Report: Our meeting with Caltrans (03/09)

Meeting with Caltrans 3/9/11Many of us were greatly encouraged by the massive turnout at today’s meeting with Caltrans.  Despite limited notice, and despite being held in the middle of the workday, in the middle of the workweek, so many people turned out to voice their displeasure with the Niles Canyon Road Widening projects that a larger room needed to be found.  Even with the larger room, there was standing room only.  The highlight (in my humble opinion), was when an audience member asked the room at large, “Does anyone in this room support Caltrans’ projects?”, and there was a deafening silence in response.

As expected, today’s presentation rehashed data many of us have already heard.  We did, however, confirm that — despite widespread popular opposition — Caltrans has no intention of stopping or slowing down Phase I (even temporarily) to address the issues raised.  Staff members from Bob Wieckowski and Ellen Corbett’s office confirme d that — while they are working to represent constituent interests for Phases II and III — they are helpless to stop or slow down Phase I, since it has already been approved.  This doesn’t mean WE are helpless, however.

I urge any of you with even a small amount of spare time and a penchant for digging, to compare the Final Negative Declaration, to any permits you can find, and to the work you see being performed.  If you find discrepancies, please document them so we can use your work as evidence to get an injunction (e.g., take photos of trees felled in unapproved areas, or with nests in them, and note the date and location).  Then share your results with the group.

For those of you looking for a specific project, we need someone to go to Oakland and dig up the “Storm Water Data Report” Caltrans used to justify its Negative Declaration for Phase I, and to somehow share it with the group (does anyone have portable scanner?).  Apparently, “All technical studies and reports supporting the environmental document are available for the public to review at 111 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94623.”

The Alameda Creek Alliance is also researching whether the failure to notify them of a final CEQA document is grounds for an injunction.

Lastly, keep those letters and phone calls coming, and keep protesting!  Our next Potluck/Protest will be this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at Vallejo Mills Park (corner of Mission and Niles).  Let’s share a meal, share our knowledge, meet fellow supporters, and keep the synergy going.  The weather should be fine, and we will once again enjoy live music courtesy of Michael McNevin.

Special thanks are due to Bob Wieckowski and Ellen Corbett for arranging today’s meeting with Caltrans, and to the City Council and Nadia Lockyer for attending.  Wieckowski and Corbett’s staff members assure us that they are working with Caltrans for an evening meeting soon, with a larger room, and more time for audience questions.  We also had great media representation today.

To those citizens who attended the 3/9 meeting and provided sign in contact information: please note that information is not shared with the SaveNilesCanyon group. We appreciate your support for the cause and we want to be able to share information with you. Will you please send your name, phone#, email address and home address to us through our contact box, thanks.

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3 Responses to Report: Our meeting with Caltrans (03/09)

  1. I had no idea there even was an issue with Niles Canyon and Caltrans. Where canI learn about what the actual issue is?
    We will do anything we can to save the canyon, we’ve been life long citizens of Washington Township then Fremont when it was incorporated. Please keep us posted.
    Annette

    • Kimberly says:

      Hi Annette,

      Thanks for your support! In a nutshell, Caltrans plans to widen the lanes, add 10-foot shoulders on both sides, and lower the road where the underpasses are so bigger trucks can get through. Doing so will cause the following problems:

      1) 500 native trees cut down (100 have already been cut down, with another 400 to go), and an undisclosed number of non-natives (including the grove of eucalyptus at The Spot that has been there for over 100 years).
      2) Increased speeding and accidents. Once the lanes get wider, people will start to drive faster (there’s a ton of literature out there about how widening roads encourages folk to drive faster, and vice versa; but I would suggest starting with Wikipedia’s entry on Traffic Calming). Once folk start habitually speeding, the 85th percentile rule will kick in (here is Caltrans’ procedure about how speed limits are set), and the road will become faster and more dangerous.
      3) Caltrans will have to fill in parts of the creek to widen the road. This will cause problems with flooding (which is dangerous for drivers, and will cause contaminant runoff problems for the bay); and will greatly undermine 15 years of work to try and restore steelhead trout and coho salmon runs in the creek.
      4) In order to widen the road, Caltrans will also have to cut into the railway embankment. The proposed solution (retaining walls) will not meet federal railway safety standards. This means the Niles Canyon Railway, which is on the National Historic Registry, and which brings in hundreds of visitors into Niles and Sunol each weekend (which in turn generates major revenue for local merchants), will have to shutdown.
      5) Miles of retaining wall will be built; however, Caltrans will only commit to removing graffiti once every five years, even though graffiti is a gateway crime, and lowers property values.
      6) There is great concern that wildlife (including endangered species) trying to get to the creek for water will be cut off by the increased speeding and congestion, and will be trapped in a killing zone bounded by retaining walls they cannot cross.
      7) The additional cost of maintaining a roadway that has increased in width by almost 100%. That means the material cost of repaving is also almost double.

      Anyway, these seven items are just off the top of my head. You can learn much more by reading through the blog posts and news stories posted on this website, by going to the ACA‘s website, joining our Yahoo Group, following us on Facebook or Twitter, or just stopping by our monthly protest. We meet on the 2nd Saturday of the month (our next protest will be this Saturday, April 9, 2011), from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Vallejo Mill Park at the corner of Mission Blvd and Niles Canyon Road.

      Cheers,
      Kimberly

  2. janet kessler says:

    “Agenda Item 7.1 at the September 6, 2005 city council meeting in Fremont was introduced by City Manager Fred Diaz as “Take 27″… This item has been laid to rest and resurrected so many times that it is [sic] appears to reside in a permanent road purgatory. Although a majority of the Fremont city council previously voted no July 26,2005 to refuse road construction along any part of the Historic Corridor within Fremont city limits, a recent communication from Caltrans threatened to withdraw support of using land sale proceeds for the Highway I-880/interchange project… Mayor Wasserman: …Historically, Fremont has said no to Route 84 and the reasons were sound. Highway 84 was conceived as a freeway that was going to connect to the 238 freeway (Mission Boulevard). There is no 238 freeway and never will be so we are talking about building a road that dumps onto Mission Boulevard.”

    My feeling is that work has already begun, mainly on Mission in Hayward involving the “238 freeway” and that somehow destroying Route 84 ties in with this.

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