MacArthur 40th St Underpass Safety Improvement


Creek Bed Theme view from sidewalk

May 2021 Update

BART is in the process of implementing a mock-up installation (i.e. a small version of the overall project, which is currently in design). The purpose of the mock-up installation is to test the proposed equipment, review the proposed concepts, fine-tune the design details and gather input from the community on the programming options.

Over weeks between May-July 2021, BART Maintenance Teams will alternate being on-site to clean, prepare and paint the wall, install new conduit and wiring, install new light fixtures, and program the fixtures.

Check back frequently for updates on the upcoming mock-up, and for a link to a survey once the lights are on.

Questions? Email us at [email protected].

February 2021 Update

The project went on hiatus due to lack of resources but is now back on track. 

BART has retained a design consultant to complete 100% Construction Documents suitable for bidding. BART’s plan is to continue with design while looking for outside funding sources, so that when funds are available, bidding and construction can proceed.

BART selected the “Portals” Concept to advance, and the Design Team has refined concepts for BART’s review.


Image of the 40th Street underpass from the center medianBART is working to improve the lighting in the 40th Street underpass at the I-580 at the MacArthur BART station. To develop the lighting design, BART has gathered input from the community and is now coordinating with internal stakeholders and the City of Oakland.


Project goals are to: 

  • Improve safety and security for people walking and biking through the underpass and waiting for buses and shuttles in the underpass.
  • Create a sense of place that better connects the east and west sides of the neighborhood across the freeway.
  • Encourage walking and biking to the station.
  • Encourage spreading pick-up and drop-off activity of shuttle operators along the underpass to take pressure off of the curbs along the plaza.

Aerial image of the MacArthur Station location with the project area under the freeway highlightedOther Design Considerations

The consultant team has been tasked with considering additional points in their design, primarily:

  • Cost: The 35% Design estimate for the installation is approximately $4.2M, and not all funding has been identified yet.
  • Maintenance: The design should be such that it minimizes maintenance needs.
  • Opportunities to re-use existing infrastructure: There are conduits, wires and other components already in place. If we can re-use them, then the project cost and time to complete are both minimized.

Community Engagement

During the Conceptual Design Phase, BART worked with the community to achieve a shared vision for the lighting design that creates safe and welcoming access to the station. BART conducted an online survey to get  a sense of how people perceive the underpass and how they wish it would be different, and the results were not surprising:

"Please use single words to describe your experience of the 40th Street underpass at night."

Word cloud describing how people currently feel in the underpass (mostly negative).

"Please use single words to describe what you WOULD LIKE your experience to be in the 40th Street underpass at night."

Word cloud describing how people would like their experience to be in the 40th St underpass.

"Please use single words to describe positive qualities about your neighborhood."

Word cloud describing positive attributes of the survey respondents' neighborhoods

The design for the lighting improvement is guided by the findings of the survey.

Neighborhood Meetings

BART has presented 3 initial conceptual designs at regularly-scheduled neighborhood meetings of the Longfellow Association, the Temescal Neighborhood Council, and the Temescal Business Improvement District to gather input on the preliminary conceptual designs. The three options were narrowed down to two, and a key concern raised by the community is the importance of being able to maintain the installation.

After obtaining input from the community and in recognition of the added maintenance challenge that comes with more elaborate designs, BART ultimately selected the first and simplest concept, Portal. This choice, illustrated below, meets the goals of the project while maximizing BART’s ability to maintain the installation. The Portal design will meet several of the community’s expressed wishes, including making the underpass safer and brighter, and more pleasant, comfortable, and welcoming.

Lighting Designs

The lighting designs have two types of lights:

The first consists of "white" functional lights intended to illuminate the space and improve safety and security during both daytime and nighttime. These lights will be mounted to the walls oriented downwards.

The second type consists of dynamic color lights projected on surfaces such as the underside of the underpass and the top section of the wall. Lights will change colors very gradually, so that people moving through the space at low speed (i.e. pedestrians) will notice the change, whereas people moving through the space at higher speeds (i.e. in a car) will not. These lights will make the 40th St underpass memorable.

  Portal concept image 3, orange

The consultant team has refined the Portal concept into two new concepts called the Creek Bed Theme and the Companion Theme, and has also provided an optional feature.

Creek Bed Theme

Long ago, the Oakland area was a large wetland, centering on what is now Lake Merritt. The area was likely formed more than 10,000 years ago, and as the last ice age ended the melting ice formed San Antonio Creek (Bailey, Montclarion newspaper, 1993-4), which is located near the MacArthur BART station. Lake Merritt became the first official wildlife refuge of the United States in 1870.

This show seeks to engulf the underpass in a river of dynamic light to pay homage to the nearby historic life force. It utilizes colors of water – tints of blue, green, purple, teal – that shift in the form of gradients throughout the whole underpass in a slow movement of waves.

Creek Bed Theme Collage

Below are two visualizations of the Creek Bed Theme.

Creek Bed Theme rendering

Creek Bed Theme view from sidewalk

Companion Theme

The underpass might make one feel isolated, especially at night. The lighting concept is to make lighting responsive to human movement. The response of the lighting system can be a movement triggered by a motion sensor, or it might just appear to be triggered by motion. Colored light in motion that gives the illusion of light “walking” with you. Lighting becomes every pedestrian’s walking companion.

In both schemes, an optional set of lights would cast an irregular linear design over the color lights, creating a sense of texture.

All light fixtures will be LEDs so as to minimize power consumption as well as the need for maintenance.

Companion Theme Collage

Below are two visualizations of the Companion Theme.

Companion theme rendering

Companion Theme view from sidewalk

Lighting Mock-Up

The project team is currently planning a mock-up or demonstration installation on a small section of wall at the site to test the proposed equipment, review the proposed concepts, fine-tune the design details and gather input from the community. Check back frequently for updates on the upcoming mock-up.

Next Steps

  • Spring 2021: Submit Grant Applications under the Affordable Housing & Sustainable Communities Grant Program
  • Spring/Summer 2021: Mock-up installation
  • Summer 2021: 65% Design Drawings
  • Fall/Winter 2021: 100% Design Drawings
  • TBD: Construction (pending funding)


Email us at [email protected]