CALTRANS Hearing in Sunol Tonight (3/23)

Caltrans Hearing on Alameda Creek Bridge Project – March 23

Caltrans has released a draft Environmental Impact Report for the Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project in Niles Canyon. Caltrans is proposing to replace the Alameda Creek Bridge and realign the eastern and western approaches to the bridge on SR-84.

Caltrans will hold an additional public open forum in Sunol to solicit comments on the draft EIR on Monday, March 23, from 6 to 8 PM at the Sunol Glen School, 11601 Main Street in Sunol. A brief presentation on the project will be given at 6:30 PM The public can ask questions about the project and provide comments.

The draft EIR is online at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/

Caltrans is taking public comments on the draft EIR until April 3. The Alameda Creek Alliance has an active action alert on this project and a sample letter for those wishing to submit comments.

Tell Caltrans that replacing and upgrading the Alameda Creek Bridge does not require overbuilt roadway approaches and the bridge segment can be made safer without massive cut-and-fill or removing hundreds of trees

Submit Comments On Caltrans’ Proposed Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project

Caltrans has released a draft Environmental Impact Report for the Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project, a purported safety project. The Federal Highway Administration has identified four other accident hot-spots within Niles Canyon in need of safety improvement that are higher priority projects than the Alameda Creek Bridge.

Yet this Caltrans project is anything but a simple bridge replacement. The project would replace the existing 87-year old bridge with a new bridge, adding modern safety railings and road shoulders on the bridge for bicyclist and motorist safety, addressing the higher than average number of crashes at this bridge. All well and good, but in typical Caltrans fashion, the project does not stop there.

Caltrans claims the bridge must be engineered to increase motorist speeds from 35 to 45 mph, and that the entire roadway through the .6 mile project reach must be widened to 42 feet, with shoulders. Caltrans’ overbuilt approach would realign the roadway approaches on both sides of the bridge and increase the curve radius to 175 meters, requiring realignment of 1,400 feet of roadway for the western approach and from 300 to 1,190 feet of new roadway on the eastern approach. Construction would damage significant areas of the canyon with hundreds to thousands of feet of cut-and-fill and large concrete retaining walls, both above the roadway and adjacent to Alameda Creek. It would also require cutting from 284 to 414 native trees.

Caltrans has not considered an alternative that would replace the bridge at the current speed of 35 mph, which would scale back the tree cutting and other severe environmental impacts. Caltrans’ approach would actually increase motorist speeds though the project reach and could actually reduce motorist safety. The proposed project does not include many proven traffic calming measures that would make the bridge safer at 35 mph, such as the use of flashing and traffic lights, rumble strips, radar feedback signs, and other passive speed control measures.

Caltrans acknowledges that it has not even begun, let alone completed, mitigation for the tree-cutting in lower Niles Canyon in 2011, when the agency cut 150 native trees along Alameda Creek.

The proposed bridge replacement project does contains some environmentally beneficial elements, including removal of a concrete weir in Alameda Creek which currently serves as a barrier to fish passage, removal of the existing bridge’s in-stream piers, and removal of invasive plants.

The draft EIR and a Natural Environment Study are posted on Caltrans’ Niles Canyon website

Comments on the DEIR are due by April 3.

Caltrans will hold an additional public hearing on the project on Monday, March 23, from 6-8 pm, at the Sunol Glen School in Sunol.

Learn more about this issue on our Protecting Niles Canyon page

Tell Caltrans that replacing and upgrading the Alameda Creek Bridge does not require overbuilt roadway approaches and that the bridge segment can be made safer without massive cut-and-fill or removing hundreds of trees.

Here is a sample comment letter

Send an e-mail to:
nilescanyonprojects@dot.ca.gov

Or write a letter to:
Caltrans District 4
Attn: Elizabeth White
111 Grand Avenue MS 8B
Oakland, CA 94612

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Official Notice from CALTRANS for Bridge DEIR Comment Extention and Sunol Meeting

NOTICE OF EXTENSION OF COMMENT PERIOD FOR DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT FOR THE ALAMEDA CREEK BRIDGE REPLACEMENT PROJECT ON STATE ROUTE 84 AND ADDITIONAL PUBLIC OPEN-FORUM HEARING

WHAT IS BEING PLANNED: The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is proposing to replace the Alameda Creek Bridge and realign the eastern and western approaches to the bridge on State Route 84 (SR-84). The Alameda Creek Bridge is in Niles Canyon, between Fremont and Sunol, in Alameda County.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE: You can look at or obtain the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) at the Caltrans District 4 Office, 111 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612 on weekdays from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM. There are also copies of the report online at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/envdocs.htm or at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/ and hard copies of the report at the Niles Library (150 I Street, Fremont, CA 94536), the Fremont Main Library (2400 Stevenson Boulevard, Fremont, CA 94538), and the Pleasanton Library (400 Old Bernal Avenue, Pleasanton, CA 94566).

