ALAMEDA CREEK ALLIANCE SUES CALTRANS OVER NILES CANYON HIGHWAY WIDENING PROJECT

Contact: Jeff Miller, Alameda Creek Alliance, (510) 499-9185

Oakland, CA – The Alameda Creek Alliance filed a lawsuit in Alameda Superior Court today against the California Department of Transportation challenging the inadequate environmental review for the first phase of the controversial $80 million Niles Canyon highway widening project along Alameda Creek. Caltrans failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the State Route 84 “Safety Improvement” Project despite substantial evidence of potentially significant adverse environmental impacts to sensitive species including the California red-legged frog and Alameda whipsnake.

“Caltrans is trying to ram this ill-conceived project through with complete disregard for public input and over the continued objections of conservation groups, elected officials, and community groups from Niles and Sunol,” said Jeff Miller, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. “The highway widening would degrade important habitat for fish and wildlife, jeopardize a decade of steelhead trout restoration efforts in Alameda Creek, and ruin the natural beauty of Niles Canyon. We insist on a thorough environmental review and reevaluation of whether this type of highway widening project with drastic impacts is even necessary.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. In 2006 Caltrans approved a “Negative Declaration” for the project, claiming no significant environmental impacts, rather than preparing the required EIR for a project with significant impacts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Regional Water Quality Control Board and Alameda Creek Alliance submitted comments about potentially significant adverse impacts and the need for further environmental review. Caltrans failed to provide proper notice of project approval to the public and those who commented on the draft environmental review.

Caltrans cut nearly 100 native trees in the canyon this spring in preparation for the project, in the process violating several provisions of a permit issued by the Water Board. Caltrans has stated it intends to commence project implementation on June 15, including removing tree stumps and other vegetation, grading and filling in the creek channel and floodplain, and building huge retaining walls, which would cause further damage to habitat for trout, frogs and snakes.

“Caltrans refused to conduct a transparent environmental review and did not properly notify or give the public and interested agencies opportunity to provide meaningful input,” said Miller. “Despite these inadequacies and the fact that no one in the community wants the highway widened, Caltrans refused to put the project on hold, so we have sued them. The Governor should investigate this blatant waste of $80 million in public funds and shameful destruction of important wildlife habitat in Alameda Creek.”

Caltrans began environmental review for phase two of the project, which would cut nearly 500 more trees in the middle of the canyon and construct almost two additional miles of retaining walls and armoring along the creek, in fall 2010. The proposal received a flood of comments and storm of protest from the community. The Water Board commented it “would be unlikely to issue the necessary approvals for this project” due to significant environmental impacts. Caltrans recently agreed to reopen the public comment period for phase two of the project through July 7, to “solicit additional input from the public in determining the possible scope of a modified project.” Construction on the second phase is scheduled to begin in 2012.

The City of Fremont sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown in May requesting he intervene to stop the project, citing “extreme” and “shocking” environmental impacts and “blatant disregard for getting input from the public.” Fremont is investigating a ban on large trucks in the canyon, since trucks cause a disproportionate number (38%) of traffic accidents and most of the fatal accidents. Fremont joined conservation and community groups in calling for a halt to the project and reevaluation of the need for road widening when a truck ban is in place. Nearly 400 residents showed up to oppose the project at meetings with Caltrans this spring and community groups held several protests against the tree cutting. Save Niles Canyon, Save Our Sunol, Friends of Coyote Hills, Southern Alameda County Sierra Club, East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and Tri-City Ecology Center are also opposing the project.

Save Niles Canyon reviewed safety data Caltrans used to justify the road widening, premised on a need for safety upgrade due to high numbers of fatal accidents. Caltrans has cited 11 to 13 fatalities in the canyon over the past decade, but several of these incidents were outside the canyon or the project area, and the majority involved driving under the influence as a major or contributing cause of the accident. It is unlikely these incidents would have been prevented by road widening in the canyon. Save Niles Canyon concluded that Niles Canyon Road is statistically safer than the average state road, there is no safety justification for road widening, and the project may actually make the canyon more dangerous for drivers and cyclists. There are less destructive alternatives Caltrans has not evaluated such as installing radar speed signs, median barriers, and rumble strips, focusing on localized problem areas, trimming or removing selected trees, or other measures within the existing roadway.

