Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

July 5, 2005 > Caltrans 'clarifies' stance on Highway 84

Caltrans 'clarifies' stance on Highway 84

Local officials have circulated information at recent meetings that Caltrans would not support a proposed modification, called "Option 2" of the Highway 84 "Historic Parkway Corridor." This project, proposed in 1958 to connect Mission Boulevard with Highway 880, has been a point of contention between the cities of Union City and Fremont for many years. Since Caltrans owns 55 acres of land in the corridor and controls state highway designations, this revelation appeared to strike a deathblow to the roadway, opening funds to other transportation projects.

A closed meeting of the mayors and city managers of Fremont and Union City along with officials from Caltrans, MTC (Metropolitan Transit Commission), CTC (California Transportation Commission) and ACTA (Alameda County Transportation Authority) was held on Thursday, June 30 to discuss the Caltrans position. TCV spoke with Art Dao, Deputy Director of ACTA about the meeting and the future of Highway 84.

TCV: What was the result of the meeting?

Dao: Caltrans said they are willing to work with the local agency to ensure that there would be a transportation solution to traffic congestion in the area. Option 2 does not have to be Route 84, but could be a local route; Caltrans would do whatever it could to support the implementation of that local route.

TCV: Does this mean that Caltrans would relinquish Highway 84 along Peralta Boulevard and on Fremont Boulevard through the Centerville District?

Dao: That was not specifically discussed, but we do know that is their desire. The focus was primarily on "Option 2." In a recent work session of the Fremont City Council, a representative of Caltrans made a statement that caused a perception by the council, community and press that Caltrans would not accept Option 2. Caltrans clarified this statement by saying that could not accept Option 2 as a state highway but could support a local route as long as there is consensus among the local jurisdictions.

TCV: Caltrans would allow their land to be used for Option 2 even though it would not carry a state designation?

Dao: Yes.

TCV: Where does that leave the discussions of Option 2?

Dao: It is back on the table.

TCV: Does this put everything back to the Option 2 starting point?

Dao: On June 7, we (ACTA) were trying to facilitate a consensus using Option 2 as a basis for discussion. The Caltrans statement of nonsupport threw a monkey wrench into the process. Now that we have this clarification, we will go back to the consensus process with the joint city councils and stakeholders meeting and continue that discussion. Caltrans is supportive of selling its excess land in the corridor and allowing those funds to be used for the Mission Boulevard/I880 interchange.

TCV: It appears that the rationale to support Option 2 by some members of the Fremont City Council (i.e. to receive monies for the Mission/I880 interchange) is no longer an issue. Wouldn't the money be available anyway?

Dao: I believe that is Mayor Wasserman's perception of the proposal. On July 5th, the Fremont City Council will meet to reconsider its position.

TCV: How long is ACTA prepared to wait?

Dao: The [ACTA] board agreed at a meeting on June 23rd to extend the deadline for a consensus to September 30. It also considered policy direction in case no consensus emerges from the process.

TCV: In a sense, we could say that Caltrans has now been taken out of the mix.

Dao: Yes. If there is no consensus, the board discussed allowing Measure B funding for Union City to build its segment of the roadway (between Mission Boulevard and Alvarado-Niles Road). The city of Fremont has agreed to this. ACTA staff was directed to send $55 million to Union City for support of the regional intermodal station. The remainder of about $30 million in land value and cash would be used in the Tri-City area, including Newark. We would bring a recommendation to the board in September.

TCV: Why is Newark included under this scenario?

Dao: At the board meeting, it was said that the historic parkway was envisioned to solve a regional transportation problem. The impact of additional growth of homes and jobs in the Fremont/Union City area will be regional in nature and effect. By taking a regional roadway off the table, increasing traffic is going to go somewhere. Traffic does not recognize city boundaries so it can go anywhere. Newark feels it would be impacted due to the removal of a regional solution to traffic issues. Also, from a geographic equity perspective, there is an expectation that if there are unused funds from Measure B, Newark should be entitled to some of those funds.

TCV: The decision to fund Option 2 appears to be much clearer now since it appears money will be available to Fremont and Union City whether of not it is built.

Dao: Caltrans has said it does not want to be an obstacle to what it considers a local decision. They will be supportive of local solutions including the use of state funds including those from the sale of excess property for a local roadway or the Mission/Highway 880 interchange project. Caltrans feels there are adequate resources in cash and land to do whatever the local officials want to do including Option 2 and/or completion of the Mission/I880 project. They have handed the ball back to Fremont and Union City to relieve traffic congestion for the future.

TCV: In the June 30 meeting, did Caltrans talk about its intentions for the existing Highway 84 roadways that would have been replaced by the Historic Parkway?

Dao: That was not discussed although we all know that it is Caltrans' desire to relinquish the route. How and in what manner this would be done has not been discussed. That would be an issue between Fremont and Caltrans.

TCV: How much money will be available from Caltrans and ACTA?

Dao: Funding the southern Fremont improvement is about $100 million and Route 84 is roughly another $100 million. The nice thing about this money is that it doesn't come out of the state highway account and does not negatively affect the state fiscal situation. We have $200 million for projects and economic stimulus in southern county, spending only about $75 to $100 million of local Measure B funds. This is an incredible opportunity to leverage local money against other types of funds.

TCV: Is there a chance that the state might grab this money?

Dao: That is to be negotiated. Right now the state is looking for the local jurisdiction along with ACTA to complete our consensus project. Assemblyman Alberto Torrico has offered legislation (AB1462) that will minimize the ability of the state to take funds from the sale of the excess Caltrans property. That legislation is going to the Senate Appropriations Committee next week and then to the Senate floor for a final vote. I believe it is going well - it has not received a "no" vote. Then it goes to the governor's desk for signature.

AB1462, sponsored by ACTA and authored by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, is specific to the Route 84 situation and says that if there is a local alternative transportation improvement project acceptable to Caltrans and California Transportation Commission (CTC), any sale of excess land can be used for the approved alternative.

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