February 21, 2006 > What happened to Highway 84?
What happened to Highway 84?
Do you remember the long battle over the Historic Parkway and final disposition of Highway 84 right-of-way? TCV asked ACTA (Alameda County Transportation Authority) Executive Director Christine Monsen and Deputy Director Art Dao about the status of the roadway and compromise proposal "Option 2," that was conditionally accepted by the Fremont City Council.
TCV: Very little has been heard recently about progress of negotiations on Highway 84. Is anything happening?
Monsen: ACTIA, Fremont, Union City and Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) Staff have been meeting to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that addresses the needs of all four entities.
Dao: Senior staff of each of these governing bodies has been meeting to see if we can carry out their direction and under what conditions we can move forward. We are very close and our expectation is that we will bring something back for consideration by each governing body by March or April. This is an active process that is designed to make sure that each of the cities and jurisdiction interests are upheld in the MOU. Negotiations have been very productive so far.
TCV: What will happen if all parties agree to the MOU?
Monsen: When we get consensus and know the MOU will be approved, it will have to go back to our board for an amendment to the expenditure plan. The amendment will then go to our board, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the cities and Alameda County Board of Supervisors for approval. In order to move forward, we will need approval by the Board of Supervisors and a majority of the cities representing a majority of the population.
Dao: Approval is needed by at least eight cities that represent a population of over 750,000 people and do not see this as a difficult task. We did this for the Hayward bypass, so we have some experience dealing with plan amendments. My feeling is that if the other cities see consensus between Union City, Fremont, ACTA and Caltrans, there will not be a lot of discussion. The expenditure plan of Measure B funds must be amended for Option 2 environmental studies since the current expenditure plan is for the Historic Parkway.
TCV: If we assume approval at this stage, what happens next?
Monsen: A revised environmental document will be prepared. ACTA will do that in consultation with the various entities.
Dao: We will either do a revised environmental document or a brand new environmental document. This can take anywhere between 18 and 24 months. A lot of work has already been done but we want to update old information and there may be new rules and regulations that apply to this document. One of the key provisions of the MOU is that this document must be prepared in an unbiased and neutral manner. ACTA will take on formal leadership in preparation and certification of the environmental document subject to review and endorsement of the two cities and Caltrans.
TCV: When will we see construction of Option 2, assuming timely acceptance of the MOU, environmental reports and any other necessary approvals?
Monsen: It will be more than a year, more like three or four. We have done preliminary engineering but still need to do additional engineering. The environmental process could be contentious; we need to present this with all potential impacts so there is no misunderstanding.
Dao: In the best of circumstances, construction would probably begin in 2010. Let's say we can get the environmental process started in September of this year. This assumes approval of the MOU by all governing bodies in April and allows five months for the amendment of the expenditure plan. In this case the environmental process could be completed by September 2008 and a two year design process completed in September 2009. It will take about three or four months to put together contracts and construction documents, leading to construction in early 2010.
TCV: Is there a contingency for increased cost of materials during these years?
Dao: We are currently updating project cost estimates. So far, the costs are still reasonable, but we know that the true cost will not be known until we open bids in 2010. However, one of the key funding sources for this project is the sale of ACTA-owned right-of-way purchased in the early '90s. Right now, we have valued this conservatively and know that value will increase over time. We are hoping that this will equalize increases in construction costs.
TCV: Will the environmental report include several variations of Option 2 for consideration?
Monsen: We will have a number of alternatives. I believe that has been negotiated in the MOU.
Dao: The environmental document will have several options. We are committed to holding scoping meetings to inform and notify the public of our findings. Every step of the way through the environmental process, we will be checking in with our board and the city councils of Fremont and Union City. This will make sure any impact and mitigation measures are reviewed and provide confirmation and affirmation of all intermediate phases of this process.
TCV: When will funds flow to the Mission/I-880 interchange project?
Dao: Once the plan amendment is done and the environmental document is certified -about two years from now - the land disposal process will start. If Caltrans is comfortable that Option 2 is going to move forward early on, even before the environmental process is certified, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) could be asked to "program" funds. At that point, it ceases to be a funding problem and becomes a cash flow problem, finding who has money to send to Phase 1B in Fremont. This money would be borrowed and paid back once the land is sold.
TCV: Are you optimistic?
Monsen: Yes. It is my understanding that staff of the four entities have agreed. Our legal has been involved and now Caltrans needs to get their legal involved. I believe that staff from all jurisdictions is ready to recommend this to their governing boards. We are hoping to approach the various governing boards in March.
Dao: I have a very good feeling and feel confident that we will bring something to our board in March. Work on the MOU has been done in a very short period of time. Our first meeting was in the first week of January and these things take time to negotiate. We have been very busy. Personally, I am optimistic.