WHERE YOU COME IN: Caltrans welcomes your comments on the DEIR and has extended the comment period to Friday, April 3, 2015. The most beneficial comments include specific alternatives or mitigation measures that would provide better ways to avoid or mitigate any potential environmental effects of the project, concerns that are not addressed in the DEIR, inaccuracies or missing information, and/or statistical data or facts to support your concern. If you wish to make a comment on the DEIR, you may submit your written comments to Caltrans. Please submit written comments on the DEIR to Caltrans District 4, Attn: Elizabeth White, 111 Grand Avenue MS 8B, Oakland, CA 94612, or via email to nilescanyonprojects@dot.ca.gov. All comments must be received by 5:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2015. Additionally, a second public open-forum hearing will be held to solicit comments on the DEIR.

WHEN AND WHERE: A second public open-forum hearing will be held on Monday, March 23, 2015 from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM at the Sunol Glen Elementary School (11601 Main Street, Sunol). A brief presentation on the project will be given at 6:30 PM.

CONTACT: The meeting facility is accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons requesting special accommodations should contact Caltrans District 4 Office of Public Affairs at (510)-286-4444, or use the California Relay Service TTY number, (800)-735-2929 no later than three days before the meeting.

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Comment period officially extended for bridge replacement and sunol meeting date

Formal notice has been announced that the comment period is extended to April 3 for the Alameda Creek Bridge replacement project.

The additional public hearing in Sunol is scheduled for the evening of Monday, March 23, from 6-8 pm at the Sunol Glen School.

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Comment Period for Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement DEIR Extended – 2nd Meeting in Sunol

ATTENTION!!! The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will extend the comment period for the Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) until 5:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2015. Additionally, Caltrans will hold a second public meeting in Sunol and will send notification e-mails and mailers once the date is finalized.

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Your Comments to Caltrans on the Draft EIR for replacing the Alameda Creek Bridge Are Needed

One of the key steps that must occur is for the public to send in comments to Caltrans on the Draft EIR. Whether you agree with replacing the bridge or not if Caltrans does not hear from the public they move forward using their own plan. Save Niles Canyon is offering some preliminary topic areas which can serve as the background for comments on the EIR. We will be continuing to post additional thoughts along these lines as we digest the EIR however it is a large document (331 pages) and the comments are currently due by 20 March. An extension of time has been requested but Caltrans may not grant it.

The following write up is designed to get people thinking and hopefully commenting.

If you have questions or additional suggested comment topics please post them to the Save Niles Canyon Yahoo page and members of Save Niles Canyon and/or other groups will do our best to answer or distribute them. Save Niles Canyon Yahoo Page

The Caltrans Draft EIR is too large to post on this page or the Niles Canyon Yahoo E mail page.
It can be easily accessed and downloaded at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/
We have posted several useful background documents in a File titled Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project on the Niles Canyon Yahoo page.

Some preliminary EIR items for consideration as comments to Caltrans are:

1. Bridge replacement alternatives – Replacing the bridge is considered a good idea however Caltrans alternatives as illustrated in the draft EIR are all overbuilt in concept and more massive than needed. During the stakeholder meetings of 2014 Caltrans was asked numerous times to prepare and propose an alternative which has a speed limit of 35 mph and keeps traffic at a moderate speed. Caltrans did not do so and all options are designed for 45 mph. Caltrans says they cannot develop such an alternative and the groups which support a more modest approach believe they can. Of the four options presented in the Draft EIR the only difference between seems to be the mass of the project or the length of the approach roadway to the bridge proper. It was noted that they really are not options as much as the same proposal with longer or shorter approach ramps.

