Replacing the antiquated underground infrastructure at Alameda Point will be accomplished slowly through the sale of parcels owned by the city.
One major infrastructure project is now underway and is expected to take two and half years to complete. This $31 million contract was awarded to A&B Construction in March 2022 and covers seven blocks through the heart of the former Navy base. The streets around two of the blocks will receive a deluxe upgrade to what is termed a “complete street.” This means that in addition to new underground utilities, storm water lines, and sewer lines, there will also be a natural filtration system for storm water runoff, bike lanes, transit stops, street lighting, and full landscaping. The other nearby blocks will only receive new water lines due to lack of funding.
This project is funded by the sale of individual buildings at Alameda Point that are meant to be reused and not torn down. The exception is that buildings can be torn down as long as the replacement structure conforms to the architectural character of the historic district. To date, five properties have been sold, bringing in $31 million, which covers this current phased infrastructure upgrade.
The need for the city to begin now with infrastructure upgrades on streets serving individual property owners was triggered by an agreement with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) for the city to replace water lines when buildings are sold, according to Public Works Director Erin Smith.
Infrastructure contract to be done in phases
The center of construction activity this summer and into the fall is at a two-block section of West Tower Avenue, the main thoroughfare leading to the former Navy aircraft hangars. “The street is anticipated to be re-opened in December,” said Smith. “However, the improvements will not be complete. Once we have the underground utilities in and road paved, we can re-open the street and continue to work on the street lighting, landscaping and other finished improvements.”
The streets around the remaining blocks that will receive new water facilities as part of this contract will remain open during construction of those utilities. “As additional funding is available, we will design and construct the remaining underground utilities and ultimately new surface improvements, including street lighting, landscaping, 100 percent stormwater capture and bike and pedestrian facilities,” said Smith.
Street paving to be recycled on site
The 5,500 cubic yards of demolished street paving will be crushed and reused on site for utility backfilling and street pavement base rock. Thus, the contractor will not have to haul away the old aggregate or haul in new aggregate. “This recycling process is saving nearly 2,000 truck trips on and off the island,” said Smith, “resulting in a significant benefit to local traffic, landfill capacities, air quality and greenhouse gas reduction.”
VA to provide additional infrastructure on City streets
One additional source of funding for new infrastructure on city property is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In March of 2013, the City Council agreed to forego receiving 74 acres of land from the Navy at Alameda Point, which would then go to the VA, in return for certain benefits. Among those benefits was the commitment by the VA to “construct roadway and utility improvements along West Redline Avenue and Lexington Street, as well as other portions of the City property, including water, sanitary sewer, electrical, gas, telephone, CATV, and storm drain utilities. This saves the City approximately $5.5 million in infrastructure costs,” states the term sheet between the City and the VA.
In 2013, it was anticipated that the VA project would be about completed by now. “If their project is not progressing, contribution in place of construction should be explored,” said Smith. “We are required, if a building sells in the areas bounded by Monarch Street, West Redline Avenue, Lexington Street, and West Midway Avenue to have the new EBMUD water facilities installed according to a timeline prescribed in an agreement we have with EBMUD.”
By the end of 2016, Congress had appropriated $83 million for the VA project, and in 2020 another $26 million thanks to efforts by Rep. Barbara Lee. Site elevation and infrastructure work at the VA project site, as well as promised infrastructure work on city property, has still not commenced.
In related news, the City Council at its July 12 meeting postponed making any decision on leasing two buildings at Alameda Point. Instead, the council will revisit the issue of leasing versus selling these buildings in the fall and consider the option of offering them for sale rather than for lease. A sale would generate an immediate lump sum cash infusion that could be used to continue the unfinished infrastructure upgrades.
Originally published in the Alameda Sun.
Alameda Point Adaptive Reuse Area Backbone Infrastructure webpage.