http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/05/16/alamo-residents-blast-piepho-for-new-lane-proposal


Danville Express

Newsfront - May 16, 2008

Alamo residents blast Piepho for new lane proposal

Supervisor says she will recommend dropping project from Transportation Council's action plan

by Meghan Neal

District 3 Supervisor Mary N. Piepho put herself in the line of fire Monday when she hosted a meeting to hear Alamo residents' concerns about a possible future project that would expand the intersection of Stone Valley Road at Danville Boulevard.

Impassioned if not downright livid Alamo residents showed up at Hap Magee Ranch Park in droves to speak out against widening the intersection.

The county says Danville Boulevard, particularly at that junction, is too congested and therefore not meeting the performance standards required of it as a regional road. They say widening the intersection would solve the problem by increasing flow.

But residents say the county's real motive for increasing flow is to use Alamo as an alternative route for freeway commuters, to lessen the clogged traffic on I-680. They say expanding the intersection would bring more out-of-towners speeding through downtown.

As one resident commented at the meeting: "If you build it, they will come."

"We get that," Piepho told the attendees. "Alamo likes constraints and congestion because it keeps people from using it as a thoroughfare ... It keeps people out of Alamo."

The project would add an extra through-lane on Danville Boulevard within the intersection, which would merge back into a single lane in both directions. The idea is that more cars would be able to fit through during each green light.

Right now the project is only "a future-identified need," not a high priority, but it's being discussed at this time because it's on the draft version of the Tri-Valley Transportation Council's Action Plan, which is currently being reviewed.

Piepho, essentially caught between a rock and a hard place, explained it's the county's duty to acknowledge the traffic statistics it receives and plan accordingly.

"But I also have the greater responsibility to the community," she said. "That's the divergence of where we are."

The performance standards for Danville Boulevard state that traffic volumes can not exceed 90 percent of the road's capacity.

During peak afternoon hours, around 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the intersection at Stone Valley Road is operating at about 96 percent capacity, said Steve Goetz, deputy director of transportation planning for the county.

Nevertheless, residents say the proposed solution is illogical, that expanding the intersection to allow for more traffic would do just that - create more traffic. And if the road itself isn't widening beyond the intersection, where would all those extra cars go?

"That's really the question here," said David Bowlby, a member of the Alamo Incorporation Movement. "Why are we now having to take the responsibility of these cars coming off the freeway? ... What are we going to do with these cars when they get off?"

Another resident shared an alternative idea of what the future should look like: "When the freeway is clogged one guy turns to the guy next to him and says, 'Don't get off at Alamo, it's slower than this is!'"

He turned to the group and asked, "Is there any one here in the peanut gallery who would like to see (the intersection) widened for more cars?" Nobody answered yes.

Residents aren't just upset about their community being used as freeway spillover. Many say safety is a real issue. Commuters racing through Alamo endanger pedestrians; they don't stick to the speed limit and don't stop at crosswalks, they say.

"People coming through our town know they won't be ticketed," one resident commented. The Sheriff's Department has limited resources and higher priorities, and the Highway Patrol doesn't have time to watch Alamo, she said.

Tonya Cavalli spoke as a living, breathing example of the dangerous area. She told the group how she'd been hit by a truck in November while crossing the street. She flew 38 feet in the air, landed on the concrete, and broke her back.

She said she's lucky to be alive, but the problem still exists.

"You talk and talk but don't do anything," the irate Cavalli told Piepho.

Piepho said she would bring all the comments from the meeting back to the TVTC. She asked staff to pull the project off the draft report and doesn't expect there to be any issue with the request, she said Tuesday.

"I don't see any reason why (TVTC) would not support the county's request to remove the proposed modification," said Goetz on Tuesday. "I think they'll also look at strategies to help improve traffic flow on the freeway, and look at strategies to try and encourage Danville Boulevard to be used only for local traffic."

Piepho's recommendation to strike the project from the plan could cause problems when it comes to meeting performance requirements.

"We'll have to see how it plays itself out obviously," she said Tuesday. "But we need to meet community concerns and protect their interests."

Suggestions or concerns brought up at the meeting that didn't directly relate to the project were written down to be discussed further at the first Alamo Roads Committee meeting, being held at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 12, at Hap Magee Ranch Park.

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