Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - January 1, 2010

Editorial

Heads up! BART's draft EIR could affect all of us

We're glad to see that BART officials have recognized the importance of including Pleasanton in its discussion on which routes would be best for extending rapid transit service to Livermore. After all, BART's Pleasanton-Dublin station, which now serves as the end of the line for the Tri-Valley, is in Pleasanton. Both sides of Interstate 580 on which BART tracks run are wholly within the Pleasanton city limits all the way east to El Charro Road. Staples Ranch, where BART is proposing to run 40-foot-high elevated tracks atop multi-million-dollar developments now nearing final approval, will likely be annexed into Pleasanton within a year. Given that it will take a Pleasanton OK before a BART extension can be built, it was puzzling to find the transit agency, Livermore's Mayor Marshall Kamena and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty colluding on detailed plans to route BART tracks through Pleasanton without so much as a phone call to tell City Manager Nelson Fialho, Mayor Jennifer Hosterman or any of the other City Councilmembers what's going on. For years, BART's announced plan for extending service to Livermore was to build new tracks down the median of I-580, where trains now roll to a staging area between Hacienda Drive and Santa Rita Road. That's still the cheapest at $3 billion or so and by BART's own studies would attract the most new riders to the system. Of course that route would not help Livermore's redevelopment plans for its downtown, nor the wish to have rapid transit service to the front doors of its proposed multi-million-dollar performing arts center.

Two weeks ago, after a blistering letter from Fialho asking them why Pleasanton was being ignored in the BART to Livermore planning process, District 4 BART Director John McPartland and BART Project Manager Malcolm Quint showed up unscheduled at a City Council meeting to sooth rough feelings and clear the air. From now on, Pleasanton officials -- both elected and staff -- will be at the table for all community discussions. Public meetings will be held alternately in Pleasanton and Livermore. In fact, the first will be held at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday in the City Council chambers on Old Bernal Avenue, a meeting well worth attending or watching on TV29 if the community television station chooses to cover it. At issue will be BART's 2,000-page "BART to Livermore Extension Draft Program Environmental Impact Review." Like most EIRs, it's filled with data, background studies, commentaries and detailed analyses of available transportation, land uses, population and housing, air quality and "geology, soils and seismicity." Just the index listing the location of figures, such as peak hour traffic volumes projected for 2035, runs three pages, followed by five index pages showing where to find tables, such as "Interaction between Build Alternatives and the Existing/Planned Multimodal Transportation Network."

We don't want to make light of this comprehensive document nor of the information it contains. It's just that no one at City Hall saw the document until early December when the CEQA-required public review period deadline was Dec. 21. That has now been extended to Jan. 21 which will terminate BART's acceptance of comments on the draft EIR. Even though any BART extension to Livermore is probably 20 years away or longer, the draft EIR once finalized and approved would be the land use document guiding future development in both Livermore and Pleasanton where possible, future BART construction plans are concerned. That's why it's important for everyone in Pleasanton with an interest in the city's development to carefully review the BART draft EIR and comment. A good place to start will be at Wednesday's meeting.

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