The three phases of the project would widen much of Niles Canyon Road between Fremont and Interstate 680 to provide 12-foot lanes, a 2-foot median, and up to 8-foot shoulders. Caltrans proposes cutting 600 trees along Alameda Creek and filling the creek and floodplain with over four miles of cement retaining walls and rip-rap. This would significantly damage wildlife habitat and remove rare sycamore forest.

Alameda Creek is an ‘anchor watershed’ considered regionally significant for restoration of threatened steelhead trout to the entire Bay Area. Since 1997, numerous organizations and agencies have cooperated on restoration projects to allow migratory fish from the Bay to reach spawning habitat in upper Alameda Creek. Thirteen fish passage improvement projects, including dam removals, construction of fish ladders, and installation of fish screens, have been completed in the watershed since 2001. Several more projects in the lower creek are expected to be completed by 2013, allowing steelhead to migrate upstream into Niles Canyon in the project area and into the upper watershed for the first time in half a century.

Posted in Misc | Comments Off on ALAMEDA CREEK ALLIANCE SUES CALTRANS OVER NILES CANYON HIGHWAY WIDENING PROJECT

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty talks about Highway 84

The Independent‘s May 26, 2011 print edition has a great article on its front page titled, “Haggerty talks about Budget Cuts, Highway 84, and BART to Portola”.  We will link to the online story as soon as it becomes available, but in the meantime, you can purchase The Independent‘s May 26, 2011 print edition, or settle for these highlights:

[Alameda County Supervisor Scott] Haggerty spoke at a Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce luncheon May 24 in what was billed as a “State of the County” talk.

Haggerty also discussed why the chamber should become more involved in lobbying for an expansion of Highway 84 to four lanes west of Pigeon Pass… [Pigeon Pass is the hilly terrain on Vallecitos, west of Isabel Avenue and east of 680.]

On the route 84 issue, Haggerty said the highway should be widened to four lanes from west of Pigeon Pass.

The Sierra Club has opposed the widening as being growth-inducing.  Haggerty encouraged the Chamber to become active at CalTrans meetings to work toward obtaining funding for the widening.

Building Highway 84 to four lanes, something that Pleasanton wants, would relieve Interstate 680 congestion for the following 15 years, said Haggerty.

As it is now, the truck lanes that were installed have improved traffic conditions on the road by 25 percent.  With four lanes, they would be improved by 100 percent [Haggerty said].

The article is particularly interesting since, as mentioned in a previous blog entry, Supervisor Haggerty is employed by an an out-of-state trucking company with a depot on the east side of Livermore.

The City of Livermore has a good map (and memorandum) that illustrates planned roadway improvements through Livermore (as of July 26, 2000).  You will note that the projects seem to radiate from the middle of the far right-hand side of the map, which oddly enough is where Supervisor Haggerty’s employer has its truck depot (7140 Patterson Pass Road, between Greenville and Vasco Road).  You will also note that SR 84 west of 680 is not marked by a heavy line in the map (hardly surprising, since the map was prepared by Livermore over a decade ago); but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that truck traffic will continue through Sunol and down Niles Canyon Road once the “improvements” are implemented.

Finally, a group of Livermore residents object to having their segment of SR 84 widened.  They have independently reached the same conclusion we have — that one of the primary beneficiaries of widening SR 84 is the trucking industry.

