By Wilson Walker

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The Oakland A’s have unveiled plans for a futuristic new ballpark near Jack London Square much to the delight of A’s fans.

It would be a pretty spectacular spot for a ballpark — perched by the water overlooking Alameda — but it’s not just baseball fans cheering the A’s vision for a stadium at Howard Terminal.

Transit advocates say the stadium could push forward two major projects: the removal of Interstate 980 and the construction of a second BART tube.

Construction on Interstate 980 divided Oakland in the late 70s and the freeway itself divides the city to this day.

Downtown and West Oakland are now separated by 550 feet of highway lanes and access roads, creating a long unpleasant walk for anyone trying to bridge the gap on foot.

“It’s actually the on-ramps and off-ramps to the 980 connector that create such a great barrier,” explained Chris Sensenig, an urban designer and founder of Connect Oakland, a group that has been pushing to replace I-980 for several years. The Howard Terminal ballpark falls right in line with that vision.

“There’s an opportunity to turn this underutilized freeway into a multi-way boulevard and open up 17 acres of city-controlled land,” Sensenig said.

The removal of Interstate 980 is just the start of this vision because, if the freeway is removed, something else can be buried in the same spot — that’s where Connect Oakland sees the future of BART.

BART is now planning for a second bay crossing and a route out of Oakland through Alameda is one popular option. The Connect Oakland map lines up perfectly. If it were to be buried under the removed freeway, a new BART line would be a straight shot from MacArthur Station to the ballpark then to Alameda and, ultimately, San Francisco.

For Sensenig, it’s an opportunity to turn the ballpark into two pivotal transit projects and a reunification of central Oakland.

“Can we re-conceive this as an on-ramp to a second bay tunnel where BART, Caltrain, maybe high-speed rail? It’s a perfect location for something special.”

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