Ashby resurfacing snarls traffic, creates delays

Road and lane closures brought traffic on Claremont Boulevard and Russell Avenue to a near standstill. Photo: Lance Knobel

[See update at foot of story.]

After weeks of dire warnings about traffic delays from the Ashby resurfacing project, some of the worst fears came to pass this afternoon. Preparations for the project have slowed traffic on Ashby for the last several weeks, but the resurfacing only started yesterday because some of the necessary machinery was being used in another city.

At 2 p.m. today, traffic coming south on Belrose Avenue and Claremont Boulevard — usually a slow-moving chain of cars coming from the university — was at a standstill. Traffic heading east on Ashby was even more stymied than usual. Drivers who thought they’d be clever by turning onto Russell Avenue found themselves at the end of a long, static line of cars and trucks on the usually empty street. 

According to Caltrans spokesman Greg Townsend, the work has been proceeding on schedule since yesterday’s start. He said the Hiller Drive to Claremont section should be completed by the middle of next week. Work will then shift to the Claremont to Telegraph stretch of Ashby.

“We were kind of hoping to get it done before school was in full swing,” Townsend said. Although there is no announced finish date, the original schedule, with a mid-June start, called for at least three months of work. “The way we’re working, we could be done a little sooner, but it’s too early to say. I can say that once it’s done, it will be amazing.”

The large resurfacing machines require lane and road closures. Photo: Lance Knobel

The resurfacing work is restricted to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, following a request from the City of Berkeley. Nighttime work is limited to digout repairs at the intersections of Ashby and Telegraph Avenue, and Ashby and Shattuck. Final striping, which doesn’t involve the noise of grinding and resurfacing, will occur during day and night hours.

A section of Claremont was closed on Friday leading to major traffic delays. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 3:40pm: At around 3:15 pm, a section of Claremont Avenue, approximately between Russell Avenue and Prince Street was closed to traffic and detours were being imposed. Cars were at a standstill, or at best moving very slowly, in all surrounding areas. A medical emergency outside the Berkeley Tennis Club, which involved several emergency vehicles, was hindering the flow of traffic still further.

Major paving work to begin mid-June on Ashby Avenue [06.11.12]

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  • Tim

    once and for all, remove the illegal barricades/diverters.

  • Gus


    Once and for all, get out of your ugly, dangerous, stinky car and take a bus. Better, ride a bicycle. In 2012, literally the last thing we need to do is make it easier for people to use their privately owned internal combustion engines. What we should really do is ban petroleum-powered vehicles from Berkeley streets.

  • Andrew

    We should ban people working more than a few miles from their home. We should ban having multiple kids to carpool. We should ban groceries and hardware and furniture. We should control everyone’s lives.

  • Bill N

    What’s illegal about them?

  • Bill N

    And with the students coming back going around the back of campus will get really impossible.

  • Gskalx

    And pregnant, elderly and diabled should either be homebound or forced to wait for unpredictable busses, no matter the weather.

  • Tim

    they were put in arbitrarily, according to political whim (council members and their friends got them on their streets), when it was legally challenged, they pushed a state bill through to protect them; they place the burden of traffic onto a few streets deemed “arterials”, and gave protected status to others…what if you owned a house on those streets, and 30,000 cars a day drove by? All the streets belong to all of the people, not just to the folks who live on them.

  • Tim


  • Alan Saldich

    I used to hate them too, until we moved in amongst them. Yes they can be frustrating but you learn to adapt to the ebb & flow of traffic and you work around them. I think after existing for a few decades the situation is really just like living in any number of neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs. Some streets go through and some don’t.

    One thing that would help is if Google & other map data suppliers would update their databases to reflect the reality of the barriers. Then people who don’t know the routes would not get routed incorrectly and the. Get frustrated as they do on our street (Webster).

    Don’t be a hater – adapt & learn my friend. The barriers aren’t going anywhere soon.

  • bgal4

    Curious. Seems the “don’t be a hater” directive is meant to squelch debate and undermine critical thinking.

    Tim’s point is right on target, piecemeal traffic planning results in far more unintended and negative consequences than comprehensive planning.
    Think traffic circles, the transportation dept position is against funding new circles, in fact, they would prefer most of the circles be removed.

  • ANON

    Yes and ironically, the traffic circles are particularly horrible/dangerous for cyclists who have a much harder time judging the intention of motorists going around them (are they going straight or turning — even if they try to signal the motion usually shuts off the blinker first).

  • Alan Saldich

    Not at all, just suggesting that there are good reasons to like them (if you live amongst them) and that one can adapt… I didn’t tell anyone not to think critically. Your opinion is that his point is on target; mine is that I disagree. That’s all…

  • Judisierra

    So they’re 2 months behind to start

  • guest

     2 months behsnd and starting just as school is LOL Finish at Thanksgiving.