Posted in Press Articles | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty talks about Highway 84

Caltrans Warned Over Illegal Environmental Review, Permit Violations for Niles Canyon Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 23, 2011
CONTACT: Jeff Miller, Alameda Creek Alliance, (510) 499-9185

Niles, CA – Attorneys for the Alameda Creek Alliance sent a legal memo to Caltrans last week warning the agency that the 2006 environmental review for phase one of the Niles Canyon Sate Route 84 Safety Improvement Project is inadequate under state law and that work should be halted until an Environmental Impact Report is prepared. The letter also warns Caltrans that tree cutting operations in Niles Canyon this spring violated several provisions of a permit issued by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. Caltrans intends to illegally resume construction under phase one of the project beginning June 15, with removal of tree stumps and other vegetation and grading and filling in the Alameda Creek channel and floodplain, activities that will further damage trout habitat in Alameda Creek.

“Caltrans cannot legally proceed with any more destruction under phase one of this damaging, unnecessary and controversial project to widen Niles Canyon Road until they have prepared the required Environmental Impact Report, as their Negative Declaration is legally inadequate” said Jeff Miller, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. “Frankly, we’ve had it with the disregard for public input and environment-be-damned attitude of Caltrans and we intend to stop all phases of this project.”

Following protests from the community and requests from state Senator Ellen Corbett and Assembly member Bob Weickowski, Caltrans recently agreed to reopen the formal comment period for phase two of the project for 45 days, to “solicit additional input from the public in determining the possible scope of a modified project.” Additional public comments on phase two will be taken beginning today through July 7.

“Caltrans concedes that the public and interested agencies were not properly notified or given an opportunity to provide input on phase two of the project, yet refuses to reopen the environmental review for phase one, which was deliberately concealed from the public,” said Miller. “The hundred trees cut along the creek pales in comparison to the destruction of trout habitat Caltrans plans if they are allowed to complete phase one.”

The City of Fremont sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown earlier this month requesting that he intervene to stop the Niles Canyon project, citing “extreme” and “shocking” environmental impacts and “blatant disregard for getting input from the public on this project.” Fremont is investigating a ban on large trucks in the canyon, since trucks cause a disproportionate number of traffic accidents (38%) and most of the fatal accidents. Fremont has joined numerous conservation and community groups in calling for a halt to the project and a reevaluation of the need for road widening when a truck ban is in place. Nearly 400 residents showed up to oppose the project at meetings with Caltrans in April and May and conservation and community groups have held several protests against the cutting of native trees in Niles Canyon and plans to further destroy trout habitat along Alameda Creek.

“No one wants this project, it is like a Frankenstein monster set in motion by an unresponsive bureaucracy,” said Miller. “The Governor should investigate this blatant waste of $76 million in public funds, destruction of important trout habitat in Alameda Creek that jeopardizes a decade of restoration efforts, and the blight of a designated scenic highway and the natural beauty of Niles Canyon.”

Caltrans approved phase one of the project in 2006 with a Negative Declaration, stating that there was no impact on the environment. The Alameda Creek Alliance was never notified that the project was approved. Caltrans refused to conduct a transparent and thorough environmental review and has not been forthcoming in disseminating information to the public about the project. Caltrans plans further activity under phase one this summer including filling portions of the creek channel and floodplain with concrete retaining walls and rip-rap boulders. Despite severe inadequacies in the environmental review process and failure to adequately notify or inform the public of the project, Caltrans refuses to put the project on hold.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission transferred title and gave legal easements of 1.7 acres of public lands in Niles Canyon to Caltrans in 2010 for construction of phase one, the areas where trees have been cut and further impacts to the creek are planned. Caltrans cut trees being monitored by the SFPUC as part of a legally required monitoring and mitigation program for impacts from the 2006 Niles and Sunol dam removals. The public is awaiting a memo from the SFPUC explaining what exactly happened. The Alameda Creek Alliance is lobbying the SFPUC to ensure no additional public land is transferred for phase two.

In fall 2010 Caltrans began environmental review for phase two of the project, which would take out nearly 500 more trees in the middle of the canyon and damage more irreplaceable trout habitat by adding nearly two additional miles of retaining walls and armoring along the creek. The Regional Water Quality Control Board announced it “would be unlikely to issue the necessary approvals for this project” due to significant environmental impacts. The second phase is scheduled to begin in 2012.

