Before having a strong opinion, we need all the data.
That was the overall message from the San Ramon City Council Tuesday night on the proposal to build an HOV on- and off-ramp at Norris Canyon Road.
The ramps are currently going through the Environmental Impact Report process, which is expected to last until at least the summer of 2013. Part of the process is outreach to the community and the Contra Costa Transit Authority (CCTA) briefed the council on the current status of the project and what they believe will be the positives from the ramps if built.
CCTA officials said the project, called the I-680/Norris Canyon HOV Direct Ramps Project, will make traffic more efficient in San Ramon and reduce green house gasses. Though, after questioning from Mayor Bill Clarkson, the CCTA did not yet know the exact impact the ramps will make on traffic in the city and how many vehicles will use the Norris Canyon ramps opposed to the Bollinger Canyon and Crow Canyon ramps.
The tone wasn't as hostile as it was at , but residents were clear they thought it was bad idea for city. Residents, mostly coming from the west side of San Ramon which could be impacted the most from the project, voiced a numbers of concerns.
Sound noise, cost-benefit and public safety were arguments against building the ramps that is expected to cost more than $100 million.
Councilman Jim Livingstone spoke first on the council and was the most outspoken in favor of the project. His semi-endorsement of the project carried even more weight considering he is a west side San Ramon resident, where most of the resistance to project has come from.
"This isn't going to increase traffic, it's just going to spread it out a little bit," Livingstone said. "I don't see it as a public safety hazard. It is going to add sidewalks and bike lanes and I see it as safety positive, not a negative."
Livingstone added, "What I really want to say is we need to let the study go forward and see what the real numbers say."
Scott Perkins agreed with Livingstone, saying they need to wait and see the completed EIR before making any kind of endorsement. Perkins was sympathetic to residents concerns over sound noise and said he hopes sound walls could be built to insulate the community.
Councilman Dave Hudson said population growth and increased traffic congestion will happen in the future and something needs to be done, but that it is important to wait for the completed EIR before making judgements.
Phil O'Loane said that he has spoken to people in favor of the project, but they have been reluctant to publicly speak because of the passion of people against the project. Like the other council members, O'Loane wanted to see what the traffic impact would be in the completed study.
Mayor Clarkson spoke last, and said the council has to balance what it is in the best interest of the people who live in San Ramon and what is in the best interest to the city as a whole.
He said that more jobs are coming to Bishop Ranch and the city needs to continue to be business friendly so San Ramon can reap the benefits of having a growing business community.
But he also noted that people who live in San Ramon should come first, not businesses.
What concerned the mayor most, from his questions to the CCTA to his final statement, was the metrics behind the ramps and how much traffic benefit they will have.
There is an alternative to the Norris Canyon ramps, which will be an on- and off-ramp at Executive Parkway. But, unlike the Norris Canyon proposal, those ramps will allow traffic to go east into the Bishop Ranch area, not west into the neighborhood.
In public comment, some residents said they thought the Executive Parkway ramps would be a good compromise and the council members said they wanted the CCTA to have a thorough study of the Executive Parkway proposal.
The CCTA is planning to have another public workshop on the Norris Canyon ramp proposal later this year.
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