2. Piecemealing – The controlling legislation – CEQA – prohibits piecemealing of projects in a manner whereby their overall impact on the environment is “hidden” within a number of smaller projects. This was a concern expressed in the Caltrans original plan for a three part re-do of the entire Niles Canyon Road between Sunol and Fremont/Niles in 2010. According to Caltrans there are other major projects which will be proposed at a later time for the Canyon Road, e.g. Palomares Road Intersection re-do.

3. Why start something new when you have unfinished work? Status of the Tree replacement Mitigation stemming from the Dec 2011 Court Ordered Agreement between Caltrans & ACA. – Caltrans has yet to complete the tree planting mitigation steps they were ordered to perform at the time of the Dec 2011 court agreement which shut down their Niles Canyon Road Phase 1 project of 2010. At the 23 Feb 15 Public Meeting which Caltrans held on the current EIR they explained that they had not completed it because they did not know where the best places were to plant the trees. The canyon itself is well forested and a target area for planting trees had not been identified. Before Caltrans begins a new project they ought to be completing the unfinished work.

4. Tree cutting- At the 23 Feb public meeting Caltrans listed new information expanding the actual number of trees that will be cut (removed) across the 4 options being presented. That new information along with the type of trees needs to get out to the public to weigh in terms of the project’s impact. (Note: Caltrans has apparently posted the revised tree cutting information on the Rt. 84 WEB Page.) Your views on the environmental impact of each of the alternatives proposed would be useful

5. A reduced speed bridge option would be useful for several reasons – If Caltrans would return to the drawing board and develop a 35 MPH alternative with less environmental impact it would be some outlier along the Canyon Road. There are at least two other locations along of the Rt. 84 Canyon road which still require vehicles to reduce speed even after the bridge is replaced. Specifically Palomares Rd. intersection and at the Farwell underpass.

6. Long Term Vision – Caltrans does not mention this idea in the EIR but that does not prohibit commenters from bringing it up. People have suggested that what is needed is a long term vision for the Niles Canyon area. One concept that has been mentioned is to de certify Niles Canyon Road as a State highway thereby removing it from Caltrans control. That might also remove the possibility of it becoming a four lane commuter route which is what many people believed was Caltrans intention going back to the original defeated plan of 2005 and remains their intention today. However it would probably have to be Alameda County that takes it over and there is no indication the County is in a position to do so or that they are interested. However if the public raises the idea and lets public officials know their point of view perhaps the conversation could be started?

7. Safety Data – Does the bridge really represent a safety concern? In the statement of Purpose of the Draft EIR safety is a primary driving force behind the project. An excerpt from that section reads: The actual fatality and injury rate of 1.13 within the bridge limits is more than double the state average rate (0.56) for similar facilities. In addition, the total accident rate (2.06) is significantly higher than the state average rate (1.31) for similar highway facilities. FHWA’s Road Safety Analysis indicated that the number of accident rates at the Alameda Creek Bridge and eastern and western approaches are higher than they would be with a facility that meets current design standards. A re-review of the data upon which this claim is based would be useful to ensure it is accurate and has credibility. In a data review conducted by the Save Niles Canyon group of traffic fatalities in May 2011 it was concluded that : Caltrans portrayal of the vehicle related accident fatality data underpinning the Route 84 “safety” project lacks credibility and is misleading. Reviewing the safety data which is located in several documents is somewhat complex but offering your own point of view based on your experience driving the road might be useful. In addition the Fatality Data review performed in 2011 is apparently still being used by Caltrans. It has been posted to the Niles Canyon Yahoo page.

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Alameda Bridge Replacement Project- Caltrans Releases Draft EIR for Public Comment

Below is an excerpt from the just released Draft EIR of a proposed Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement project. The excerpt describes the key reference points, dates for meetings and timeframe for submitting comments on the Draft EIR. The Draft document is too large (331 pages) to upload into our system but is accessible for download via the Caltrans Webpage. Please note the 23 Feb public meeting in Niles and the 20 March deadline for comments to Caltrans.
As comments / points/ concerns are identified they will be posted to this webpage FYI.
Reminders about the public meeting and the deadline for comments will be issued using the Niles Canyon Yahoo e mail group.
** *** *** *** *** ***