Local community group Save Niles Canyon reviewed the safety data Caltrans has used to justify the controversial road widening project, which is premised on a need for safety upgrade due to high numbers of fatal accidents. Caltrans cited 11 fatalities in the Canyon in the EIR for phase two of the project and 13 fatalities in public handouts. Deceptively, several of these incidents were outside of the Canyon or outside the project area, and the majority involved driving under the influence as a major or contributing cause of the accident. None of these incidents would have been prevented by the project. Save Niles Canyon concludes that Niles Canyon is safer than the average state road, there is no safety justification for the road widening, and the project will actually make the canyon more dangerous for drivers and cyclists.

Alameda Creek Alliance, Save Niles Canyon, Save Our Sunol, Friends of Coyote Hills, Southern Alameda County Sierra Club, East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Tri-City Ecology Center, and Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont are opposing the project. It would widen much of Niles Canyon Road between Fremont and Interstate 680 to provide 12-foot lanes, a 2-foot median, and 2-foot to 8-foot shoulders. It would require cutting 600 native trees from the Alameda Creek riparian corridor, filling the creek and floodplain with over four miles of cement retaining walls and rip-rap, and damaging habitat for steelhead trout, California red-legged frog, Alameda whipsnake, rare sycamore forest habitat, and other native wildlife. There are less destructive alternatives Caltrans has not evaluated such as installing radar speed signs, median barriers, and rumble strips, focusing on localized problem areas, trimming or removing selected trees, or other measures within the existing roadway.

Alameda Creek is an ‘anchor watershed’ considered regionally significant for restoration of threatened steelhead trout to the entire Bay Area. Since 1997, numerous organizations and agencies have cooperated on restoration projects to allow migratory fish from the Bay to reach spawning habitat in upper Alameda Creek. Thirteen fish passage improvement projects, including dam removals, construction of fish ladders, and installation of fish screens, have been completed in the watershed since 2001. Several more projects in the lower creek are expected to be completed by 2011-2013, allowing steelhead to migrate upstream into Niles Canyon and the upper watershed for the first time in half a century.

The Alameda Creek Alliance (www.alamedacreek.org) is a community watershed group with over 1,850 members, dedicated to protecting and restoring the natural ecosystems of the Alameda Creek watershed. The Alameda Creek Alliance has been working to restore steelhead trout and protect endangered species in the Alameda Creek watershed since 1997.

Posted in What can we do? | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Caltrans Warned Over Illegal Environmental Review, Permit Violations for Niles Canyon Project

We’re Challenging Phase I, and Your Comments are Needed for Phase II

OPPOSITION TO PHASE I
Construction is slated to begin on Phase I next month; but it is not going unchallenged.  The Alameda Creek Alliance has hired an attorney, who has sent a letter to Caltrans outlining why Phase I of the project is chock full of violations.  If you would like to support the effort to defend Niles Canyon through the court system, please consider sending a donation to the Alameda Creek Alliance at P.O. Box 2626, Niles, CA 94536.  Since the A.C.A. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, contributions are tax deductible.

PHASE II COMMENT PERIOD REOPENED
In the meantime, Caltrans is reopening the Comment Period for Phase II of the Niles Canyon Road Widening Project for 45-days beginning next Monday, May 23, 2011).  Approximately 440 trees are slated for removal in Phase II, including the old grove of eucalyptus featured in so many silent film movies.  (By contrast, 98 trees were removed in preparation for Phase I construction work).  Caltrans’ e-mail with information about who to contact can be viewed below.  When you send your letters to Caltrans, please word them in the form of questions, so Caltrans is obliged to provide an answer.  Remember, they can ignore how you feel; but they have to answer your questions.

CALTRANS E-MAIL
In response to public concern, Caltrans is investigating whether it is possible to modify the Niles Canyon Safety Improvement Project in order to further reduce environmental impacts.

