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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Unfounded fears

Uploaded: Jan 19, 2012
Residents of Twin Creeks and the west side of Norris Canyon Road announced a meeting on January 19, 2012 to fight proposed changes to the Norris Canyon I-680 overpass. San Ramon Express Reporter Glenn Wohltmann will be writing the story on this. I was planning to attend this meeting, but I decided not to go. I'll leave the reporting to Glenn.

I'm not a resident of that neighborhood and I do not find the proposed changes to the overpass at all threatening. I voiced this opinion in an email which I accidentally sent to the wrong person, and received a "deer in the headlights," response.

The level of anger and fear seems completely out of proportion to the planned project. Several other neighbors, and the organizer of the meeting, apologized for the outburst, and so did the individual who sent it. Her comments didn't offend me, but I wondered why so many of the residents, who live at least half-a-mile away from the overpass are so opposed to it.

The "dangers" listed in their flyer are not likely to happen.

Proposed HOV Ramp design on Norris Cyn will put PUBLIC SAFETY AT RISK.
Freeway access ramps in residential areas increase neighborhood crime rates and over-tax our law enforcement resources.
Freeway ramps and traffic lights on Norris Cyn will cause more congestion and costly delays in Police and Fire services for both sides of 680.

Wait a minute, San Ramon Valley Blvd. is just West of the overpass. There's more traffic on SRVB than would be coming out of the HOV exits. Most of the HOV traffic would be in the morning or late afternoon and going East to Bishop Ranch or the Transit Center.

Police and Fire are both West of Norris Canyon and can easily get to Twin Creeks on SRVB or Twin Creeks Road. If they needed to use Norris Canyon Road they would use their sirens just like they would through any other intersection. There's a lot more traffic from the big Safeway shopping center there than there would be from the HOV lanes. Does this reaction make any sense?

This project is part of a County plan to improve the I-680 corridor and prepare for projected growth in this region. Planning for this goes back to 1988 when Contra Costa County residents voted for Measure C approving a half-cent sales tax for highway construction and improvements. Measure C was reauthorized in 2004 by Measure J.

Measure J was passed by 71% of the vote. According to the Impartial Analysis of Measure J "The revenues derived from the half-cent sales tax will be expended for the transportation projects and programs set forth in the Contra Costa Transportation Authority's (CCTA) adopted transportation expenditure plan (TEP)."

The Transportation Expenditure Plan includes recommendations from the "I-680 Investment Options Analysis Report" prepared for the CCTA in 2003 by DKS Associates. The number one recommendation in the Final Report was, ". . . the HOV Facility/Express Bus package (Option Package D) be pursued further as a potential candidate for Measure C Reauthorization." The #2 priority in the Final report is the Norris Canyon HOV ramps.

I attended the Scoping meeting on November 30, 2012 in which the project was introduced to residents of San Ramon. The turnout was much greater than usual for this kind of meeting. Residents raised questions about increased traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and unwanted vehicles coming into their neighborhood.

Project Director, Susan Miller, tried to explain the purpose of the HOV ramps, which many residents considered unnecessary since San Ramon already has freeway ramps at Bollinger Canyon and Crow Canyon Roads. However, the HOV ramps go directly to and from the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, and are primarily designed to make it easier for busses to enter and exit the freeway without crossing over three lanes of traffic to get to or from the HOV lanes.

CCTA is just starting the Environmental Review process, which was elevated from a Negative Declaration to a formal EIR based on residents' comments at the Scoping meeting. San Ramon Transportation Manager, Lisa Bobadilla told me that an EIR is required because this was approved by voters and nothing will be started until the EIR is completed which will take two to three years. Construction on this project, if it is done at all, will not begin until 2018.

Susan Miller is planning to hold workshops for the Norris Canyon neighborhood on the proposed HOV ramps. "We have their email addresses and will be getting back to them next week," Miller told me in a phone conversation Thursday evening.

As far as fears about pedestrian and bicycling safety, Miller told me the existing overpass would be replaced by a larger, seismically reinforced bridge, with sidewalks and bike paths on both sides, which would make these uses safer.

The City of San Ramon produced a Project Study Report (PSR) in 2010, which was required by CCTA. This is a 93 page document, which you can download from the CCTA I-680 Norris Canyon HOV Ramps webpage along with other documentation on the project.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jim Poyer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Roz,
Do you see ANY similarity on this Norris Canyon HOV Ramps issue to the Mangos Drive Sewer lines in your neighborhood back 10 years ago or so? I see a huge similarity: lack of disclosure and trying to ram something down our throats. You even said in reference to the sewer project in your neighborhood: "....This is why I don't trust Contra Costa County to do what is right for San Ramon....".

