cars drive on a one-way street with large buildings in the background
A southbound portion of Shattuck Avenue will become a two-way street this month. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Starting next week, downtown Berkeley drivers heading to Oakland will need to share the road with their northbound counterparts.

As part of its $10.3 million street reconfiguration project, the city of Berkeley is converting the two southbound blocks of Shattuck Avenue between University Avenue and Center Street to a two-way route.

Part of the northbound stretch, along with part of Center Street, will be temporarily closed to traffic, as construction continues on that side.

The change eliminates “a circuitous, slower route for northbound traffic while also creating a safer environment for pedestrians,” said the city in a news release.

On Monday the city will begin replacing the one-direction traffic lights at the three affected intersections — Shattuck at University, Addison Street and Center — said spokesman Matthai Chakko. During construction, drivers will notice flashing red lights at some intersections, which should be treated as four-way stops. Once the lighting work is complete, likely by the end of the week, Dec. 20, the stretch will become a two-way street, Chakko said.

The city has previously said there will be two lanes on each side of the two-way stretch.

The city has encouraged drivers to avoid crossing University at Shattuck during construction, proposing Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Sacramento Street instead, and promoting public transit and cycling.

The upcoming work is a major piece of the Shattuck reconfiguration project, first approved by the City Council in 2013 and slated to end in summer 2020. Work began in January and has resulted in a maze of orange plastic K-rails and cones placed throughout downtown. The city has already widened some sidewalks along Shattuck, aiming to make the area more friendly to pedestrians.

A map showing new driving routes in downtown berkeley
Image: City of Berkeley

When the whole project is complete, the western side of Shattuck will be a two-way thoroughfare, while the eastern side will become a narrower northbound street.

The city says the reconfigured routes will cut traffic time, remove awkward turns, and improve walkability and safety, especially at the high-incident intersection of Shattuck and University.

A new name for a short street

The city has sought suggestions for the new name of the eastern two-block, northbound street — formerly the portion of Shattuck between University and Center. Members of the public have entered more than 900 submissions — including many duplicates — via email and on a chalkboard installed downtown, Chakko said.

That long list of names — that includes activists, movie stars, historical figures, Cal references as well as some less savory suggestions — will go to a new naming committee, which will whittle it down to 10 options. The 15-person committee includes nearby business owners, representatives from UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College, and others.

The City Council will have the final say in February.

Read more about next week’s construction plans on the city website.

Correction: This article previously, inaccurately said the eastern portion of now-Shattuck Avenue will become a two-way street when construction is completed. 

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...