Study Underway to Untangle Alemany’s Spaghetti Bowl for Cyclists and Pedestrians


Alemany Faded Labels.bwood

First, they gave Cesar Chavez Boulevard a fashionable makeover. Then, they added a red carpet to Mission Street. Next, local transportation officials are considering plans to give the 101-280 Spaghetti Bowl in southeast Bernal a pedestrian-friendly rethink.

Actually, the focus isn’t on the Spaghetti Bowl per se. Instead, our local planners and infrastructuralists seek to make improvements for people on foot or on bikes traveling beneath the Spaghetti Bowl. The goal is to better unite the people of Bernal Heights with our colleagues in The Portola by making it simpler and safer to bike or walk between the Alemany Famer’s Market and Portola’s San Bruno Avenue shopping street.

Today, of course, Bernal Heights is  separated from The Portola by the daunting I-280 viaduct. So here’s how the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is thinking about strengthening  connections the between Bernalese and The Portolans:

The Alemany Interchange, where U.S. 101, I-280, Alemany Boulevard, Bayshore Boulevard, San Bruno Avenue, and several other local streets intersect, presents major challenges to pedestrian and bicycle safety and accessibility. Together with hilly topography, the freeways act as barriers between the surrounding neighborhoods with few locations where they can be crossed. The interchange has the potential to provide critical connections between the adjacent communities of Bernal Heights, the Portola, Silver Terrace, and the Bayview, as well as destinations beyond. However, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders seeking to reach these communities must navigate a circuitous maze of high-speed streets and ramps.

Safety is a significant issue in the interchange area, with several severe-injury or fatal collisions having occurred on the streets in and near the interchange in recent years. The Alemany Boulevard, San Bruno Avenue, and Bayshore Boulevard corridors, which converge at the Alemany Interchange, have all been designated by the City’s Vision Zero initiativeas Pedestrian High Injury Corridors. Please see the project Allocation Request Form for more information.


Neighboring communities, led by the Portola Neighborhood Association (PNA), developed two specific proposals that would improve multimodal connectivity and safety by providing pedestrian and bicycle connections through the interchange:

  • New north-south pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists, connecting San Bruno Avenue to the Alemany Farmer’s Market.
  • New bicycle lanes along Alemany Boulevard between Putnam Street and Bayshore Boulevard.

Kicking off in winter 2016, this planning study will further develop the proposed pedestrian and bicycle improvement concepts, perform a traffic and initial feasibility assessment, and prepare the projects for consideration by the public and decision-makers.

That’s where things now stand. There were a few information sessions about the  Alemany Improvement project last month.  Right now a lot of traffic analysis is taking place. There will be another round of community outreach in June, in parallel with project design and cost estimating. The final report for the Alemany Interchange Improvement Project study is set for delivery in November.

You can read more about the project in this dandy-dandy overview, and Bernalwood will share more detail about this grand Spaghetti Bowl detangling effort in the months ahead.  In the meantime, you can also sign up for the project newsletter, or contact Rachel Hiatt, Acting Deputy Director for Planning, at or 415.522.4809.

PHOTO: Top, Spaghetti Bowl,  as seen from Bernal Heights by Winni Wintermeyer

21 thoughts on “Study Underway to Untangle Alemany’s Spaghetti Bowl for Cyclists and Pedestrians

  1. Interesting. Just yesterday, I was reviewing an ambitious vision (approved for implementation) for Memorial Park in Houston – currently, the big sections of the park are divided by an expressway (4 lanes each direction). The master plan will reroute the freeway through tunnels and have parkland above the tunnels, connecting the two sections. So if Houston can do something like this, surely San Francisco can. We should be dreaming bigger! You can see what it looks like on the cover of this report:

  2. This sounds like a reasonable plan, but, most of all, I’m curious why we’re seeing this detailed document when residents were presented nothing about the dumbass changes to Mission lately. I just spent a few minutes looking around on the MTA website and found nothing about removing parking places, adding a red carpet, moving bus stops, forcing left turns, etc.

    It’s very possible that it’s somewhere there and I missed it, but what’s clear is there wasn’t nearly enough outreach about these massive and just plain stupid changes to our neighborhood.

  3. I am sure the manage to make another cluster… out of this one, just like they did of San Jose freeway off-ramp (needless bike path widening while no increase in bikes while jamming up the car traffic) and Mission street. These people need to get fired and replaced ASAP

    • I would like first to see data that there is enough bike traffic that warrants any changes or investigation. The San Jose off-ramp was a waste of money.

      • Of course there’s little bike traffic because it’s too dangerous to bike there. This is like saying you shouldn’t build a bridge because not enough people swim across the river. The goal is a liveable community where people can get around without being encased in cars.

  4. All I can say is, “Uh oh.”

    I don’t trust ANYTHING the city planners are doing. There are too many examples of “community meetings ” serving as window dressing, not meaningful conversation. The decisions have already been made.

