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 Schedules Scoping Meetings in Sunol & Niles for the Proposed Replacement of the Alameda Creek Bridge

Caltrans has circulated a message to Stakeholder groups alerting them to upcoming public scoping meetings for Niles Canyon Road related projects. In particular the replacement of the Alameda Creek Bridge. Caltrans explained that interested parties can either attend the Scoping Meetings(s) or submit a request to be part of the formal review of the Notice of Preparation. The Sunol public meeting is on 25 February and the Niles meeting is on 04 March. Below is the message Caltrans sent to Stakeholder Groups.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Beginning in February 2014, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will be circulating a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project’s Enviromental Impact Report (EIR).

The NOP is circulated to all public agencies, including federal agencies, that have responsibility for funding and/or approving the project, state agencies that have jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by the project, and to the State Clearinghouse, the branch of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research that coordinates the state-level review of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documents.

The NOP begins a consultative process to determine the proper scope of the proposed EIR. “Scoping” can be helpful to identify the range of actions, alternatives, mitigation measures, and potential significant effects that should be analyzed in the EIR.

Caltrans is offering individuals and organizations that are not part of the mandated NOP circulation the opportunity to be involved in this identification process. Caltrans will be offering two ways in which to participate. If you wish to be part of the formal circulation and 30-day review of the NOP, please file a signed, written request by mailing it to: Melanie Brent, Deputy District Director, Caltrans District 4, P.O. Box 23660, Oakland, CA 94623. If you would like to attend an open-house meeting at which Caltrans will present the proposed project-design alternatives and provide the opportunity to provide input on the scope of the EIR, please come to one of the following:

Sunol – February 25th. 7:00-9:00 PM, Sunol Glen School, 11601 Main Street, Sunol.
Niles – March 4th, 7:00-9:00 PM, Niles Elementary School, 37141 Second Street, Fremont.

Once the EIR is made public, the comment period on the document itself will begin. The date for this will be announced later this year.

The project addresses the operational deficiencies of the existing Alameda Creek Bridge (also called the Richmond Bridge) over Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon in the City of Fremont. Deficiencies include: barrier rail that does not meet current standards for crash-worthiness or for snag resistance; absence of shoulders which can affect roadside safety by providing a refuge for vehicles and non-motorized traffic; and curves that limit sight distance. Given the existing bridge’s structural limitations, all build alternatives proposed by Caltrans assume that the existing bridge will be demolished and a new one constructed.

Caltrans thanks you for your interest in its Niles Canyon projects. For more information, visit the website: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/

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Caltrans Holds Niles Canyon Corridor Stakeholder Mtg. Explains their Revised Plan (3B) for the Rebuilding of the Alameda Creek Bridge.

Caltrans held the third Route 84 (Niles Canyon Corridor) Stakeholder meeting on 5 December 2013 to review their most current concept for the rebuilding of the Alameda Creek Bridge over Alameda Creek and to provide some updates on their timetable for environmental review of those projects (called countermeasures in the FHA Safety Report) which require them.

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 on / around 2003 but had not previously been presented to the public.

Caltrans initially developed 4 scenarios for rebuilding the bridge but have revisited their concepts after the 27 March Stakeholder meeting and prepared a revised plan which has a smaller construction footprint, impacts the environment less and leans toward a speed limit of 40-45 mph.

A key aspect of each of the original 4 scenarios for the bridge rebuild was Caltrans intention to do so in a manner which allowed for a 45 MPH vehicle speed limit or possibly faster. This aspect drew considerable discussion during the 27 March 2013 Stakeholder meeting 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. At the March meeting Caltrans staff explained that they must build to their highway standards which call for a speed limit consistent with the rest of the road.

Ostensibly the Caltrans mindset in terms of meeting highway design standards has not changed however they demonstrated a desire to engineer the bridge rebuild with a smaller construction footprint and to be designed towards a speed limit that would not exceed 45mph but might actually be leaning towards a 40-43 mph range. They explained that they are listening to the community and stakeholder organizations. Their comments at the meeting suggest a considerably different approach to seeking public input and accepting that input than when this matter began in late 2010, early 2011.

