I-580 HOV lanes may imperil Hwy 84 widening funds
- Published Friday, May 31, 2002, in the Pleasanton Weekly
Highway 84 widening project in peril
Mayor heads group that could divert funds to I-580
By Jeb Bing
Proponents of a $55 million widening project for state Highway 84
between the I-680 and I-580 freeways said this week that other
regional planners may seek to divert part of the funding for high
occupancy vehicle lanes on 580.
"That would be a disaster for solving Pleasanton's cut-through
traffic problems," said the city's Traffic Engineer Jeff Knowles.
The long-awaited Highway 84 project includes widening Isabel Avenue
to six and four lanes from I-580, where a new interchange is planned,
to Ruby Hill, and then widening the road, which at that point is also
called Vallecitos Road, across Pigeon Pass and on to its junction
with I-680 near Niles Canyon Road. Once built, the new throughway
could reduce rush hour cut-through traffic on Pleasanton streets by
up to 400 cars an hour.
Members of the Tri-Valley Business Council's transportation committee
reviewed Route 84 corridor funding priorities at their recent
meeting. While agreeing that new interchanges and a wider Highway 84
would help relieve traffic congestion in Pleasanton, Livermore and at
the 580-680 junction, they learned that the Alameda County Congestion
Management Agency is apparently shifting its support for the project.
Instead, the CMA is forming a study group to consider using part of
the funds to pay for more costly HOV lanes between Santa Rita and
Vasco roads along with widening the median of the freeway in that
area to accommodate a future BART line.
Mayor Tom Pico, whose city traffic engineers said would suffer the
most from that plan, is the chairman of the CMA.
Pico said that the CMA has not addressed shifting funds away from
Highway 84 at the policy level.
"But I have to say that I have been very supportive of the HOV
lanes," he added.
Knowles said a new study of eastside traffic in Pleasanton shows that
a wider Highway 84 could carry thousands of cars each day over Pigeon
Pass and skirt both downtown Pleasanton and downtown Livermore. Much
of this is traffic that now finds Highway 84 too congested and unsafe
and prefers to exit on Sunol and Stoneridge to head east to the Santa
Rita onramp or on Stanley through downtown Livermore to the First
Street ramp in that city. This allows traffic to avoid the congested
580-680 interchange, with the reverse traffic flow also building on
these same routes in the morning rush hours.
He said the HOV plan makes no sense for Pleasanton since these lanes
would end and start at Santa Rita. New HOV lanes being built on the
Sunol grade also will end at Highway 84. If that highway is not
improved, southbound traffic will continue into Pleasanton.
"I really don't understand the argument for taking any money away
from Highway 84," Knowles told the group. "Adding expensive HOV lanes
that stop at Santa Rita will mean more cut-through traffic for
Pleasanton and make our situation much worse."
Pete Snyder, the Tri-Valley's representative on the BART board of
directors and former mayor of Dublin, agreed. He said the funds are
finally available to complete much of the Highway 84 improvement
project and can't understand why Pleasanton's mayor, whose city has
the most to gain, wants to take the funds away.
The routing plans review with the Business Council's transportation
committee showed a six-lane Isabel extending from I-580 to Stanley
and then four lanes going to Ruby Hill near the intersection with
Vineyard Avenue. Although four lanes are planned from there over
Pigeon Pass and on to I-680, the first phase would add passing lanes
only in the steep climbing sections on both sides of the pass.
Shoulders also would be widened, which planners believe would improve
safety on the mountainous roadway.
An alternate plan is also being considered that would substitute the
current route over Pigeon Pass with a more southerly route behind
ranchland there. While less expensive to build, the committee
recognized that there could be major environmental concerns over the
Knowles and others said there could also be fierce opposition from
environmentalists and conservationists to even widening Highway 84, a
plan now more than 20 years old that once saw opposition from both
Pleasanton and Livermore city councils. Now, however, with Isabel
already widened to near-expressway standards from I-580 to Ruby Hill,
Livermore officials see the roadway as their opportunity to move
Highway 84 - designation, traffic and all - off First Street in their
downtown. HOV lanes on I-580 would further encourage commuters to
stay on the freeway to Isabel, keeping even more of them off
"All of this is now becoming only a Pleasanton problem," Knowles said.