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

September 13, 2005 > Will Highway 84 be resurrected?

Will Highway 84 be resurrected?

Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman responds

Agenda item 7.1 at the September 6, 2005 city council meeting in Fremont was introduced by City Manager Fred Diaz as "Take 27" and rightfully so. This item has been laid to rest and resurrected so many times that it is appears to reside in a permanent road purgatory. Although a majority of the Fremont City Council previously voted on July 26, 2005 to refuse road construction along any part of the Historic Corridor within Fremont city limits, a recent communication from Caltrans threatened to withdraw support of using land sale proceeds for the Highway I-880/Mission interchange project.

A key provision of State Representative Alberto Torrico's bill, AB 1462, would allow local use of such monies. TCV spoke with Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman about the implications of the Caltrans letter and the subsequent discussion and vote of the council at the September 6th meeting.

TCV: What are your thoughts about Fremont's position before the Caltrans letter was received and its effect on Fremont's decision?

Mayor Wasserman: A couple of weeks ago, I thought we were in agreement that the Union City portion of Highway 84 would be built and mutually agreed on using some of the rest of the money for I-880/Mission and the rest for to improve east/west roadways through Fremont and Union City. I believed, in good faith, that we could come up with some answers - one of them would be the possibility of widening Decoto Road. Option 2 is a very poor option and will not improve anything. In fact, it will cause more traffic problems in Fremont.

Caltrans issued what I would call an ultimatum; get in line or we will take all the money. I wasn't quite sure how to react. I asked specific questions to clarify their position and didn't receive any answers until an hour before the September 6th meeting. I went into the meeting thinking we would not take any action because we had no answers from Caltrans and ACTA (Alameda County Transit Authority). They had been pushing us to make a decision for a critical meeting on September 9th, but then cancelled that meeting. I felt there was no real need to do anything at our September 6th meeting until we get further clarification and find out where we can go.

I previously met with Mayor Green (of Union City) along with the Fremont and Union City staff and was very disappointed that we were not able to create any useful dialogue. That was discouraging.

TCV: How would you characterize the recent action of the Fremont city council?

Mayor Wasserman: Given all of the circumstances, it was probably the best move for the council to make. I made a side comment that I was with the vote 'spiritually' even though I voted 'nay.' I have been asked if this is a personal issue. I don't want it to become personal but we [Fremont] have said over and over again for so many years that we don't want this road. It is not for me to say that we are right and they are wrong, but that is my belief and I do not want to be forced into doing something that I do not believe is right. My vote was symbolic.

TCV: It appears that the concept of building the entire Historic Parkway is being revived with some on the council. Do you think that the council is now more fractured than before?

Mayor Wasserman: It is hard to say. Historically, Fremont has said no to Route 84 and the reasons were sound. Highway 84 was conceived as a freeway that was going to connect to the 238 freeway (Mission Boulevard). There is no 238 freeway and never will be so we are talking about building a road that dumps onto Mission Boulevard. There would be a huge impact from that in many ways. Many of us feel that that it would not be an improvement to do that. It does improve some things in Union City, but we felt those could be improved in different ways.

The council was always unanimous on that, but not anymore as you can see by the recent discussion and vote. I don't think it will go full circle but there are a lot of frustrations involved; there is always an undercurrent in political situations. I think there may be some movement below the surface to go back to the original route as a result of all this. No one is telling me this, but it could be happening.

TCV: Union City development plans include a significant number of new residences surrounding the proposed Intermodal Station. Many of these people will be looking for roadways that allow east/west connections. What is the answer to this additional volume of traffic?

Mayor Wasserman: I have not analyzed that in a full sense. At this time, the traffic problems in that area are no worse than anyplace else in Fremont. Their Intermodal development will, no doubt, add to that. We have suggested a lot of options over the years - improving Decoto Road, Winton Avenue - but no one has wanted to listen. It is not our responsibility to take care of Union City. Union City has one answer, has always had just one answer and always will have one answer. That is okay, but I feel their one answer is placing a burden on Fremont.

I am sure that if you talk with the Union City council they will say we will not work with them. I understand that. Our position has not changed with the exception of the last year. Nowhere along the way has anyone accepted 'No.' There are thousands of projects in California and some of them do not happen because somebody says 'No.' Hayward said 'No' and they moved along. Fremont has said, 'No, No, No' and they keep coming back with a new scheme.

In one of your articles [editorial], you referenced a councilmember being more concerned with Mission/I-880 than north Fremont. That didn't come from Fremont. We never raised that issue. That came from [Mayor] Mark Green and ACTA. The last time we said 'No,' about three years ago, they came in with a scheme to 'make a deal that you can't refuse.' They actually used those words. In that meeting, I called it blackmail. They said, 'You agree to [Highway] 84 and we will give you money for Mission/I-880.'

That is the first time the thought of using that money for Mission/I-880 ever entered. It didn't come from us, it came from them. The whole history of this thing has been like that. Every time it doesn't go - we don't agree to build it - we are the bad guys. We have a responsibility for our city and until there are three votes that say otherwise, we think we are doing what is best for our city.

TCV: Is Fremont at the point of "horse trading" to see what the city can get out of this?

Mayor Wasserman: I wish I had an answer to that. We are closer to the end of the road. I liked the suggestion last night to put it to them and say, 'Look folks, we have said no all these years and offered alternatives. You don't want our alternatives; now its time for you to put up or shut up. Tell us what you are going to do. You are going to create a mess for us, tell us what you are going to do to fix it'. I think we have put it back on their shoulders to propose something. Everything they have proposed has been a counter to our proposals and their counter has always been the same thing.

TCV: What effect does Assemblyperson Alberto Torrico's bill (AB 1462) have on Fremont?

Mayor Wasserman: When the bill was introduced, I was uncertain about its purpose. I believe that ACTA requested the bill to keep the money here. I initially read the bill to mean [that its provisions would apply] if we can reach agreements - nothing in the bill says anything about 'consensus' and it is foolish to think we can reach a consensus - whether it resulted in building highway 84 or not building it.

I spoke with Assemblyman Torrico this morning and, much to his credit, he reiterated that was what he wanted to see from the bill. The bill now is even more important since after Caltrans issued its ultimatum, the absence of that bill would put Fremont in a significant hole. It is hard enough to negotiate when you are both on level ground. Passage of the bill will allow us to be on an even playing field. There needs to be some openness. Everyone's agenda should be on the table. That has never happened. Where is Caltransd? Where is ACTA? Maybe we can find some accommodation.

One of the difficulties is that no one has really studied Option 2. No one knows the ramifications. I am not a traffic expert, but I see some big impacts on Fremont from Option 2. There are residents of Union City that will suffer from Option 2. This is not our proposal and never has been our proposal.

TCV: Caltrans has made it clear that they would like to relinquish the existing Highway 84 in Fremont but is required to cede it to the city in good repair. What does that mean?

Mayor Wasserman: That will part of any agreement. You can go up and down the state and find examples of relinquishment where they basically walked away from it. If the road is in decent repair, they don't have to do anything. They decide what that means. Parts of Mission Boulevard are an example of that. There are areas of California where they have spent a lot of money for massive work as part of a relinquishment. We have asked more than once what that means and the answer is that it has to be in good repair. We know that, but what does it mean?

One of the things I anticipate if Highway 84 is built is that traffic on Mission Boulevard will be heavier and heavier. That will affect everything along Mission. We have a potential horrible bottleneck at Mowry Avenue. When I say they have not looked at the effects of Highway 84 on the city of Fremont, that intersection is one of them. Let's say I am right about that, what are we going to do? In my mind, those things need to be addressed.

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