconnect especially bad to the central business district.

"It's like we're in jail," said longtime resident Ora Knowles. "You just feel you are not a part of Oakland."

That disconnection is a key reason why the Congress for the New Urbanism, a national non-profit group, has placed I-980 on its Top 10 list of freeways that should be demolished.

In a report, the group described I-980 a "freeway to nowhere."

Oakland Mayor Schaaf is no fan of the freeway.

"980 was built as an entry to a second Bay Bridge that never got built," she said. "And it's created a moat (or) a division."

A local group called ConnectOakland has been advocating for the freeways removal for several years.

The group says a boulevard could go in its place, perhaps with BART trains running underneath.

"You can use it in a more efficient manner while connecting to a neighborhood that has been separated for so long," said Jonathan Fearn, spokesman for ConnectOakland.

There are several past instances of Bay Area freeways being torn down.

For example, when the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the Cypress Freeway in 1989, Mandela Parkway -- a better looking road -- took its place.

Schaaf suggested that rethinking the city's freeways can spur economic development.

"People can have better access to job opportunities, create more businesses and have access to open space," she said.

Other complaints about I-980 are that it is underutilized since it carries about 42 percent of its maximum capacity, according to one study.

Some residents said they have found I-980 to be convenient and they worry about the freeway gaining more vehicular traffic.

OTHER COVERAGE

The task to remove it would not be an easy lift. State and city officials would require traffic and environmental impact studies and, no doubt, numerous community meetings. Some projections estimate that if it were to happen, demolishing I-980 and supplanting it with a boulevard would take between 5-10 years.

And yet, such a move would please some west Oakland residents.

"If they re-route (traffic) we will feel like a whole community in Oakland, rather than a division," Knowles said.

By KTVU reporter Rob Roth.

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