Caltrans invites public participation in the process through:

An Extended 45-Day Comment Period Beginning May 23 Caltrans will solicit additional input from the public in determining the possible scope of a modified project. Comment can be emailed to
nilescanyonprojects@dot.ca.gov or sent by postal mail to Caltrans District 4, Attn: V. Shearer, PO Box 23660 MS 8B, Oakland, CA 94623-0660. Comment must be received by 5:00 PM on July 7, 2011.

The current draft environmental document is available online at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/documents/nilescanyon.  Hard copies or compact disks may be obtained by sending your name and mailing address to the above address.

Stakeholder Committees
Caltrans will form stakeholder committees comprising representatives of permitting agencies, local government, and involved organizations, that will review and comment on proposed design changes and updated studies, and formulate strategies for balancing traffic safety and environmental impact.  Representatives of local elected officials will be invited. Stakeholders will meet before the new comment period for for a kickoff meeting. After the comment period, they will review traffic studies and the revised design.

Next Steps
After Caltrans considers public and stakeholder input and determines the scope of the modified project, we can then reassess whether additional studies are needed. Responses to comments received on the draft will be part of the final environmental document.

The document referred to is at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/nilescanyon/

Posted in What can we do? | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on We’re Challenging Phase I, and Your Comments are Needed for Phase II

May 20 Letter Re: Caltrans Violations

The Alameda Creek Alliance sent this letter to Caltrans today:

more…

Posted in Online documents, What about the law?, What can we do? | Tagged , | Comments Off on May 20 Letter Re: Caltrans Violations

Trucks on Niles Canyon Road

Last February, the City of Fremont approved funds to explore banning trucks on Niles Canyon Road.  As you may recall, trucks account for 2.5 percent of the traffic, but are involved in 38% of the collisions on Niles Canyon Road.  According to the Federal Highway Administration, “The largest truck class is 2-axle single units which accounts for 2 percent of all vehicles.”

Caltrans later said that around 80% of the trucks involved in accidents were either pickups or panel trucks, but they did not provide a breakdown.  This brought up the question of what Caltrans’ definition of a panel truck is, so we asked the District 4 Truck Coordinator, who said that a panel truck is “a truck with 2 axles”.  (In March, Caltrans officials said an example of a panel truck is a UPS truck, but they did not provide a definition.)  According to the FHA, a 2-axle truck can have a wheelbase of up to 30.31′ (Table 4.2.1, p. 72).  The Basic Law for a single unit vehicle is “A vehicle may not exceed a length of 40 feet”, not including auxiliary parts or fenders and mudguards.  This is significant because trucks longer than 32′ are currently advised to not travel Niles Canyon Road.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Truck Size and Weight Study contains interesting information about truck size, curve radii, offtracking, etc.  Based on initial study, widening the road, extending the shoulders to 10′, softening the curves, and lowering the road under the bridges (where the road is already prone to flooding) appears to be less about safety (the safety data remains suspect), and more about building a fast truck route.

Caltrans says the Alameda Creek Bridge is being replaced in phase III because it “is considered functionally obsolete“; not because it is unsound (in fact, it was seismically retrofitted in 1984 and in 1997).  “Functionally obsolete” seems synonymous with meeting the needs of more large trucks, since replacing the bridge will “improve load capacity“.  “Functionally obsolete” also appears to be synonymous with not being designed for faster speeds (in Caltrans terminology, “inadequate design speeds“).  The Caltrans Truck Coordinator was asked point blank whether Caltrans was building a truck route, but didn’t reply (he may have thought it was a rhetorical question).

As you may be aware, Caltrans recently completed a project to widen Route 84 east of 680.  What you may not know, is that an out-of-state trucking company has a depot on the east side of Livermore, and employs Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. Turning Niles Canyon Road into a truck route would be economically valuable to the trucking industry, since trucks would save money on gasoline if they didn’t have to climb the Sunol grade.  In addition, they will be able to avoid the scales on 680, and may ultimately have a more direct route to the Dumbarton bridge.

The other main player in widening Niles Canyon Road seems to be Union City Mayor Mark Green, who also has an interesting financial situation.  Mark appears bent on completing the Intermodal Station District to secure his legacy before he hits term limits in 2012.

