By Roz Rogoff
Unfounded fearsUploaded: 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.