The next public meeting about planned roundabouts on Gilman St. comes Jan. 15. Image: Caltrans

This month, the community will get its latest chance to offer feedback on plans to build two roundabouts in Berkeley on Gilman Street at Interstate 80 to improve a hairy traffic situation that’s renowned throughout the area.

On Jan. 15, Caltrans and the Alameda County Transportation Commission will hold an evening meeting at Berkeley’s James Kenney Community Center, at 1720 Eighth St., to get public input and discuss the project’s environmental documents. The comment period on the environmental analysis and impacts runs through Feb. 5.

The project has been designed to reduce “higher than average rates of injury collisions” and “significant roadway deficiencies,” and to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, according to a recent project factsheet from December. A pair of roundabouts is planned on either side of the freeway, along with new pedestrian and bike facilities nearby — “completing a link” on Gilman and the Bay Trail, and adding new crossings for pedestrians.

According to the latest project timeline, final approval is expected this summer. Construction is set to begin in late 2020 and finish in the summer of 2023. The project is expected to cost more than $55 million and will be funded in large part by the state’s Transportation Improvement Program and Measure BB. The source for about $12 million in costs has yet to be determined.

As described in the project’s environmental analysis, the I-80/Gilman Street interchange “is a four-lane arterial roadway (Gilman Street) with two lanes in the east-west direction that are intersected with four I-80 on- and offramps.… Traffic controls on all approaches to Gilman Street consist of stop signs and pavement markings. These conditions, along with an overall increase in vehicle traffic, have created poor and confusing operations in the interchange area.”

As far as safety, project documents describe the westbound off-ramp from I-80 as the most dangerous area of the interchange, with about two collisions per million vehicles. That’s twice the statewide average.

The plan to build two roundabouts has generated significant public pushback over the years, but the project team has said it’s the only feasible solution.

Using traffic signals is not an option “because of engineering, right-of-way, and cost constraints,” according to project documents. “Under the Signalized Intersection Alternative, there would not have been sufficient space for left-turn pockets under the I-80 undercrossing, and it would have required removal and replacement of the structure. This would have caused significant traffic impacts and inconvenience for motorists. In addition, the cost of this alternative renders it infeasible.”

The project is being done by the Alameda County Transportation Commission, in cooperation with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the cities of Berkeley and Albany.

Written comments on the environmental analysis can be submitted through Feb. 5 to the Department of Transportation, District 4, Attention: Zachary Gifford, 111 Grand Avenue, Office of Environmental Analysis, MS-8B, Oakland, California, 94612. Gifford is also available by phone, 510-286-5610, and email, Hard copies of the documents are available for review at several locations in Berkeley and Albany. See factsheets and other information on the project website.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...