Niles Canyon Road meeting


Not a lot of new info at today’s public forum on Niles Canyon Road.

Caltrans is moving ahead with the first project, for which its already chopped down between 81 and 100 trees, but you guys knew that.

Niles and Sunol people — I counted nearly 100, mostly gray beards — were angry and a little belligerent, but you knew that too.

Caltrans won’t unveil its plan for the big second project until Autumn, which is about six months later than originally planned. That could mean they’re looking at major changes to their proposal.

Also, Caltrans said Fremont’s proposal to ban trucks may not have the safety impacts the city seems to think. Even though trucks account for a disproportionate number of collisions on the street, about 80 percent of those involve pickup trucks or slightly larger vehicles like UPS trucks. The city couldn’t band those things. The kind of trucks the city could ban — the big 18 wheelers, account for relatively few accidents.

Photo by Steven Ashley Wilson

Matt Artz


  1. Banning big trucks from Niles Canyon is a minor step that could be taken without a lot of expense…why not do it? How many is ‘relatively few’? And their saying that Caltrans can’t do it, it’s a local issue? I thought even if the Fremont City Council voted to do it, Caltrans had to approve…?

  2. Interesting revelation about what made up the truck accident statistics which were so quickly seized upon and utilized as the basis for a proposed course of action by our fair city.

    Fortunately for the taxpayers, in this particular case, someone set the record straight for us – – before we got too far with our good intentions.

    Wonder how many advisory hours were billed to this “thinking” before CalTrans was kind enough to point us in the right direction.


  3. Two issues…drunk driver and trucks. We should/could ban big rig trucks and arrest the drunks for much less money than the current clear cutting and rev it up to 65 mph plan. What’s more important is what did >SCOTT HAGGERTY< know and when did he know it? HAGGARTY is in THICK with ALL the special interest (truckers, Caltrans) who just want this thing to go away. Come on lefties… you all need to turn the burners up to eleven and fry this guy lard ass until he tells us who he is representing and why. Ground control to Scott…are you listening?

  4. Who’s getting all that choice wood that CalTrans is harvesting?

    and can we please get a breakdown on how that $80,000,000.00 is being chopped up?

  5. #6 TL…Do you think >SCOTT HAGGARTY< knows who is getting the wood? Truck drivers & CalTrans clearcutters would be my guess?

  6. My biggest complaint is it’s a nice drive, why do people want to do 55 to 80 miles an hour on Niles Canyon. If you want to go that fast take the freeway. Oh wait, their are police on the freeways…

  7. Hi Matt,

    What Caltrans actually said is that 80% of the trucks involved in accidents were either pickups or panel trucks, but they did not provide a breakdown. This brought up the question of what Caltrans’ definition of a panel truck is, so we asked the District 4 Truck Coordinator, who said that a panel truck is “a truck with 2 axles”. (In March, Caltrans officials said an example of a panel truck is a UPS truck, but they did not provide a definition.) According to the FHA, a 2-axle truck can have a wheelbase of up to 30.3′. The Basic Law for a single unit vehicle is “A vehicle may not exceed a length of 40 feet”, not including auxiliary parts or fenders and mudguards. This is significant because trucks longer than 32′ are currently advised to not travel Niles Canyon Road.

    If you want links to the evidence I’m quoting, you can find them at:

  8. Kim –

    Interesting clarifications and references, thank you.

    Are you suggesting that Fremont *could* somehow ban “panel trucks” which, according to your references (and the most recent report by Matt) are involved in (but, not necesarilly “the cause of” ) a disproportionate number of accidents?

    I am struggling to understand how your clarification is significantly different from what Matt originally reported above.

  9. Hi BBox,

    Matt wrote that the collisions “involve pickup trucks or slightly larger vehicles like UPS trucks”. There is a huge difference between the length of a standard UPS truck, and a truck that’s 40+ feet long. Having been behind 40+’ trucks on Niles Canyon Road, I think banning them is a worthwhile pursuit, although I imagine any ban would be based on length, not type.

    Hope that answers your question.


  10. Got it, Kimberly – thank you.

    So, your support for continuing to pursue the ban of semi trucks is based on the inconvenience you (and all of us) experience when we’re “stuck” behind one of these big semi-tractor/trailer rigs – right ?

    Your recommendation is less about the relative safety in the canyon because these large semi-trucks, according to the data, are NOT the ones which are involved in the disproportionately greater share of accidents . . . . . *that* dubious distinction is reserved for the 2-axle, single-frame category of RV’s or delivery vans – which Fremont could not ban anyway.

    Right ?

  11. I think the issue with trucks is that there’s not enough data, because one category covers a wide range of vehicles.

    If more detailed data shows the problem being at the long/heavy end of the category, then a length and/or weight restriction would be a way to address the issue.

  12. That isn’t what I’m saying, Bbox.

    Large trucks take longer to stop (because they’re both heavier and are prone to jack-knifing if they stop too fast). This is why trucks tend to move slower than their smaller counterparts (you will no doubt have noticed that many roads have different speed limits for cars and trucks). When fast moving automobile traffic suddenly encounters slow moving traffic, a wave effect occurs on the traffic behind it. For example, if you have ever had the opportunity to watch a moving freeway from a high vantage point, you may have noticed that if someone suddenly steps on their brakes, there’s a ripple effect in the brake lights behind the original vehicle. If you’ve ever wondered why traffic suddenly becomes stop-and-go despite no accident, and no ostensible vehicular increase, it may very well be due to someone having stepped on their brakes half an hour previously. This is one of many reasons why larger trucks on Niles Canyon Road cause safety issues (although if you really want to be a purist, the fact of the matter is that even Caltrans admits that the road has fewer collisions than average — you can verify this by reading the phase II DEIR).


