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April 09, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, April 09, 2004

Editorial Editorial (April 09, 2004)

Pombo's freeway gains Congressional support

We were glad to hear U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R., 11th) reaffirm his commitment Monday to build a new freeway that would link Interstate 5 directly to the Bay Area's largest city, San Jose. The proposed six-lane freeway would provide a direct 23-mile-long link for a growing workforce of commuters in the more affordable and fast-developing communities of Newman, Patterson and other Stanislaus County cities along I-5 to their jobs in the Silicon Valley. It would also spare them 80-mile-long commutes each way across the Altamont Pass where they crowd in with 140,000 other motorists who have no option other than traveling on I-205 or I-580 between their homes in Tracy and the Central Valley to work in Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon and beyond. Of course, the Patterson area commuters could drive south to Highway 152 and snake along with 30,000 other daily commuters across Pacheco Pass, which would make for even longer, more stressful travel.

Pombo's freeway is actually not a new plan. A proposed limited access highway has been on state and regional maps for years. But until business development started booming in the early 1980s, followed by escalating housing prices, there wasn't much reason for San Jose and Peninsula employees to buy homes across the Diablo Range. Now there is. Drive along I-5 today from Newman north and the landscape is dotted with billboards advertising spacious homes under $200,000. New supermarkets and retail stores have become more abundant, and customers find them open late to accommodate the evening shopping needs of a growing population of commuters who finally reach home after two or three hours of driving across the Altamont. They and their families would be the first to benefit by the direct east-west roadway proposed by our Congressman. Commuters who live in San Joaquin cities far to the north might also find their commute times reduced by both fewer cars across the Altamont or by traveling south on I-5 to this new freeway to the businesses where they work in southern Santa Clara County.

Pombo and Congressional colleague and House Transportation Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Don Young (R., Alaska) were in town Monday to talk about last week's passage of a federal transportation bill they had championed. Along with securing funding for a study of the proposed Mount Hamilton Range freeway, the two also announced that more than $30 million in roadway funds will soon be available for transportation projects in Pombo's 11th Congressional District, which includes Pleasanton. Then they took off by private plane to check out freeway congestion in the area, including a flight over the expansive mountain range of ranches and open space east of San Jose's Alum Rock Avenue corridor where Pombo hopes the new freeway will be built.

The federal land use study will determine if the roadway can be built with a minimum of disruption to the open space areas north of the Lick Observatory in the largely barren Diablo Range, a concern of environmentalists. If it can, look for Pombo and Young to seek additional funds to get the project started to serve a surging Central Valley-to-San Jose commuter population that now must use I-580 and oftentimes Pleasanton city streets to reach their destinations.

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