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On Track to Witter, the Pool and bulb-outs

Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group started our walk this week with a cloudy and cool morning. But there was a large turnout at the Exedra with 47 walkers and three K-9 best friends on hand ready to enjoy it.

There is some impressive Piedmont City and School District construction going on around town. Two new "bulb-outs," also called "curb extensions," are being built at the intersections of Oakland and El Cerrito Avenues and Oakland and Jerome Avenues. At Nova and Magnolia Avenues a new traffic island is in the works too. Steel beams have been erected for the new building at the Piedmont Community Pool site. Additionally, Witter Field and its track are getting new surfaces. We thought it would be interesting to check out all of them, so a loop to all five was selected as the morning's route.

Before we got started it was announced that architect, Post columnist, and Wednesday walker Will Adams will lead us on a tour of Piedmont Mediterranean style architecture on January 31st.

Then it was down Magnolia Avenue to our first stop in front of the high school for a look at the progress on the pool. We were able to see a lot more than on past visits. The construction fence that surrounds the project had been pulled back in places. The shape of the facility with its building and two pools could be better envisioned now that the steel beams are up, and at the back is a massive, new, concrete retaining wall.

We shared pool stories and information on the project. It was approved by voters in November 2020, and $19.5 million worth of bonds were authorized at that time when interest rates were low. The new facility replaces the original mid-20th Century Piedmont Pool that was leaking huge amounts of water each day and no longer met the community's needs. Designs for this new

aquatics center were developed with extensive community input. However, the building's size had to be reduced and other modifications made in May 2022 when construction costs came in higher than expected. But incremental funding was obtained to make the facility a unique all-electric design. The Piedmont Beautification Foundation also led fundraising for landscaping.

Construction stated on January 27, 2023 and the pool should open later this year.

Next it was down Magnolia to the foot of El Cerrito Avenue to see the Witter resurfacing project. The new artificial turf with large purple Piedmonts painted on the end zones is in place and the field looked good. However, it appeared there was still work to be done on the track. Later in the day the Post reported cracks in large portions of the track's surface had been discovered. Additional work and $155,500 more from PUSD are needed to complete this approximately $4.9 million State facilities grant-funded project. It was started in June 2023 and was scheduled to be completed in December, but the expected completion day was delayed to February and that

is in question now.

After we had finished with Witter it was back up El Cerrito to Jerome Avenue and Magnolia to Nova to see the first of the City's street projects, a new traffic island. The site's old bollards have been removed and curbing work has started. It was a good place for the attached group photo.

Then it was up Nova to Jerome and Oakland Avenue to see the first of the bulb-outs. City Public Works Director Daniel G had said these curb extensions will make the areas safer by increasing pedestrian visibility, shortening road-crossing distances, and reducing vehicle speeds by narrowing the streets. Construction began on January 8th, and is expected to be completed in three to four months. Workers were at the site and one confirmed the schedule.

Traffic control by a construction flagman was helpful in getting our parade-like column across Oakland Avenue. Once on the other side, Chuck O, who lives nearby, shared residents' efforts that were made with the City and AC Transit to minimize parking loss from the project. Next it was

up Oakland to see the bulb-out at El Cerrito Avenue. There was a significant carve out of the sidewalk, but no work was being done on it at the time.

The two locations on Oakland were chosen because they were two of the high-priority locations in the Council-adopted Piedmont Safer Streets Report. They are near schools or school walking routes, and on bus and bike routes. The construction at Nova, though not a high-priority, is close to the other projects, which makes it cost-efficient to do now too. The total construction cost for the three locations is $773,885. Project funding comes from a $50,000 contribution from Piedmont Beautification Foundation and approximately $600,000 from the State Gas Tax.

We then walked down El Cerrito and retraced our steps back up Magnolia to the Exedra. The clouds had cleared and it was now a lovely morning. We had enjoyed our morning together, and seeing all the work that is being done to make Piedmont all the better.


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