What’s in this document:
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has prepared this Draft
Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which examines the potential environmental
impacts of the alternatives being considered for the proposed project located in Alameda
County, California. Caltrans is the lead agency under the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA). The document tells you why the project is being proposed, what
alternatives we have considered for the project, how the existing environment could be
affected by the project, the potential impacts of each of the alternatives, and the proposed
avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation measures.
What you should do:
•Please read this document.
•This document is available in electronic format at:
January 2015 Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (60MB)
•Additional copies of this document and the related technical studies are available for
review at:
•Caltrans District 4, 111 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
•Niles Library, 150 I Street, Fremont, CA 94536
•Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Boulevard, Fremont, CA 94538
•Pleasanton Library, 400 Old Bernal Avenue, Pleasanton, CA 94566
•Attend the public meeting scheduled for:
Monday, February 23, 2015 6:00 pm-8:00 pm
Niles Elementary School
37141 2nd Street
Fremont, CA 94536
•We’d like to hear what you think. If you have any comments about the proposed
project, please attend the public meeting and/or send your written comments to
Caltrans by the deadline.
•Send comments via postal mail to:
Oliver Iberien, Environmental Branch Chief, Attention: Elizabeth White
Department of Transportation, Office of Environmental Analysis
111 Grand Avenue, MS 8B
Oakland, CA 94612
•Send comments via email to: nilescanyonprojects@dot.ca.gov.

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Community Meeting Notes From 27 Jan 2015 – Report on the status of the Trail Feasibility Study to date.

A second public meeting to discuss a proposed multiuse trail through the Niles Canyon was held on 27 January 2015 in Niles / Fremont. The meeting topics included discussion of three projects. 1) establishing a trail link between Niles and the Bay Ridge trail in particular crossing the rail track used by the Niles Canyon Railroad 2) the multiuse trail through the canyon 3) a trail between Sunol and the Vargas Plateau. The multiuse trail through the canyon was the topic of primary interest to the attendees. The meeting was well attended and the sponsors of the trail feasibility study (East Bay Parks, Alameda County, San Francisco Water & Power, Alameda County Water District) acknowledged their appreciation for the community interest and support. Posted on this website is the presentation which was prepared by the firm BFK Engineers who are conducting the feasibility study. The presentation contains the options for the three separate but related projects. The objective of the community meeting was to display the options and obtain community feedback, questions and comments which could be factored into the continuing work on the project(s).
The following points summarize items mentioned during the meeting:
• The multiuse concept allows for cyclists, walkers, and horse riders to use the trail. Questions arose about the interaction of the three user modes and the view was generally they could navigate the trail which would be 10 ft. wide paved and 2 ft. wide on each side unpaved. However If the trail uses the existing concrete aqueduct as suggested at several locations of the three options it might be confined to 10 ft. wide.
• The PPP contains several dashboard type slides providing a preliminary sense of the pros and cons (e.g. high risk, high expense) for the options.
• The Sunol to Vargas Plateau link would not be paved.
• One suggestion was to close the Niles Canyon Road for a Saturday in April and open it to cyclists, hikers, walkers and horse riders so they could explore the canyon on a more first-hand basis but without the traffic. This way they could better understand all the canyon has to offer and likely offer more constructive comments. The audience seemed very supportive of the suggestion but the meeting organizers did not appear to make any commitments. Probably because the canyon road is a Caltrans responsibility.
• Members of the audience asked when the trail would be built and the spokesperson from BFK explained that this is just the feasibility study. Before any commitment is made towards building the trails funding, a project sponsor (s) and an implementation plan must be must be identified. No date for completion can therefore be projected at this time.
• One suggestion was to engage environmental and interest groups early on so that their views can be factored in. The BFK representative explained that a list of stakeholder groups was assembled and they have been encouraged to have a representative at all events and their views have been solicited.
• One comment asked whether there is any link between the Caltrans intent to widen Niles Canyon Road and the trail initiative. The answer was no however Caltrans has been included as a stakeholder and has participated in several activities including the October 2014 Trail walk. Caltrans is planning to issue a proposed rebuilding plan for the Alameda Creek Bridge and hopefully they can integrate some steps into that plan which will support the trail project.
• The sponsors of the feasibility study were asked why they packaged the three together when in fact each is a separate project and the Niles Canyon Trail is the one of primary interest. A spokesperson for East Bay Parks explained that the reason they are packaged together is because of connectivity. Connecting the ridge trail to the Multiuse trail will allow for connectivity to trails like the Ironhorse trail in Walnut Creek.
• The multiuse trail if built would in essence become an extension of the existing Alameda Creek trail that currently runs from the Bay to Niles.
Comments can be directed to Chris Miley in the Office of Richard Valle, Supervisor District 2 at:
The PPP used during the meeting is available below or at the Alameda County Webpage, Supervisor Valle, Initiative
2014.01.27-Community-Meeting-2

