BART will begin major seismic work on its support pillars in Albany Oct. 3, which will close four blocks of the with its bike path and eliminate adjacent parking on Masonic Avenue for many months.
The work begins on two separate stretches in Albany: from Brighton Avenue to Portland Avenue, lasting through February 2012, and from Solano Avenue south to Dartmouth Street, until September 2012. The section in between -- Portland Avenue to Solano Avenue -- will be worked on in 2012.
The greenway in the two first construction zones will be completely enclosed with a 6-foot, chain-link fence and covered with a dark cloth. Cross streets will remain open, as will the greenway from Portland Avenue to Solano Avenue, until work begins there next June.
Along the closed sections, a temporary path for bikes and pedestrians will be made in the eastern parking lane of Masonic Avenue, separated from traffic by a 4-foot fence.
Parking there will be eliminated starting Monday, Sept. 26, for the path to be created before work on BART begins. (Parking on the west side of Masonic remains.)
There will be a few changes to AC Transit bus stops on lines 18 and G at Solano and Masonic.
BART service will not be affected by the work.
The crowds of students who walk home along the greenway will either have to follow the temporary path, take the Masonic sidewalk or find another street. Drivers will no longer find parking along the east side of Masonic near the school. With EBMUD also working near the middle school, traffic there may be worse than usual.
At the and , where the parking lot regularly fills up, spillover parking onto Masonic will tighten up.
"It's just going to be an adjustment," said Penelope Leach, Albany's Director of Recreation & Community Services. "But it's important work so we want to support it."
Street sweeping on Masonic next to the work zones might be put on hold so as not to eliminate all parking on the block, said Public Works Director Rich Cunningham.
Noise from construction will not be as loud as the trains, said BART representative Nathan Hood, but it will be continuous. Construction crews are required to respect Albany's noise ordinances, starting work at 8 a.m., most likely ending by 4 p.m.
Some work might have to take place at night when BART isn't running, Hood said. Neighbors would be given 72-hours notice of any night work, he said.
The seismic work is intended to make the elevated train safer in large earthquakes. Right now, Hood explained, the pillars could crumble in an earthquake, like the Cypress Freeway (I-880) did in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The retrofit involves enlarging the underground base of each pillar with concrete and steel for greater stability. Some of the columns will also get a "jacket" that allows the columns to shake but not fall down in an earthquake, Hood said.
Other elevated sections of BART are also being retrofitted in Daly City, West Oakland and Concord, Hood said.
Because of all the digging involved, about 100 trees, as well as bushes and grass, are being removed, starting Oct. 5. Many, but not all, of the trees under the tracks will come out, such as the flowering crabapple trees between Brighton and Portland, said Tony Wolcott, Albany's urban forester.
But most trees close to the street -- such as the Canary Island pines near Marin Avenue or the liquidambers near Brighton -- and those near the property line east of the tracks will not be cut.
"We're not losing any really big trees," Wolcott said.
Some trees, including redwoods and live oaks, will be fenced in to protect them from the heavy machinery. Also, Wolcott said, a 4-inch layer of mulch from cutting the trees will stay on the ground to help protect root systems.
Once each segment of repairs is completed, the bike path will be rebuilt and the greenway landscaped with new trees before re-opening the area. The dates given for the work include the landscaping, Hood said.
The section of BART from Brighton north to Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito is scheduled for repair from January 2012 to January 2013. Plans for rerouting the bike path on that section have not been finalized, Hood said.
Most of the funding for the work came from Measure AA, the BART Earthquake Safety Bond, passed in 2004.
Concerns about the project can be directed to the City's Public Works Department at 510-524-9543 or to BART's project information line for Albany, 510-412-5546, or by email to earthquakesafety@BART.gov.
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