In terms of community and organizational input on the Caltrans plans the first “official” opportunity will be the Scoping meeting held pursuant to CEQA requirements. Reportedly the scoping could begin as early as January 2014. Caltrans was encouraged to consider holding scoping meetings at both ends of the Niles Canyon Road which is under review- Fremont/Niles and Sunol.

Attached FYI are unofficial meeting notes, meeting agenda, attendee list and presentation slides used by Caltrans staff.

Meeting-Notes
Agenda & Attendee List 5dec13 Stakeholder Mtg.
PPP niles Bridge Replacement 3 Alts (12-5-13)

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Possible Niles Canyon Road-Route 84 – Stakeholder Meeting being considered by Caltrans

Today (11/8/13) I spoke with Jack Siauw the new Project Manager for the Niles Canyon Road-Route 84- Safety Improvement Project.  I contacted Jack after speaking with Jim Pierson, City of Fremont Dept of Public Works Director who alerted me to the fact that
Caltrans has been working on a different approach to designing the rebuild of
the bridge over the Alameda Creek. Below are excerpts from a message Jim
Pierson sent me.

…I just had a good meeting with Caltrans about the new Alameda Creek Bridge in Niles Canyon.  If you recall at our last stakeholders meeting Caltrans showed us a bridge
design with a 43 mph design speed.  This was their second design attempt
in order to reduce the much larger impacts of the original design, which was
based on what Caltrans would normally construct.  Because this new bridge
design still had impacts on the Canyon and Creek, particularly at the
approaches, I casually suggested that maybe to further reduce the impacts
they could look at a bridge with a 35 mph design speed.  I honestly never
thought they would consider that…  I also knew that Caltrans would never
develop a “substandard” bridge design because the bridge is very expensive and
will last 100 years, so they always design for the future, which makes sense.

The good news is that although they cannot support a bridge with a 35 mph design speed, just like I thought, they actually laid it out and took the idea very seriously.  In
fact, as a result of  this design, they were able to see that they could reduce some of the impacts on the approaches on the east (south) end of the bridge.  This latest proposal would eliminate the need to extend the roadway out over the creek channel on this
side of the bridge like they previously showed us.  I think this is a big improvement and I was pleased that Caltrans took my idea seriously…

Although they don’t have all the internal approvals yet that they need to actually say this is the preferred design, they plan to schedule a stakeholders meeting to share this
new concept.  They would then include it in the new environmental document….
they are going to try to schedule the stakeholder meeting … maybe in the first
week of December.  I think they are also willing to hold the meeting down
here so everyone doesn’t have to go up to Oakland.

Overall, I think this is very positive and I am supportive of the design they showed me.  They really made an effort to minimize the impacts.

During my  telephone conversation with Jack Siauw he confirmed the points Jim Pierson made and indicated they (Caltrans) were working on organizing a stakeholder meeting targeting the first week in December. Invitations to the meeting will be issued by Caltrans.

Posted by Mike Dubinsky, SaveNilesCanyon

Note- A Stakeholder meeting is not a full open to the public session but rather a by invitation to representatives from the organizations who have a stake in the project.

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CALTRANS ANNOUNCES STATE ROUTE 84 ROAD CLOSURE FOR EXTREME MAINTENANCE OCTOBER 12

The following public message was posted by Caltrans:

ALAMEDA COUNTY –State Route 84 in Niles Canyon, from Old Canyon Road in Fremont to west of Sunol, will be closed for extreme maintenance on Saturday, October 12th, from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Except for emergency services, the roadway will be closed
for all westbound and eastbound traffic, including bicyclists. Work will
include, but is not limited to: litter removal, drain cleaning, weed and
overgrown brush removal, tree trimming, mowing, rock slide clearing, shoulder
grading, pothole repairs, sweeping, striping, and delineation.