For those of you interested in how Caltrans is funded and organized, here’s a link to an earlier blog entry.

Posted in Our findings, What can we do? | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Trucks on Niles Canyon Road

Niles Canyon Road Is Safer Than Average

Caltrans wants to spend $75.9 million on a “safety” project to widen Niles Canyon Road, even though data indicates that the road is already safer than average.  To make its case, Caltrans is presenting misleading arguments to the public.
The underpinning for Caltrans’ argument to widen Niles Canyon Road is that the road is not safe.  At every public meeting they’ve held, they trot out the same old chart, with the cumulative total number of accidents for over a decade.  They then leave the slide up during Q&A.  Those of us who have spent time analyzing the safety data, take exception to Caltrans method of reporting the data, which appears designed to provoke a visceral and fearful reaction, instead of presenting facts that would lead to a measured and thoughtful response.

The truth is that data shows Niles Canyon Road has been safer than average since at least 2005; however Caltrans manipulates the data to disguise this trend.
In the Phase II DEIR, Caltrans states that “although the accident rate within the project area is below the state average, the number of fatalities has been higher than the statewide average” (p. 1-1).  To make its case,  Caltrans utilizes “Three-year[s of] safety and traffic accident data from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2004” (p. 1-2).  In a small box the DEIR notes there were two fatalities in this 3-year period.  Caltrans does not mention (as noted on p. 13 of Caltrans’ Phase I Negative Declaration) that from October 1, 2000 to September 30, 2003 there were zero fatalities.  Nor does it mention that in the 5 years subsequent to its 3-year sample, there was one fatality (Caltrans does not provide this last statistic in any of its documentation — the data is from the CHP).  If you want to talk about averages, there is a huge difference between zero in three years, to two in three years (Caltrans’ safety sample), to one in five years.

By focusing on the total number of collisions for a decade in its presentations to the public, Caltrans is able to disguise the fact that the accident rate within the project area is below the state average.  Focusing on the total number of collisions for a decade also ensures that the downward trend that has been in place since various safety measures (including the double row of Botts’ dots with rumble strip median installed in August 2007), is never identified.

State Wide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) data from the California Highway Patrol indicates Niles Canyon Road today is considerably safer than Caltrans’ safety sample would lead the public to believe.
Caltrans focuses on the three-year period of 2002-2005 (in which there were 58 accidents), to make its argument.  According to the most recent three-year-period for which SWITRS data is available (namely, 2007-2009), there were only 38 collisions.  This is a 34% decrease in accidents since Caltrans’ safety sample.

SWITRS data also tells us that there was one fatality from 2005 to 2009.  This means that the road not only has fewer accidents than the statewide average, but the likelihood of being in a fatality has dropped precipitously (from two fatalities in a three year period, to one fatality in a five year period).

For those of you interested in the one fatality, the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FHTSA) has information about Alameda County that includes a map (hint:  type “Niles Canyon Road” into the search bar) indicating where the fatality occurred; when (a weekend afternoon in December 2007); and that it involved a lone motorcyclist with a positive blood alcohol level.  No other vehicle was involved.

Run the numbers yourself.
Those of you who like to do independent research are encouraged to go through the raw data.  The CHP’s SWITRS website can be found here: http://iswitrs.chp.ca.gov/Reports/jsp/userLogin.jsp. You will need to create an account to get access. Once you are able to log in you can then use the Raw Data option in the left menu panel to download the records you want.

