Fremont very opposed to Niles Canyon Road project


It would be hard even for me to be more negative about something than Fremont is towards Caltrans’ proposed safety improvements for Niles Canyon Road.

In an Oct. 7 letter to Caltrans, signed by City Manager Fred Diaz, Fremont requested Caltrans to come up with a new plan.

Caltrans’ proposal to make Niles Canyon Road safer includes chopping down 45o trees and building nearly two miles of concrete retaining walls. That will enable Caltrans to soften some of the sharpest turns, install more center medians, and widen lanes and road shoulders. 

But Fremont argues that the retaining walls would attract taggers and that they would violate the city’s ordinance limiting development in the hills.

What else:

1) The city thinks trucks might be to blame for accidents on the winding road, and “The City of Fremont is interested in initiating the process of prohibiting tucks on Niles Canyon Road,” Diaz wrote.

2) The city thinks the Caltrans project will just increase  speeds, which won’t make the road any safer.

3) The city thinks the retaining walls and the expected graffiti, “will ruin the association of the viewer with the immediate surroundings …”  Translation — Niles Canyon won’t be such a pretty drive.

4) The city thinks Caltrans is poo-pooing the historical significance of the area — which has been documented by both film geeks and railroad dorks.

The city is asking Caltrans to consider two alternate proposals, which would involve less road widening  and/or no trucks.

“The City of Fremont believes the current project’s significant impacts are overwhelming for the degree of improvements that are proposed.,” Diaz wrote. “We are interested in a design alternative that can improve safety without such intrusive impacts on the scenic character of Niles Canyon.”

Matt Artz

  • Tonyg

    Geeks & Dorks unite!!!

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Niles_Canyon/ Kimberly H.

    My thoughts exactly!

    (Proud geek/dork.)

  • californiaguy

    I have witnessed head on collisions in Niles Canyon. The driver had no where to go when another car enters there lane.
    If you have witnessed a head on collision where people are killed, you might want the road to be safer.
    It is hard for me to imagine, picking tree’s over people.

  • http://fcnisbacon.wordpress.com/ Marty

    I don’t think people should die in car accidents because some throwback rail nuts want to keep the canyon untouched by modern technology.

    The route is what it is, a major thoroughfare for valley and Tri-City commuters. It is only going to get more congested, and more people will die because of inaction.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Niles_Canyon/ Kimberly H.

    I’ve read the DEIR, done some independent research, and this is what I found:

    •The data cited to justify this project is “Three-years of safety and traffic accident data from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2004.”
    •The DEIR also notes that “Accident rates for the period January 2005-December 2007 dropped below the statewide average for this type of highway facility.”
    •Safety improvements made by Caltrans after 2004, especially the double row of Bott’s dots with a rumble strip median installed in August 2007, are not factored into the equation.
    •According to a 2008-2009 performance report, SR-84 experienced a 30% accident reduction since 2007.
    •SR-84 has never been identified as a problem in the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).

    Caltrans’ current plan is to build a faster, more congested road. I am not aware of any studies that prove that faster more congested roads are safer. I’m not against safety, but I am not at all convinced that what Caltrans has on the table is going to solve the problem — in fact I think the opposite will happen. A cycling traffic engineer I’ve been in contact with has estimated that the proposed roadway design could increase cyclist accidents by 5x.

    The two greatest collision factors between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2004 were speeding (36.2%), and improper turns (24.1 %)– these problems could be solved by traffic calming devices and better roadway engineering. Of the accidents that do occur in the canyon, 38% involve trucks, even though trucks only make up 2.5% of the traffic. The most obvious solution to any safety problem on Niles Canyon Road is to remove the trucks. Many of us who live here and have commuted through the canyon have noted that the most egregious vehicles on Niles Canyon Road are large trucks that are transporting gravel from the local quarry (and that are attempting to avoid the scales on I-680). Since the trucks are overloaded, gravel comes flying out the back, endangering wind shields, paint jobs, and – for bicyclists, motorcyclists, and scooter drivers – lives. Obviously, many drivers are highly tempted to pass these trucks, sometimes with fatal consequences.

  • Jen

    I have driven the canyon since I learned how to drive (a while now), commuted via Niles Canyon for a bit, witnessed head on collisions and have known a few young people who have died in the canyon in accidents.

    Cal Trans came up with a really dumb idea on this one – they must have had extra funds laying around and needed a project.

    If people avoid Niles Canyon at all, it’s because of the winding road and the stop sign in Sunol, which tends to back up. The turns force people to slow down. SR-84 is less inherently dangerous than a major freeway, by far. Yes, it is windy and multiple car collisions there are more likely to be head on because there are only two lanes. However, if you straighten out the most winding portions, all that is going to happen is more people will begin using the road and the average speed will increase dramatically.

    Banning large trucks on the road would be a huge step towards making the canyon safer, if that’s the goal. And it won’t cost the taxpayers any money, short of some signage and notifications to truckers.

  • MikeOnBike

    Marty says Niles Canyon: “is what it is, a major thoroughfare for valley and Tri-City commuters.”

    I thought I-680 was the major thoroughfare for valley and Tri-City commuters. That’s the road I take when I’m driving between Fremont and Pleasanton.

    Heck, even Google Maps thinks so: http://goo.gl/maps/hR1a

  • VOR

    The number of people living on both ends of Niles Canyon has grown exponentially. The road is a wonderful, scenic step back in time, except for when the hordes of commuters need to get to work or home as fast as possible, while multi-tasking on their smart phones. Definitely something no one dreamed of when the road was originally built.

    I’d like to see more twists and turns added to calm the traffic rather than finding ways to speed it up. You’ll never make it fast enough for some folks. Just check out the tailgaters that aren’t satisfied with doing 75-80 mph in the new toll lane on 680.

  • Gus Morrison

    This project, when it is done, will have cost $80,000,000, making drivers able to drive faster and making it accommodate more cars. I represented Tri-City-Ecology Center at the council meeting. CalTrans presented their ten year accident history and the fact the 38% of the accidents involved trucks, which are two and a half percent of the vehicles leapt out at me. We could reduce accidents significantly without the trucks.

    Another 36% are caused by vehicles hitting a hard object (bridge abutments, big trees, ?). Speeding traffic up probably won’t help that. It seems that, after trucks, the most logical things to do is to slow traffic down and to discourage people from using the canyon. Then, if we can find a way to keep the drunks off the road, we could save a lot of lives and a lot of money.

    I even suggested making the road a cul-de-sac at Sunol from both ends.

  • Perrry Masonary

    Just proves that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Diaz has been on the wrong side of so many issues that he was statistically bound to get one right eventually. Or is he trying to clean up his act in anticipation of new Council members coming on board?

    From Gus’ comment, it sounds like increased sobriety checkpoints at the canyon entrances would be more cost effective.

  • Mike Chivers

    May the Ghost girl poop on Cal Trans evil make-work project.

  • VOR

    Anybody know if cell phones get a signal through the Canyon? If they do, nullifying their use would probably help exponentially.