Proposed Highway 24 soundwalls may impact Rockridge BART platform
Along with other traffic improvements, soundwall studies are tentatively funded under the Caldecott Tunnel Settlement Agreement between Caltrans and the City of Oakland. If these studies go forward, $1.2 million would be spent to study the feasibility of building soundwalls along both sides of Highway 24 through the Rockridge neighborhood of North Oakland. Although the Rockridge BART station platform would be bracketed by these soundwalls (which could impose additional noise and vehicle pollution on BART patrons), BART appears unconcerned; and BART patrons have no say in the proposed soundwall approval process.
I have been in opposition to these proposed soundwalls for more than two years. I have created a website, www.RockridgeSoundwalls.org, to publicize the issue. There is a public meeting on this topic scheduled for Thursday, January 17, at the Rockridge Library, 5366 College Avenue. Here is a summary of the possible impact on Rockridge BART:
The proposed soundwalls would bracket the freeway on both the north and south sides and would extend east and west of the Rockridge BART platform for thousands of feet. The height of the proposed soundwalls could be as much as fourteen feet, measured from the Highway 24 roadway. (Soundwall height is limited to fourteen feet or 10% of the width of a freeway and Highway 24 is 160 feet wide.) The BART platform is approximately six feet above the Highway 24 roadway. This would allow a soundwall height of about eight feet above the Rockridge BART platform.
There has been no mention by proponents of the proposed soundwalls of the possible aesthetic and environmental effects that this construction would have on BART patrons at Rockridge. More than 3,000 trips per day originate at the Rockridge station.
I raised these concerns with BART. In an e-mail dated October 16, 2012, BART Spokesperson Michael J Moran wrote back,
"...it seems any potential changes in freeway sound affecting passengers at the platform is presumed to be of little effect as persons awaiting trains generally are there for a brief period of time....average of less than 15 minutes weekdays and less than 20 minutes evenings and weekends. Additionally, the distance of these proposed sound walls from the passenger platform is over 63 feet away - which provides sufficient area for rebounding noise to dissipate as well as the four lanes of flowing traffic to also buffer such sound.
As far as pollution from passing vehicles, it's highly unlikely that the sound walls walls would affect this. Prevailing breezes would carry away any fumes as would the air current created by the flowing vehicular traffic."
However, at the September 27, 2012 public meeting on soundwalls held at the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, Glenn Kenoshita, a Caltrans engineer who is versed in soundwall construcition, stated that based upon his experience the proposed soundwalls would increase sound levels at the Rockridge BART platform. This appears to contradict BART's statement.
With soundwalls on both sides, "prevailing breezes" that presently dissipates emissions from vehicles operating on Highway 24 would be partially blocked. In fact, since the proposed soundwalls would extend far beyond the Rockridge station on both sides, they might funnel emissions towards the platform.
On November 13, 2012 I made a request to BART under the California Public Records Act. I asked for any documents related to calculations or engineering studies that support Mr. Moran’s statements. As of this date, BART has found no documents related to this. It appears Mr. Moran’s statements are unsupported. One might conclude that BART as a whole does not care if its patrons are subjected to greater levels of noise and air pollution, and issued its statement in an attempt to deflect criticism. However, newly elected District 3 BART Director Rebecca Satltzman, who represents the Rockridge area, has taken an interest in this issue.
There is evidence that BART knows the effects of putting a station platform in the middle of a freeway, since there are two such stations on the Dublin/Pleasanton line. One need only note the differences between the design of the Dublin BART station (built first) and the West Dublin BART station (built after both the Dublin station and the Dublin/Pleasanton line were already in operation). The Dublin station platform is open to the freeway; the center of the West Dublin station platform is protected from the freeway by walls on both sides. (There are no soundwalls around Highway 580 next to the Dublin or West Dublin stations.) It appears that the experience with Dublin influenced the design of the West Dublin station; and that the walls at West Dublin were installed to protect BART patrons.
The configuration of the Rockridge BART station platform is presently the same as that of the Dublin station: it is open to the freeway on both sides. Adding soundwalls on the outside of Highway 24 would trap noise and vehicle pollution in the Rockridge BART platform area. There are no walls to protect the Rockridge platform from the freeway, as there are at the West Dublin station.
I have requested from BART any documents about the design of the two Dublin stations that are related to noise or vehicle pollution. BART has not yet found any relevant documents.