At its Tuesday meeting, the San Ramon City Council heard an update and public comment on the proposed HOV on-ramps at Norris Canyon Road. For the first time, members of the council publicly stated their opinions on the controversial project.
"I am extremely nervous of the viability of Norris…. If we do nothing, it's only going to get worse, because there will be more jobs coming into Bishop Ranch and more homes coming into Dougherty Valley, " said Mayor Bill Clarkson. "We have to be thoughtful and work as a community to come up with solutions that work for the whole community."
The proposed ramps, which would cost an estimated $102 million, would allow carpoolers and buses to travel directly onto and off the I-680 HOV lanes at Norris Canyon Road. Proposed by the Contra Costa Transit Authority and Caltrans, the ramps remain largely unwelcomed by San Ramon residents.
"I think the issues are becoming gradually more obvious as time goes on. In the past, where it looked like it was a viable possibility…and the city was rather strong in their support, I think that's out of date and inappropriate in this stage," said Jim Blickenstaff.
A handful of residents spoke against the ramps during the public hearing portion of Tuesday's meeting, which featured updates and a timeline for the project. While many opponents criticized research done by CCTA, Vice Mayor Jim Livingstone said the city needs to see the environmental impact report and allow various studies to continue.
"I don't see the issues that have been brought up. It's not going to increase traffic, it's going to spread it out a little bit. I don't see very many people getting off this ramp and into our neighborhood," he said, adding that he liked the idea of wider sidewalks on both sides of the street. "I'm most concerned about the safety of our residents. I think widening Norris…will be a safety positive and not a negative. Obviously it's just going to serve Bishop Ranch and the surrounding community, but I don't see it being a safety issue for our kids."
In addition to safety, CCTA officials and residents cited increased traffic and congestion as primary concerns among San Ramon residents. The city can expect a 20 percent increase in employment by 2040, according to the CCTA report, which would have between 400-500 cars using the Norris HOV ramps each hour.
"It's very, very important that the traffic study be comprehensive and look at Bollinger, Crow Canyon and everything in between," said Councilmember Scott Perkins. "There's probably a dozen intersections that will be impacted by this and if we don't include them all it leaves it wide open to speculation."
Perkins added that he would like to see costs for an alternative ramp at Executive Parkway as well as more research about sound walls.
Councilmember Phil O'Loane applauded residents for expressing their concerns, but added that he would like to hear more about the project. There are, he said, people who are in favor of the ramps.
CCTA has done outreach with County Connection, the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce, Chevron, Bishop Ranch and various other stakeholders. The next public workshop, which will highlight alternatives and have a technical report update, is schedule for this fall.
Authority officials said the environmental impact report will take approximately to years to complete, with a public review period and meeting between the spring and fall of 2013. There will be a third public workshop in winter 2013.
For more information on the CCTA presentation, visit the city of San Ramon website.