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March 15, 2005 > Public Discusses Proposed Highway 84 Expansion

Public Discusses Proposed Highway 84 Expansion

by Ceri Hitchcock-Hodgson

On March 3 and March 10, Fremont and Union City, respectively, held community meetings to discuss the construction of the proposed Highway 84 expansion. Before each meeting, an hour-long open house was held to give the public an opportunity to examine visuals of proposed changes. Presentations began at 7 p.m. with an overview of the proposed route by Art Dao deputy director of the Alameda County Transportation Authority who is heading the project along with Caltrans. The project overview was followed by a discussion session giving the public an opportunity to voice their concerns. All comments were limited to three minutes and recorded by a court reporter to be presented to the committee to aid in their decision.

The need for an alternative roadway was first recognized in 1958 and by the 1960s the right-of-way of Historic Route 84 Alignment was purchased to preserve a corridor. The project was included in the 1986 Measure B Expenditure Plan that was approved by county voters. Between 1989 and 2002, six different alternatives were studied and in 2001, environmental approval was given to the project. In 2003, the cities of Fremont and Union City requested a study of the Decoto/Alvarado-Niles route as the new alignment. By 2004, both cities rejected the proposed route and formed the subcommittee of both cities mayors. The current alignment is one of 16 alternative alignments studied by ACTA.

In 20 years, Dao noted at both meetings, there will be 32,000 more residents in the Fremont/Union City area. If nothing is done to improve traffic conditions, it is projected there will be significantly longer travel times and greater roadway congestion, with traffic increasing by as much as 70 percent in some areas, ACTA reports. ACTA studies also claim that if nothing is done to improve the existing corridor, congestion at peak traffic periods could last longer than two hours. With the project, the authority reports, traffic at these points could be less than an hour. Their studies show that approximately 75 percent of overall forecasted traffic using the parkway would come from local traffic.

The purpose of the project is to improve east-west access between I-880 and Mission Blvd., reduce local and regional traffic congestion, increase roadway capacity, improve traffic safety and enhance access to transit facilities, most notably Union City's future intermodal station.

ACTA's current proposal is modification of the Historic Route 84 Alignment. The Historic Route has had 12 years of environmental study behind it and the proposed parkway will have a significantly reduced impact on the surrounding environment, including Alameda Creek.

The current design widens portions of Decoto Road and Paseo Padre Parkway from four to six lanes and provides a new four to six lane road between Paseo Padre and Mission Boulevard along a modified historic alignment. It would have signaled intersections at Fremont Boulevard, Paseo Padre, Alvarado-Niles Road and Mission, with additional access signals at 11th Street and 7th Street. The parkway would be two to eight feet below ground level, with sound walls along residential areas to dampen the noise.

Bridges would be constructed over Alameda Creek, and separations that allow the parkway to go over or under the tracks would be built at the BART tracks and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

ACTA states that the proposed alignment would improve local and regional traffic circulation and is consistent with long range capital improvements.

Citizens from both cities were extremely vocal about the proposed alignment. About 100 Fremont residents attended the March 3 meeting, with the majority against proposed construction. The most vocal opponents at the March 3 meeting were North Fremont residents, mainly from the Mission Lakes community, whose homes the parkway would run behind. Among the concerns mentioned were lowered property value, pollution and crime. Other residents said there was simply no need for the highway.

Speaker apprehension over the parkway at the March 3 meeting mentioned that most of the land used for the parkway will be in Fremont and a large majority of traffic from the new road would "dump" into the Ardenwood area of the city. Other concerns included side streets of the parkway becoming clogged with traffic by commuters wanting to avoid the parkway diverting through smaller neighborhoods.

"If you build it they will come," said one North Fremont resident, explaining that new roadways will only invite more traffic, not necessarily alleviate it.

Reactions at the Union City meeting were more wide-ranging with roughly one-third of the attendees supporting the project. Arguments against the project were similar to those of Fremont residents including concerns over pollution and danger to area residents. Arguments in favor noted that the project is necessary to keep up with the expanding population of the area. A representative from the Union City Chamber of Commerce said that although the parkway is "no perfect solution," it would create 4,000 new jobs in the area and create better traffic flow. He sited the support of numerous local businesses and residents.

At that meeting, Mark Leonard, city manager of Union City, reminded residents that the project is already underway in conjunction with other developments in the city, including the intermodal station and new housing. Current construction extends from Mission Blvd. up Decoto Road to Alvarado-Niles Road. What is left to be decided, said Leonard, is if the parkway will continue through Fremont, past Paseo Padre Parkway, to I-880.

Union City officials say that the proposed parkway is one of numerous roads that would have to be built for the intermodal station to reach its full potential.

One Union City resident said, "I'm in favor of creating solutions to the problem. If I can get from point A to B quicker, it's a solution."

Dao noted that the current proposal is only a concept in its infancy and that many more studies will have to be done in order to proceed with the project.

Officials say that the parkway would pull traffic congestion off numerous streets, including the currently designated Route 84, an angular east/west connection through the city that uses Mowry Ave., Peralta Blvd, Fremont Blvd and Thornton Ave.

The road would reduce traffic on Decoto Road by at least 1,000 cars per day, Dao noted.

Part of the increase in traffic would come from Union City's intermodal station, 469 nearby housing units, 1.12 million square feet of office space and a shopping area designed around the city's BART station.

Approximately 35 percent of the drivers accessing the parkway would come from the south on Mission Boulevard, mostly from the Niles district, and off Niles Canyon Road, Dao said. Roughly 15 percent would come from Hayward. The transportation authority estimates the majority of drivers would use the road to access the Dumbarton Bridge and northbound Interstate 880.
If Measure B funds are not used to complete the project, they would be diverted elsewhere. Fremont city officials have said that the money could be put to better use such as creating a connector between Interstates 680 and 880 in the Warm Springs district. Land not utilized for the parkway would most likely be turned into homes, Dao said.

A decision on the project is expected at the March 22 Fremont council meeting. If the project moves forward, environmental studies will be initiated to further it.

For more information, contact Art Dao with the Alameda County Transportation Authority at (510) 893-3347.

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