This maintenance work is mission critical and must be done prior to winter to help prevent flooding and mudslides, which could cause lane and road closures during winter storms.
The California Highway Patrol will be on site for traffic enforcement. Please remember to Slow for the Cone Zone.

Ron Kiaaina, PE, Project Manager ,Department of Transportation (Caltrans), District 4

111 Grand Avenue / Mail: P.O. Box 23660

Oakland, CA 94623-0660, Phone: (510) 286-4193

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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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Niles Canyon Road Stakeholder Meeting of 27 Feb 2013- Caltrans outlines the process they plan to follow.

On Wednesday 27 February Caltrans held a Stakeholders meeting as the first step in their Clean Slate approach to implementing safety improvements to Niles Canyon Road. Save Niles Canyon (SNC), along with other Stakeholders attended. The meeting was primarily focused on the process Caltrans intends to follow as they re-group after the 2011 lawsuit stopped their work on the previous Phase 1 safety improvement project. During the meeting Caltrans staff were informative and cordial as they outlined their current plans / thinking on what needs to be done to make the Niles Canyon Road-Route 84 scenic highway safer for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Most of the project work outlined by Caltrans staff was drawn from the Road Safety Assessment (RSA) reports issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) based on the review and analysis they conducted in 2012. The material discussed at the Dec 10, 2012 public meeting set the stage for the agenda. The handouts and meeting notes from this meeting are posted for your ready reference. Caltrans has proposed another Stakeholder meeting tentatively for 27 March.

To start the meeting Caltrans listed what they saw as the common themes which came from the 10 December 2012 meeting and subsequent public comments on the FHA’s RSA reports. SNC was one of 12 groups which sent an 11 page letter of comments to Caltrans on the RSA reports. Alameda Creek Alliance spearheaded that letter. For example there was public concern expressed about any additional tree removal and members of the public felt that more effort should be given to traffic calming measures in conjunction with speed management /enforcement.

Caltrans staff then outlines the four part process they intend to follow.

The first step is to initiate five short term Countermeasures to improve safety. These five measures require no environmental review, require no special budget allocations and were agreed upon by all the Stakeholder representatives who attended the meeting. An example is to eliminate the passing zones adjacent to low-speed curves.

Second Caltrans will propose a three part project which will include specific solutions at two locations which are viewed as needing safety upgrades. In particular the Rosewarnes Union Pacific (UP) Bridge and the Farwell UP Bridge / Palomares Road will be addressed. The modifications to these locations along the canyon road were identified in the FHA RSA reports as medium-term countermeasures for safety improvement. In addition the project package will include a proposal to use steel-mesh netting on steep slope areas to prevent rockslides.

Third Caltrans will propose a five part project package which will be a mix of short and medium term countermeasures. Among the steps in this package is a proposal to remove fixed objects adjacent to the canyon road. A large number of trees are identified as fixed objects. Caltrans stated that they want public review and comment on any tree removal proposal and the stakeholder representatives agreed with that thinking. This package will include intersection improvements at the Route 84/Pleasanton/Sunol Road intersection. When this was discussed the Sunol representative asked for some more immediate relief from commuter cut through in their town and Caltrans indicated they would arrange to visit Sunol sooner and meet with the community to discuss the possibilities.

Fourth Caltrans will propose replacement of the Alameda Creek Bridge. This step was an element in the now defunct three part Route 84 Safety upgrade however Caltrans ideas for the replacement were not previously publicized for comment.

The second, third and fourth steps will require Caltrans to meet California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.

Caltrans stated that they intend to monitor the improvements made in step one before implementing the next three steps. When asked they stated their monitoring period would not exceed three years however upon further questions by Stakeholders they indicated they are flexible on the monitoring time period and it can be longer. Stakeholders suggested a 5 year minimum.

