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Central Avenue Getting Greener

Makeover for three intersections will incorporate bioretention features

Three street intersections along Central Avenue are set to get a makeover that will render them better for the environment. The intersections will incorporate bioretention facilities, which are special soil and vegetation features that help filter out harmful chemicals from stormwater runoff before the stormwater flows into the Bay.

Alameda Post - a bioretention area with a deep trough for plants and soil
Bioretention facility on Orion Street at Alameda Point. Photo Richard Bangert.

On July 5, after a decade of planning and funding efforts, City Council gave the go-ahead to begin work in 2024 on the “Central Avenue Safety Improvement Project.” The project’s approval comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded $1.47 million to the City of Alameda for the project. Those EPA funds, along with a matching amount from the City, will allow incorporation of the bioretention facilities.

“This EPA water quality grant represents the last incoming monies for this corridor improvement project, which now totals $22 million,” said Gail Payne, Project Manager and Senior Transportation Planner for the City.



Alameda Post - a map of the Central Avenue including proposed bioretention areas
Central Avenue Project map. Photo City of Alameda.

The project area runs on Central Avenue from the intersection at Encinal Avenue to the intersection at Pacific Avenue.

Four intersections in the project area were initially planned for reconfiguration as roundabouts with bioretention facilities, but only three—at Pacific Avenue, Taylor Avenue, and Ballena Boulevard—will receive the upgrade. The Sherman/Central/Encinal intersection lacks funding for a roundabout and bioretention areas, according to Payne, and will instead receive the same types of upgrades as other intersections.

Other features in the project include Central Avenue traffic lanes to be reduced from four to three with a center turn lane, and a two‐way separated bikeway to be constructed adjacent to schools.

Alameda Post - an aerial view of an intersection
Intersection of Central / Taylor / Third. Photo Richard Bangert.
Alameda Post - an aerial view of an intersection
Intersection of Central and Ballena. Photo Richard Bangert.
Alameda Post - an aerial view of an intersection
Intersection of Central / Main / Pacific. Photo Richard Bangert.

Bioretention facilities “are landscaped depressions that treat on-site stormwater discharge from impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and compacted lawns,” the EPA website explains. “They are used to collect stormwater and filter it through a mixture of soil, sand and/or gravel.”

Approximately 15 bioretention units are proposed in the curb bulb-outs located around the three new roundabouts, with footprints ranging from 25 to 2,300 square feet. These nature-based units are designed to filter runoff from 70 acres of paved, or impervious, surfaces along the roadway. The bioretention facilities will also serve as trash capture devices performing the same function as the hundreds of screen baskets already installed in street storm drains around the city.

Alameda’s bioretention facility funding is one of 24 Bay Area clean water projects totaling over $50 million recently funded by the Biden Administration.

Contributing writer Irene Dieter’s articles are collected at alamedapost.com/Irene-Dieter, and she posts stories and photos about Alameda to her site, I on Alameda.

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