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Stakeholders Participate in Trail walk through Niles Canyon

As part of the development of a Feasibility and Preliminary Engineering Study for a multiuse trail through Niles Canyon, Alameda County District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle arranged a trail walk among representatives of stakeholder groups through portions of the canyon. The trail walk took place on November 21, 2014 and was well attended. The delivery of the final feasibility study plan is still in the future however we have posted for information purposes the walk itinerary and notes from the walk.

Regarding the Caltrans plans for replacement of the Alameda Creek Bridge along Niles Canyon Road a check with the Project Coordinator at Caltrans Dist. 4 indicates that they currently expect to publish the Draft EIR/EIS in the January-February 2015 timeframe.

Below please find links to the Trail Walk Notes as well as the Walk Itinerary.
Notes from the Niles Canyon Trail Walk v3
NilesCanyonTrail_Itinerary(1)

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Caltrans Completes the Scoping Process for the Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement- Next steps

Caltrans held two public scoping meetings where attendees were provided insight into the Transportations Department’s initial thinking on the replacement of the Alameda Creek bridge which is an integral part of the Niles Canyon Road. The meetings were held on February 25 and March 4, 2014. Public attendance was not at record levels but these types of meetings are very preliminary and Caltrans did not distribute pre-read materials for review. A point worth mentioning is that attending a meeting about an important public works project ($40M estimated cost) and being asked to provide comments on what is important and what should be addressed as part of the Environmental Review process without any insight into the nature and scope of the project does not appeal to lots of people. That said Caltrans has updated their Webpage for the project to include details from the Dec 2013 Stakeholder meeting and the two scoping meetings. The Alameda Creek Alliance and the Save Niles Canyon Grassroots group have submitted scoping meeting comments to Caltrans and those comments are published on this webpage FYI.
The next step in the Caltrans process will be to publish a draft environmental report for public comment. They have targeted late 2014 to make the draft public for comment.
We will keep you posted.
SNC Points for Scoping Process v3
ACA initial scoping comments 2-26-14
Stakeholder Meeting Notes- 05 Dec 2013

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Caltrans Explains their Plan for the Rebuilding of the Alameda Creek Bridge.

Caltrans held the second Route 84 (Niles Canyon Road) Stakeholder meeting on 27 March 2013 to review their concept for the rebuilding of the Alameda Creek Bridge
over Alameda Creek.  The bridge is currently 2 lanes with no bicycle or pedestrian accommodation and reduced speed limits are posted.  The initial plans for
this rebuilding had been developed prior to the dissolution of their original 3
Phase project plan for widening Niles Canyon Road but had not previously been
presented to the public.

In summary Caltrans developed 4 scenarios for rebuilding the bridge but have
selected one which they see as preferred and according to statements made
during the Stakeholder meeting they would not pursue the other three. At the
time (4/8) of posting this report the visual depictions of the 4 bridge rebuild
scenarios are not available however Caltrans indicated they intended to post
them on their Route 84 Project Webpage.

A key aspect of each of the 4 scenarios for the bridge rebuild was Caltrans
intention to do so in a manner which allowed for a 45 MPH vehicle speed limit.
This aspect drew considerable discussion especially when representatives from
Stakeholder groups suggested Caltrans engineer a scenario which provides for a
lower speed limit- 35 MPH. Such a scenario might also reduce environmental
impact. Caltrans staff explained that they must build to their highway
standards which call for a speed limit consistent with the rest of the road. It
was pointed out that there are other sections of the road where speed limits
are below 45 MPH.

As the meeting closed Caltrans indicated they would accept the suggestion for consideration.

The next Stakeholder meeting will likely be planned for late summer 2013- July or August.

Unofficial meeting notes are posted to this webpage for information.

http://www.wisdomwitch.com/savenilescanyon/?attachment_id=929 – Agenda & Handout

http://www.wisdomwitch.com/savenilescanyon/?attachment_id=934 – Unofficial Mtg Notes

 

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