Next steps- Caltrans asked if the stakeholder representatives could attend another meeting in a month so that a presentation on the Alameda Creek Bridge replacement could be made. As noted the plans for the bridge replacement (project four above) were being worked on at the time the Caltrans agreed to settle the lawsuit and cease their road widening activities therefore public comment was not obtained. The stakeholder representatives agreed to tentatively meet on March 27 with Caltrans about the bridge replacement matter but this meeting would not be a substitute for full CEQA review.

Caltrans anticipates the next Stakeholder meeting to discuss the second and third projects to occur during the summer of 2013.

Posted to this webpage are the handouts from the 27 February meeting and Notes Prepared by Mike Dubinsky who attended on behalf of the Save Niles Canyon Group

The handouts are:

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Public Meeting of Dec 10, 2012 with Caltrans Indicates That They are Listening

About 100 citizens, A Fremont City Council member and representatives from several legislators’ offices attended the December 10, 2012 meeting arranged by
Caltrans to obtain initial public input on the Report of the Federal Highway
Administration and the Final Quantitative Road Safety Analysis Study Report concerning
safety on Niles Canyon Road (NCR) between Niles and Sunol.  The official titles of the reports are:
1.Road Safety Assessment (RSA), SR84 – Niles Canyon Corridor Alameda Co., California,
May 2012. (40 pages) It was prepared by the Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) at the request of Caltrans.

2.Final Quantitative Road Safety Analysis Study Report- An Integrated Value Analysis (VA)/Road Safety Review Process, SR 84 – Niles Canyon Road Corridor, August 2012. (222 pages) It was prepared by an outside consultant group under contract to Caltrans.

Both of these reports along with other current materials pertinent to the ongoing
Caltrans review of safety in the Niles Canyon Road Corridor can be found at Caltrans’ webpage.   http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/

The meeting was moderated by Ron Kiaana, the Caltrans Project Manager for the SR-84
Niles Canyon Safety Improvements Project. A copy of the PP presentation used by Mr. Kianna is posted at the listed webpage.  Besides a brief review of the history of the project, especially for the last two years, Mr. Kianna made the following points.

  • Caltrans was operating from a clean slate. The previous three phase set of project plans were set aside
  • Caltrans intended to work with residents and local jurisdictions every step of the way in a transparent manner.
  • The RSA & VA reports list several levels of safety improvements which can be pursued in a phased manner.

A significant portion of the meeting was allocated to the attendees to voice
their views on the two reports. Residents from Fremont/Niles, Sunol, Union
City, The Sunol Citizens Advisory Committee, Save Niles Canyon, Citizen’s Committee
to Complete the Refuge, Save our Sunol, LEAF and the Alameda Creek Alliance
presented comments. Three central themes emerged from the attendee’s comments:
a) the reports identified specific locations along the NCR which could benefit
from some safety upgrades; b) Caltrans should initially consider applying a
number of appropriate safety upgrade suggestions, i.e. least disruptive and
most economical, from the 2 reports (the Short Term Improvement Measures); and
c) Caltrans needs to monitor the impact of the appropriate short term measures
over time, e.g. ten years, before considering additional more complex fixes.

In summary the meeting was viewed as positive by those in attendance however a lingering concern remains given the past attitude and approach used by
Caltrans.  This lingering concern was highlighted when a Niles resident asked Caltrans if one of their short term improvement measures- Relocate select
fixed objects immediately adjacent to roadway-
included cutting down trees.
Caltrans responded that it did but only trees within a short distance of the
roadway.  However Caltrans (Ron Kiaana) promised to discuss all such steps with the public prior to taking any action.

A very complete news report on the meeting can be found in the Fremont Bulletin of December 28, 2012 http://www.mercurynews.com/fremont/ci_22274242/caltrans-proposes-improvements-niles-canyon-road

Caltrans has indicated that they will continue to accept public comments on the two
reports and the meeting presentation until 15 January 2013.  Therefore
you still have an opportunity to provide input should you wish to do so.