  13. P.S. Let me repeat that panel trucks can be up to 40+’ long — they are not necessarily small trucks.

  14. All very interesting information, Kimberly.
    Thank you.

    Here’s what I think I’ve concluded about the idea of banning trucks in the canyon –

    Fremont – COULD act to ban large multi-axle trucks on roadways under their jurisdiction. These vehicles are big and, anecdotally, appear to make frequent use of the canyon. Cal Trans did not identify this group of vehicles as one which they were concerned about.

    Fremont could NOT ban the (sometimes very large) 2-axle vehicles that consist of RV’s, moving-type vans, U-hauls, or delivery trucks, all of which *can* be up to 40′ in length. These 2-axle vehicles are of the type that are sited by Cal Trans as being involved in a disproportionate share of accidents in the canyon.

  15. Bbox, I presume Fremont could ban vehicles by length or weight.

    I don’t think the potential bans are limited only to the broad categories in Caltrans’ data.

  16. Niles Canyon Road is not under jurisdiction of the city of Fremont, it is a state highway.

  17. What has become of the Fremont Citizens Network? I suppose by the next election they will all be strutting and screaming like stuck pigs. All we need to do is ban the trucks arrest the drunk drivers and save the money for reasonable development…play ball!

  18. My conclusions were simply a restatement of Matt’s original coverage –

    “Caltrans said Fremont’s proposal to ban trucks may not have the safety impacts the city seems to think. Even though trucks account for a disproportionate number of collisions on the street, about 80 percent of those involve pickup trucks or slightly larger vehicles like UPS trucks. The city couldn’t band those things. The kind of trucks the city could ban — the big 18 wheelers, account for relatively few accidents.”

  19. As Gus pointed out, Niles Canyon is a state highway (CA 84) so if there was a ban of some kind, it would have to be enacted by the state. Fremont can only make the request, not enforce it.

    The same situation would apply to the parts of Mowry, Peralta, Fremont, and Thornton that are part of CA 84.

    The state can ban ban vehicles by weight. For example:


    If the state can set a 9000 lb limit on parts of I-580 or CA-85, they could certainly do it on parts of CA-84.

    For reference:
    A 10′ U-Haul truck is 8600 lbs.
    The original H1 Hummer is 10,300 lbs.
    A 14′ U-Haul truck is 14,050 lbs.

  20. Interesting semantics discussion. . . . . which ultimately arrives at the very same conclusions –

    If F-mont is interested in convenience, they might request that the state ban trucks of greater than 2 axles from using the canyon route.

    If F-mont is interested in safety, they might request that the state ban dual-axle trucks, which are involved in a share of accidents disproportionately greater than their share of traffic.

    So, if Gus’s and MTV’s clarifications are accurate, then it would appear that Matt’s original statement was in error – – – e.g., “The kind of trucks the city could ban . .. . .” is non sequitur, since, the city is not capable of banning anything on state route 84.

  21. Here’s Caltrans’ Truck Restriction Process (or just go to http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/trucks/routes/restrict-process.htm):

    The following suggested procedures are in accordance with CVC Sections 21101, 35701, 35702 and their related sections.

    Local Agency Prepares a Draft Truck Restriction Ordinance or Resolution. The local agency prepares a draft ordinance or resolution of the proposed truck restriction and informs the appropriate Caltrans District Truck Coordinator. The ordinance or resolution must cite the CVC Section providing the justification for the truck restriction. Caltrans districts should notify the Headquarters Office of Truck Services (see Caltrans Contacts at end of these guidelines) in writing as soon as possible after learning of a truck restriction proposal. Districts should request and forward copies of local agencies’ draft ordinances or resolutions to Headquarters Office of Truck Services, Legal and Environmental Programs for review.
    Local Agency Prepares Initial Study. The initial study provides the information necessary to justify the proposed restriction, and may also indicate if the proposed restriction is subject to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. The initial study allows the preliminary submittal of information by Caltrans, local agencies, and California Highway Patrol staff, as well as initial comments from the trucking industry, affected industries, and citizen groups. It should include the proposed restriction type, location, existing conditions, alternatives, maintenance and safety considerations on the alternative route(s), any initial public comment, and conditions that may involve further CEQA compliance.
    Local Agency Provides Public Review and Comment Period. During the public review period, the local agency gives public notice of the proposed truck restriction, and public hearings can be advertised and held. All documentation acquired to date regarding the proposed truck restriction should be available for public review prior to the public hearing.
    Local Agency Receives Comments and Prepares Final Truck Restriction Report. The local agency considers all comments received. If the local agency still wants to proceed with the proposed restriction, a final truck restriction report is prepared and forwarded to the Caltrans district office. This final report includes any comment revisions, and the draft restriction ordinance or resolution. The Caltrans District Director forwards the report with the District’s recommendations to the Caltrans Traffic Operations Division Chief at Headquarters. (See the checklist for the contents of the truck restriction report, following these guidelines.)
    Caltrans Traffic Operations Submits Recommendation to the Director’s Office. The Traffic Operations, Office of Truck Services, in cooperation with Caltrans Headquarters Environmental and Legal Divisions, prepares a recommendation regarding the truck restriction and submits it to the Caltrans Director’s Office.
    Caltrans Director Issues Written Approval. If approved, the Caltrans Director issues a written approval of the draft ordinance of resolution for the truck restriction.
    Local Agency Passes Final Truck Restriction Ordinance or Resolution.
    Local Agency Erects Restriction Signs, and Restriction is Enforced.

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