Street projects at North Berkeley BART aim to make walking, biking safer

A new stoplight at Virginia and Sacramento streets will soon be joined by other changes around the station.

A BART rendering shows a planned new two-way bicycle track just outside the entrance to the North Berkeley station. Work on the bike upgrades began last month. Credit: BART

Projects from BART and the city of Berkeley are reworking the streets around the North Berkeley station in an effort to make walking and biking through the area safer.

The city’s project, called Sacramento Complete Streets, includes upgrades to four intersections along the arterial boulevard — Virginia Street, Delaware Street, University Avenue and Addison Street — that are scheduled to wrap up later this month.

Among the changes is a new stoplight at the Virginia Street intersection, which had been uncontrolled. There are now signals for both cars and bikes, plus an oddly shaped concrete barrier in the middle of the intersection to slow down turning drivers.

A driver navigates through the redesigned intersection of Sacramento and Virginia streets, near the North Berkeley BART station. A concrete barrier in the intersection is meant to slow down drivers turning onto Sacramento. Credit: Nico Savidge

The barrier is also there to prevent cars on Virginia Street from continuing straight through the intersection — instead, drivers approaching it from the west, such as those leaving the BART station, will have to turn left or right onto Sacramento. Those approaching from the opposite side can only turn right onto Sacramento. Bike riders, meanwhile, can continue straight along Virginia, one of the city’s Bicycle Boulevards.

At other Sacramento Street intersections, the city’s project includes new curb ramps and fresh road markings.

“We’re very happy that the city got the funds to implement those improvements — they are making that corridor safer for people walking and biking,” said Ben Gerhardstein of Walk Bike Berkeley.

Gerhardstein said advocates have a few critiques of the intersections, including a desire for physical barriers to keep cars out of bike lanes and more robust signals telling drivers not to turn right during red lights at Virginia and Sacramento. But overall, he said, the project represents a step forward.

https://twitter.com/WalkBikeBerk/status/1465438313804746753

The BART project takes aim at the streets within the footprint of the station and its parking lots, as well as the Ohlone Greenway, which planners say gets congested with pedestrians and bikes during rush hour. Work on the changes began last month.

When it’s done in the spring of 2023, bicyclists will see a widened Ohlone Greenway path, a new separated two-way bike track through the station area, new raised crosswalks and an upgraded traffic diverter at the intersection of Virginia and Acton streets. BART also plans to add 122 new bike parking spaces at the station. A full list of changes and detours for the construction period can be found on the BART website.

Although BART is eyeing the North Berkeley property for significant new housing development over the coming years, officials wrote on a project website that their street improvements will help improve safety in the more immediate term, while also being designed “to minimize loss of investment when the housing project is constructed.”

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.