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 FHAâ€™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:
- Caltrans Agenda, Countermeasures listing, Canyon Map and list of Stakeholder representatives
- List of Stakeholder Representatives who attended the 27 Feb meeting
- Public comments on the FHA Road Safety Assessment reports- 1 Jan 2013 Letter from Coalition of Groups alligned with Alameda Creek Alliance
- Notes prepared by Mike Dubinsky who attended the 27 Feb Meeting on behalf of SNC