  5. Neighbors should definitely keep close tabs on the agency’s plans to reconfigure roadways. With the Cesar Chavez project, there’s a 500 percent increase in traffic on some connecting streets due to the removal of car lanes/addition of bike lanes. A so-called ‘road diet’ is a failure when the ‘fat’ is simply pushed to side streets. And once the work is done, it’s done.

    • Don’t worry, your SUV will be just fine. Nobody’s going to take your precious away from you.

  6. Given the track record of the three traffic calming projects around Bernal, my expectation is that this could significantly affect traffic both on and off the 101 and possibly 280 freeways. And that might require involvement of CalTrans, as any backup of traffic trying to exit 101 would have a cascading impact along the freeway.

    I”m not opposed to improving pedestrian and bicyclist access, but all the recent projects have purchased their improvements by worsening traffic flow.

    I do think it would be great to connect San Bruno Ave more directly with Bernal and the Mission. It’s a great shopping street with a lot of potential.

    I wonder if their plans account for the high level of shopping cart traffic darting across the streets at random intervals.

  7. Looking at all the improvements and upgrades in the neighborhoods where the freeways were torn down, this would be a good idea for this section of SF, too. All 280/101 freeways did was divide the different neighborhoods and in the years that followed since their construction, caused much blight. Driving to/from my Bernal Heights home, it is much easier, faster to drive surface streets than get stuck on either freeway.

  8. How about CalTrans figure out away to prevent the viaduct from 101N to Alemany from flooding with the slightest rain. That closure by far most negatively impact the residents of Bernal Heights. Now, I can understand that CalTrans may not know about the constant flooding, oh wait, they have a HUGE yard under th 280 to 101N connector a mere 200 yards away!

    • These roads were built in the basin of Islais creek – one of the main watersheds in San Francisco. We have a combined sewer system that gets overwhelmed with significant rains which results in the back up. One of the reasons you see all these greening efforts along roadways is to provide more places for water to go. There is also a multi-billion dollar sewer/water treatment project going on to address these capacity issues.

  9. Has anyone seen an old map of this area? I just noticed there is a Barneveld Ave on the west side of San Bruno Ave in Portola. Did that used to connect somehow to the Barneveld Ave that runs behind Bev Mo in Bayshore?

  10. I would like to see a beautification program similar to Cesar Chavez. It’s great that our Supervisor found money to help the residents of another District gain better access to the City but how about those of us who live on the “neglected” “undesirable” side of Bernal. It would be nice to use some of that money to help us. Something other than getting to look at freeways. Why is he helping them and not us?

      • Hey Austin – This isn’t a beautification study for nice things to look at from Bernal. This is getting funded because some people who are active in their neighborhood brought it to the attention of the Portola Neighborhood Association, and then the PNA in turn brought it to the attention of Supervisor Campos who then sought funding for it.

        That’s how it works in this city. If you want to get something done, you have to go through a neighborhood association, then they take it to the district supervisor. Have you been doing all that?

  11. Maybe we can finally get a sky tram or zipline in this city. I feel like we are so behind other futurist cities!

  12. I live adjacent to the farmer’s market and commute under the overpass daily by bicycle. I also have a car and drive through occasionally.

    There are currently 6 traffic lanes on Alemany. I have NEVER in my 5 years of living in this location seen a traffic backup. The speed limit is 45, already quite fast, and I see cars routinely going 55 mph.

    There is currently NO CROSSWALK between San Bruno across Alemany yet dozens of people cross here on both Saturday and Sunday.

    There is no bike lane between Putnam and Bayshore. All that exists is a Sharrow which may as well not even be there. I bike on the sidewalk, dodging garbage and broken glass, to pass through.

    These proposed changes are the BARE MINIMUM in my opinion. While some of you might not notice that people walk and bike through this intersection as you speed by, they are there, including parents and children walking to the daycare on industrial or elderly folks going to recycle cans or go to the farmers market.

    While I understand the frustrations that drivers have about growing traffic in the city it needs to be noted that we’ve added tens of thousands of people to our population. San Francisco right now is more populated than it has ever been in it’s history.

    Pedestrians and Bicyclists deserve a dignified way to navigate the city as well and in this case where those facilities are so clearly lacking, they must take precedence.

  13. We utterly agree with you, S! This plan is looking at ways to make things safer for the pedestrians and bicyclists (so many are women, children, disabled, seniors, low-income San Franciscans) who have been crossing and biking through this very dangerous and underserved area for decades.

    And, it is our understanding that this study by SFCTA (not SFMTA, CalTrans, or Supervisor Wiener’s Office which designed San Jose Ave changes) is being funded by Prop K/NTIP which is designated for meeting the transportation needs of poor and underserved areas. We are grateful to Supervisor Campos and his office for finding these funds and Portola Neighborhood Association for championing pedestrian and bicycle safety at the Alemany!

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