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November 7, 2007 > East-West Connector Begins Environmental Review Process

East-West Connector Begins Environmental Review Process

Where art thou Hwy 84?

After years of wrangling over the path and very existence of an express connection between Mission Boulevard and I-880 through Union City and Fremont, a compromise was reached April 2006 between the two cities, labeled "Option 2." Renamed "East-West Connector," an environmental review is in progress and on October 12, 2007, the Alameda County Transportation Authority (ACTA) issued a Notice of Preparation (NOP) as the first step in the process.

Two "scoping" meetings were held to solicit comments from the public: October 24 at Kitayama Elementary School in Union City and another at Ardenwood Elementary School in Fremont on October 25. The project will consist of 1.3 miles of new four-lane roadway between Mission Boulevard and Paseo Padre Parkway; 0.4 miles of improvements on Paseo Padre Parkway and 0.9 miles of improvements on Decoto Road from Paseo Padre Parkway to I-880.

TCV asked ACTA Deputy Director Art Dao to provide an update on the new East-West Connector:

TCV: What part of the process do these scoping meetings represent?

Dao: This is the traditional start of the environmental review process. We are saying to the community, 'We know a bit about what we need to do in an environmental study and the project description including its physical alignment.' Now we are trying to find out if there is anything else that we should consider in our study. This is what a scoping meeting is all about.

TCV: Why has the name of the project changed?

Dao: We changed the name at staff level since many people are not aware of Option 2. We cannot call the road Route 84 anymore since it will no longer be a state highway. Since it will not be a state road, truck use and other traffic decisions will be under local control.

TCV: Is there any possibility of lane changes for the proposed connector?

Dao: Previously, the concept was to widen Paseo Padre Parkway and Decoto Road to six lanes, adding one lane in each direction. The new roadway between Paseo Padre Parkway and Mission Boulevard will be four lanes - two in each direction. Lanes (12 ft.), shoulders (8 ft.) and medians (18 ft.) are proposed to be standard widths. This conforms with state and city ordinances but as we get into value engineering, there may some modifications. We are not at that point yet. Along with assessment of the engineering, we will be looking at project costs. If there is a need to change these standard widths, that will be proposed, but the plan for number of lanes should remain the same.

TCV: Where will traffic have access to the new roadway?

Dao: There will be an "at grade" intersection at Alvarado-Niles Road and Union City staff asked us to add another connection with Osprey Road between Alvarado-Niles Road and Paseo Padre Parkway which was not a part of the original concept. There will also be connections at 7th and 11th Streets.

TCV: Will there be any changes to Isherwood Way?

Dao: Not in this plan. The original Historic Parkway alignment created a cul-de-sac at Quarry Lakes but this plan was subsequently rejected by the public.

TCV: Is this plan on track?

Dao: About 80 percent of the time and effort of the environmental process is to create a draft document for public consumption. We plan to reach this point by the end of 2008 when city councils and the public can comment. The plans and costs will be disclosed at this time. The document can only be called 'final' after the public review period has elapsed with little change. We hope to receive final clearance in the summer or fall of 2009.

TCV: At the end of the environmental review, will the land between Paseo Padre Parkway and I-880, once held for the Historic Parkway, be released?

Dao: Only if the City of Fremont endorses the project at the environmental stage. It that happens, ACTA would work with the state to dispose of the land. That will take some time, probably 1 - 1 1/2 years. Union City has been a strong proponent of the connector to provide access to the new inter-modal station and improve local traffic circulation. There will be at least two more major city reviews of this environmental assessment; at the draft stage and of the final document.

TCV: If Fremont decides against the East-West Connector, what happens?

Dao: This would put the project in suspension. This would block funding which would leave it as a project in name only. Our board has already approved a contingency plan that would distribute Measure B funds. Union City would receive $46 million to implement its segment of the connector plus an additional $9 million to mitigate the effects of a truncated segment instead of the entire roadway. Approximately $19-$20 million will go to Fremont and about $5-$6 million will go to Newark. Once that is done, our board and agency will declare severance with any responsibility for improving transportation in the area with Measure B funds.

TCV: If all are satisfied at the environmental review stage, what happens?

Dao: Then we begin project design, a primary evaluation with the community moving to design mode. Finalizing the design and putting together a construction bid packet will take 12 - 18 months. Once we have a winning bid, construction will take 2 - 3 years (completing in 2011-2012). The most challenging part of this will be going below BART and the railroad tracks where we will have to deal with groundwater.

Everything we have done up to this point has been concept. Now is the time to examine this project from an engineering and environmental perspective. We think it will work just fine but as we progress, all information will be disclosed. I do not think the project will change that much.

TCV: Is this project under ACTA or Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA)?

Dao: This project is under ACTA. We are running two separate agencies although ACTA is entirely separate legally and financially from ACTIA. Each has its own philosophy and sets of projects. The last two projects remaining for ACTA are this East-West Connector and the Mission/Foothill/Jackson corridor in Hayward. If everything goes well, ACTA will be done by year 2013. According to the law, the agency will disband within 180 days of the completion of these projects.

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