Your chance of getting into an accident on Niles Canyon Road is minuscule.
Caltrans has been requested to provide data on when safety improvements that are already in place were installed, but unfortunately they have not complied (we do know that the double row of Botts’ dots with rumble strip median were installed in August 2007).  Caltrans has also been asked to provide data on how many vehicles traverse the canyon each day, and the likelihood of being in an accident — again Caltrans has not complied.  We did, however, find data on the traffic volume through the canyon from 2007 through 2009, and by also using the SWITRS data can safely assert that despite Caltrans’ scary numbers, the likelihood an individual motorist will get into an accident in Niles Canyon is extremely low:

  • In 2007 there were approximately 10,402,500 trips through the canyon and 16 accidents.  Only 0.0000015% of all trips through the canyon that year resulted in an accident.
  • In 2008, there were approximately 10,183,500 trips through the canyon and 13 accidents.  Only 0.0000013% of all trips through the canyon that year resulted in an accident.
  • In 2009, there were approximately 10,767,500 trips through the canyon and 9 accidents.  Only 0.0000008% of all trips through the canyon that year resulted in an accident.

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” — Mark Twain
Based on the data we currently have, Caltrans wants to spend $75.9 million taxpayer dollars to make a road that is already safer than average, “safe”.   Whether safety will be improved by building a bigger, faster road that can accommodate larger trucks is questionable, especially since a third of all current accidents in the canyon involve speeding and another third involve trucks; but that’s a different post for a different day.  In a time when deep cuts are being made to government programs and services for our neediest and most vulnerable residents, think of the good that money could do elsewhere.

Posted in Our findings | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Niles Canyon Road Is Safer Than Average

Public Meeting on the Niles Canyon Safety Improvement Project

You Are Invited to a Public Meeting on the Niles Canyon Highway Safety Improvement Project

When: Thursday, April 14, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Fremont Teen Center, 39770 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont.

Thank you for your interest in the California Department of Transportation Niles Canyon Highway Safety Improvement and Widening Project.  Senator Ellen Corbett andAssemblymember Bob Weickowski have asked CalTrans to reopen the comment period for Phase 2 of the project and would like to invite you to a second public meeting where officials with CalTrans will be present to address this and other community concerns regarding the project and where you will have the opportunity to ask additional questions or make comments.

Please RSVP to Senator Corbett’s District Office at (510) 577-2310 orSenator.Corbett@senate.ca.gov

 

Posted in What can we do? | 1 Comment

Alameda County Transportation Commission wants to widen Niles Canyon Road

We Need You to Contact the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) About the Niles Canyon Road Project- Here is the story!
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which coordinates regional transportation projects in the Bay Area has requested input from all Bay area jurisdictions asking for project recommendations for long term transportation initiatives.  In addition the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) has begun an initiative to reauthorize Alameda Tax Measure B funding which is used to fund Alameda County transportation expenditures. Therefore ACTC is also gathering suggestions for transportation projects but only within the county. The ACTC has been using a combined information gathering process for both of these initiatives and has been obtaining input from a wide range of constituencies over the last two months. Somehow the Niles Canyon Safety improvements project has shown up on their list. Yes it’s the same one we are challenging as the SaveNilesCanyon group.  The inclusion of this project on the ACTC list is a matter which must be addressed. The Project showed up on an attachment to a 15 March ACTC (view or download memo here)
What can you do? 

  • Send a letter to the ACTC requesting that they remove the Niles Canyon Safety project from their list. We have prepared a draft letter that can be used as is or modified as long as the basic message remains. (view or download the sample letter). Letters need to get the ACTC no later than 12 April so the time is short. You can send it via email to the staff member listed on the draft sample letter we have prepared.

The e-mail address is:bwalukas@alamedactc.org

  • Encourage your neighbors and friends who oppose the Caltrans Niles Canyon Road widening project to do the same.

Here’s our chance to head off another potential attack on the canyon before it’s too late.
 

Posted in Online documents, What can we do? | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alameda County Transportation Commission wants to widen Niles Canyon Road

Action Alert: Stop Caltrans from Destroying Trout Habitat in Alameda Creek

Please contact your legislators immediately to request they stop Caltrans from any further destruction of trout habitat along Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon.

Despite assuring the public last month there would be no more tree cutting until another public meeting is held, Caltrans continues to kill trees alongside Alameda Creek in lower Niles Canyon for phase one of the Niles Canyon highway widening project.