The Alameda Creek Alliance, serving as the lead for a Coalition of 12 organizations
sent a letter to Caltrans on 1 January 2013.  A copy of the letter is posted on
the Alameda Creek Alliance webpage. You can access the ACA webpage uisng the link provided under LINKS. Go to the Niles Canyon topic and click on January 2013 Coalition Letter. You are welcome to reference it in any written comments you make to Caltrans.

The next step will be for Caltrans to coordinate a meeting among stakeholders in
the project for late January or early February 2013. Save Niles Canyon group
sends representatives to stakeholder meetings.

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Caltrans Schedules Public Meeting for 10 Dec in Fremont – FHA Road Safety Assessment

Below is a message sent from Caltrans announcing a special public meeting on Dec 10 at the Fremont Senior Citizen’s Center to hear comments on a Road Safety Assessment (RSA)conducted earlier this year on Niles Canyon Road (NCR) from Niles to Sunol.  This date and place is a change from the original meeting time/place.  As you may recall the Caltrans plans for widening NCR were stopped in late 2011 by a court order. The RSA was conducted by the Federal Highway Administration. You can access additional information at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Niles_Canyon/?prop=eupdate

I encourage you to review the FHA reports (they are lengthy) and attend the meeting on the 10th. It is important for Caltrans to know that the public continues to follow and track the NCR activities, especially those directed at possibly doing harm to the scenic highway.
Mike Dubinsky, Save Niles Canyon Group.
______________________________________________________________________
Text of the 11/26/2012 Caltran’s e mail message to Stakeholders:

______________________________________________________________
UPDATE: The date and location of the public
meeting have been changed.  It will now be held on Monday, December 10 at
7:00 PM at the Fremont Senior Center.
Good Afternoon,

We wanted to provide you with updated information regarding the upcoming public
meeting.  Caltrans will hold a meeting on Monday, December 10 at 7 pm to
give the public an opportunity to provide feedback on the Road Safety
Assessment (RSA) and the Value Analysis Study final reports for State Route
84/Niles Canyon.  These reports are available on the Caltrans website at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/

In response to public concern about planned safety projects in Niles Canyon,
Caltrans invited a panel of traffic-safety experts from the Federal Highway
Administration to perform an independent Road Safety Assessment (RSA) on State
Route 84. Additionally, a Value Analysis Team also examined the data and
developed safety-solution concepts based on the recommendations of the RSA.
Presentations containing preliminary information from these studies were
given to the public on July 30 and are also available on the Caltrans website
at the address listed above.

Caltrans is inviting the public to review the RSA and the Value Analysis final
reports and to provide feedback on these two studies.  The public meeting
will be held at:

Fremont Senior Center

40086 Paseo Padre Parkway

Fremont, CA 94537

Monday December 10, 2012

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Caltrans remains committed to keeping you informed and soliciting your feedback
throughout the planning process for any safety improvements on State Route 84.

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Monday 7/30 Caltrans’ Niles Canyon Road Project Meeting

Date: July 30
Time: 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: Niles Elementary School
Address: 37141 Second Street
Fremont, CA 94536

In response to public concern about planned safety projects in Niles Canyon, Caltrans invited an independent panel of traffic-safety experts from the Federal Highway Administration to perform an independent Road Safety Assessment (RSA). Caltrans is now inviting the public to hear the findings of the RSA for State Route 84 in Niles Canyon on Monday, July 30, 2012, at 6:00 PM at the Niles Elementary School.

The RSA team evaluated State Route 84′s current accident data, traffic patterns, and motorist behaviors to determine if safety improvements are needed. The team will present their findings and give their recommendations at the meeting.

Additionally, a Value Analysis Team developed safety-solution concepts based on the recommendations of the RSA that take into consideration community and stakeholder feedback regarding environmental effects. Members of the Value Analysis Team will also report on their follow-up.

This is a great opportunity for the public to hear the results of the RSA and the Value Analysis studies and to provide feedback on these two studies.

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