They hold a "scoping meeting" for the Norris Canyon HOV Ramps with residents AFTER the project has been designed. I will tell you something for sure, there will never be a time again where I will vote for any more measures that "feel good" and "sound good" - but have no details. It gets thrown back in our face: "well you voters approved this, why are you crying foul now?" Just like the Contra Costa Clean Water Initiative that will tax us $22.00 per parcel (single family homes) It's not about the money. They sent out a fluff piece flyer to get everyone feeling good about clean water and they provide NO details. Again, lack of disclosure and no open information with the citizens. I don't trust CCTA, CalTrans or the City to tell me that the Norris Canyon HOV ramps are going to be a good thing and just sit back and don't worry because "everything is going to be OK. I'm not buying it any more.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Jan 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

No, Jim, I don't see much similarity. The pumping station is in the middle of a residential neighborhood with houses all around it. My house is 1/2 block from it and it has had two sewage spills since it was enlarged.

We were told the sewer was for the "greater good," but it wasn't for our good. It was for the good of the County, the developers, and home buyers in Dougherty Valley who probably still don't know their s#@%! is coming into my neighborhood.

I don't know if this project is a good idea or a bad idea, but the ramps themselves are not in your neighborhood and will not directly impact your homes or property values.

If putting HOV on and off ramps on the I-680 results in improving the use of HOV lanes by buses, improving the flow of traffic, and lessening the number of accidents, then it will be a good thing, but all of these are predictions, not certainties.

I've been asked if there are statistics on the number of accidents caused by vehicles weaving across three lanes of traffic to get to or from the HOV lanes and my answer to this is "duh!" I don't have statistics, but common sense tells me that changing lanes and weaving through traffic causes accidents. I don't like driving on the freeways anymore because I was almost hit by a car that cut in front of me trying to get to the off ramp in Walnut Creek.

A Scoping session isn't a design meeting. If you had let the Caltrans ladies finish their presentation you would have found that the Design phase won't begin until after the EIR is completed and that's two to three years away.

The EIR for Dougherty Valley was done when we found out about the sewer. We had no say in it, but you have plenty of opportunity for input into the Ramp EIR. That's what the Scoping meeting was about. Download the presentation and you will find the planned timeline on Slide 12.

Was I a NIMBY about the sewer? I guess so since only two people who didn't live next to it, Donna Dickey and Jerry Cambra, came to our defense at City Council meetings. Then they ran for City Council, and after they were elected they didn't bother with my neighborhood anymore and almost bankrupted the city. So I wouldn't trust anyone building a reputation on fighting the HOV ramps either.

I agree with you on feel-good measures now. I don't trust the Clean Water fee either, but it will probably be passed.




 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Jan 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

I received one correction (only one?) from Susan Miller about the Project Study Report. This is from her email, "the CCTA produced the Project Study Report which is a requirement of Caltrans."

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mike Norton, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jan 23, 2012 at 8:08 am

From the article: "I'm not a resident of that neighborhood and I do not find the proposed changes to the overpass at all threatening."

Roz, Anything else that doesn't impact you that you would like to spout off about?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Jan 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Mike,

I spout off about everything, but denying drivers and buses access to HOV lanes to improve flow of traffic on I-680 impacts everyone who uses the freeways. I don't use the freeways, so that won't impact me either, but it could impact of thousands of local drivers who commute on the I-680.

Recruiting NIMBY's in Danville to kill a project that could help thousands of people who don't live in your neighborhood doesn't mean you are not NIMBY's.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Facts, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jan 24, 2012 at 11:57 am

There will be traffic lights, walkways, and bike lanes as part of this. its not like they are planning the audobon. get real.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by samkat, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jan 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

This Project doesn't help thousands of people at all. Right now, carpools aren't included, only vanpools. There is only TALK of allowing carpools. There just aren't very many vanpools any longer. And isn't there a long term plan to move the transportation center to the North Camino Ramon area? Closer to Crow Canyon. And don't get me started on the money needed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Jan 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Samkat,

This is a plan for the future. It isn't for now. Construction won't be started for another six years. It's mainly for buses now and vanpools, which could increase in six to eight years. The long-term objectives for these "improvements" are planned for population growth in 2040. I'll be 98 in 2040 and won't care, but some people who aren't even born yet would or could benefit from it.

As far as the money, Measure J extended the 1/2 cent transportation tax until 2036. There will be plenty of money and it can only be spent on highway improvements or mass transit. The $102M is in "escalated" dollars for when construction begins in 2018.

The State has been collecting that 1/2 cents for 12 years now and it will add another six to the pot. Think about how many good paying jobs that $102M will provide. Most of it will come back into the local economy.

Roz



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