  • Charles_Siegel

     There was a long, long planning process to determine where the barriers went.

    When they were legally challenged, a state bill was passed that clearly made them legal. 

    Think about that: if the state bill made them legal, that means it is not correct to say they are illegal.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Have you ever been to Amsterdam or Copenhagen?  There are cities in the world that are far, far less auto-dependent than American cities. 

    One has to be completely brainwashed to believe that you cannot get groceries or carry your kids around without a car.  Take a look at my pictures of Amsterdam at  I know this is hard for conventional-thinking Americans to believe, but you will actually see pictures of people transporting their groceries and children by bicycle. 

    Of course, American cities are built differently than Amsterdam, and we cannot make as many of our trips by bike.  But I would estimate that about one-third to one-half the trips made by car in the flatlands of Berkeley could be made just as easily by bike – if only people were willing to act more responsibly. 

    Driving the average American car emits about one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you drive.  Try biking on those one-mile or two-mile trips, and save the one or two pounds of pollution you now create by driving on those trips.  How many pounds of greenhouse-gas pollution does your car add to the air every year?

    Obviously, many people cannot bike, and most people cannot bike on some of their trips.  But if everyone biked on those trips where it is easy to bike, that would be enough to eliminate virtually all congestion in Berkeley.  People wouldn’t have to demand that the barriers be removed to make it easier for them to drive – at the expense of other people’s neighborhoods.

    (Incidentally, traffic calming has also been shown to reduce crime – which is the main reason that Oakland has put in so many speed humps.)

  • Charles_Siegel

     Did you ever think about all the elderly people whose vision is so bad that they can no longer drive, or about the disabled people who cannot drive?  What do you want them to do in typical American suburbs, where you cannot get anywhere without driving?

    The elderly and disabled do much better in walkable neighborhoods than in auto-dependent neighborhoods.  That is one more reason that we need to change  the conventional way we build American cities – in addition to the pressing environmental reasons.

  • Kalamazoo32

    Unfortunately I live on MLK, which has been deemed one of the good streets to push as much traffic as possible onto. As a result it’s kind of like living next to a freeway, although where I live it’s only one lane in each direction and not built like a high traffic street. I think of it as the “tyranny of the majority” where in order that the majority can live in peace among their barricades and traffic barriers and diverters and no right turn and no left turn signs, the minority of those of us living on these busy streets have to bear the brunt of a huge proportion of the diverted traffic. 

  • guest

    Hating?  OK since you feel how you feel.  Telling us all about it?  Not so much.

  • bgal4

     Agree, California St is an prime example. Between school kids and church goers double parking and tall vegetation is a downright scary. Can’t even see the kids crossing on the other side.  Some drivers are unreliable even after you think you read their intentions right.

  • bgal4

    His point was the process of determining traffic controls was the results of how district elections supports political pandering not comprehensive planning.   This is not NEWS, this is how Berkeley operates.
    The only opinion I expressed is
    1. debate is always positive
    2. city council members pandering to constituents is a threat to effective city planning.

  • Charles_Siegel

    The barriers were put in during the 1970s, before there were district elections.

  • ANON

    BTW, bit of related knowledge for one and all to mull over, back in the time when these “bollards” were mainly installed, due to earlier and ongoing real estate redlining the residents on these major thoroughfares were primarily African-Americans.

    Ask any “in the know” or long time real estate agent in this area and you will discover that when African Americans tried to purchase a home or rent, they were often pushed towards the busiest streets like Ashby, Dwight and others which (at the time at least) were primarily African American occupied.

    So, in addition to being illegal and unethical, these selective traffic barriers also had (and sometimes still have) an ugly racial/racist backdrop to them. 

    African American families were consequently exposed to far more vehicle pollutants and suffered more ill-health consequences so that  primarily white hippy, “liberal” 1970s Berkeley families could live on quieter and safer streets nearby with much less pollution.

  • Foo

    Traffic calming is racist – good to know.

  • SJM

    I understand that this work may be unavoidable, and the annoyance is temporary.  But, it seems to me that they could make it less painful to commuters and neighbors if they employed a few more people to direct traffic.  I’ve been in more than a few standstills around Ashby lately where it was obvious that no one was in charge of directing traffic.  At least no one for whom it was their primary concern.

  • ANON

    Supremely dumb repsonse.  But this particular style of “traffic calming” (which is an Orwellian euphemism for Traffic Blocking) did have a racist subtext that you other supposedly forward thinking Berkeley social engineers don’t want to contemplate…

  • Guest

    How about instead of forcing everyone else to change the way they live, those people move to areas that are better suited for them?