Caltrans plans to further damage trout habitat this summer by filling portions of the creek channel and floodplain in lower Niles Canyon with concrete and armoring with rip-rap boulders. Then, phase two of the project in the middle of the canyon would take out nearly 500 more trees and permanently degrade even more steelhead habitat by adding nearly two more miles of retaining walls and rip-rap in the creek corridor. This will severely damage the riparian corridor along Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon, eliminate trout habitat and lead to erosion of unarmored stream banks.

Please ask your elected representatives to get Caltrans to immediately stop phase one of this destructive project and reopen the environmental review and public comment period for phase two. A sample letter and contact information for target legislators are below.See the Alameda Creek Alliance web page on the project for more background information.

The Alameda Creek Alliance, Save Niles Canyon, Save Our Sunol, Friends of Coyote Hills, Southern Alameda County Group of the Sierra Club, East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Tri-City Ecology Center, and Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont are all opposing the project.

Come to the protest in Niles Canyon this Saturday, April 9th, at 3pm at the corner of Mission Blvd and Niles Canyon Road. See the Save Niles Canyon web site for more information.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Alameda Creek Alliance protest at Caltrans’ offices in Oakland. We are not going to let Caltrans continue to destroy Alameda Creek habitat.

Sample letter:

Please intervene immediately to stop Caltrans from destroying trout habitat in Niles Canyon.

I oppose the unnecessary, destructive and wasteful Caltrans highway widening project in Niles Canyon, promoted as a safety project. This project will actually make Niles Canyon more dangerous for drivers and bicyclists, waste $76 million in public funds, degrade important trout habitat in Alameda Creek and jeopardize a decade of restoration efforts, blight a designated scenic highway, and ruin the natural beauty of Niles Canyon.

Caltrans refused to conduct a transparent and thorough environmental review of the project and has not been forthcoming in disseminating information to the public. Despite assurances there would be no more tree cutting until another public meeting is held, Caltrans continues to destroy trees alongside the creek, and has not yet scheduled a public meeting.

Caltrans has yet to answer the public comments and questions posed to them by your constituents and conservation groups, and refuses to put the project on hold despite severe inadequacies in the environmental review process and failure to adequately notify or inform the public of the project. Controversial issues regarding state safety data, the purported safety benefits, severe environmental impacts, flagrant waste of $75.9 million in public funds, and potential economic and aesthetic impacts on the communities of Niles and Sunol were not properly evaluated in the environmental review for phase one.

Please assist the community in convincing Caltrans to put this project on hold. We ask that you pressure Caltrans to stop the phase one project immediately until the areas of controversy are resolved and to reopen the environmental review and public comment period for phase two.

Send your letter or e-mail to:

Congressman Pete Stark
39300 Civic Center Drive, Suite 220
Fremont, CA 94538

If you live in the 13th Congressional District (Alameda, Cherryland, Fremont, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Sunol, Union City, and parts of Oakland and Pleasanton) you can send Congressman Stark an e-mail message at the following site: https://forms.house.gov/stark/webforms/contact.htm

State Senator Ellen Corbett
39155 Liberty St., #F610
Fremont, CA 94538
E-mail: Senator.Corbett@senate.ca.gov

If you live in State Senate District 10 (San Leandro, Hayward, Union City, Newark, Fremont, Pleasanton, Milpitas) you can send Senator Corbett an e-mail message at the following site: http://dist10.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={7AA698F8-93BA-4092-A431-BAB3C7EF7E46}

State Senator Mark Leno
State Capitol, Room 5100
Sacramento, CA  95814

If you live in State Senate District 3 (San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma) you can send Senator Leno an e-mail message at the following site: http://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=SD03&

State Assembly Member Tom Ammiano
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0013

If you live in State Assembly District 13 (San Francisco) you can send Assembly Member Ammiano an e-mail message at the following site:

http://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD13&

Alameda County Board of Supervisors
County of Alameda
Administration Building
1221 Oak Street, #536
Oakland, CA 94612
E-mail: district1@acgov.org

Posted in What can we do? | 2 Comments