More Caltrans Work along Niles Canyon Road


Last time Caltrans crews visited Niles Canyon Road they removed more than 70 trees and were greeted by a few hearty protesters. Not sure if the protesters will be back, but Caltrans crews will start work at 9 p.m. Thursday getting the area prepared for some shoulder widening later this year.

The Work crews will take off the weekend and return from Tuesday through Friday nights. There will just be one lane of traffic open to drivers around the Rosenwarnes Underpass during this work.

Also, the Alameda Creek folks are threatening to sue Caltrans to stop this project, which is the first of three the state transportation agency has scheduled for Niles Canyon. Caltrans just reopened public comments on the second and most substantial project, according to the creek people.


Matt Artz


  1. On the Niles Canyon Road widening I have been nuetral or leaning towards the save the tree’s side.
    I have lost friends there that wtre students at Washigton High School that was so bad, they brought the demolished car,
    on a flat bed to Washington High. Three or four students were killed.
    It seems that there are two important issues here.
    One is the Invironment, no ones wants to see tree’s cut down, especially in beautiful Niles Canyon.
    The other is Safety, I do not think anyone would argue that the road is not safe. I witnessed a head on
    that was a few cars ahead of me, luckely no one was killed.
    I have seen traffic stop more then once as they brought in a helicopter to evacuate the injured.
    I have been wrestling with this for a while, then a bit of clarity.
    Todays edition of our favorite San Leandro Newspaper (Argus), there was a My Word about Niles Canyon.
    The my word was written by Vonn Hockenburger, it is a must read when evaulating your position on Niles Canyon.


    What about a compromise?

  2. 1. The wider center strip makes the road feel much safer. I bet it has made the road safer, too. Anybody have statistics?

    2. Trucks use the road to avoid the scales. They also get in many accidents, from what statistics I saw. Ban trucks. Check back in a few years and look at the statistics. Then reconsider the construction.

  3. Which kind of trucks would you like to ban, Jon ?

    There are at least two classes you’ve mentioned. Large mult-axle semi’s which are required to use the scales on the grade but which, according to the data, do not seemingly contribute to a disproportionately greater share of accidents OR you could ban those smaller two-axle local-delivery-type vans (or RV’s) which ARE involved in a disproportionately greater share of accidents, but, which do not stop at the scales on the grade.

    Take your time . . . it’s a difficult topic.

  4. Bbox,

    Where are the statistics you speak of? Me? I’d ban them both to through traffic.

  5. Bbox,

    One more thing, are you sure about what has to stop at a weigh station? I know light pickups do not need to stop, but UHaul box vans and the like do need to stop.

  6. Statistics (and other important clarifications) were first referenced here –


    – you’ll need to follow various links and can eventually get to the definitions of the classes of “trucks” and the original cal trans data.

    Re banning both – that’s a fair comment, Jon. As long as you agree that banning the larger multi-axle semi’s is NOT a decision based on the Cal Trans assessment of canyon “safety”. . .

    I *am* certain that a vehicle “not for hire” – which would include RV’s, U-haul vans (privately operated), a contractor in his or her truck (pickup or larger), and the like are not required to stop at a weigh station. A Fed-X or UPS van definately WOULD.

    So, the point is, first, that within the classification that Cal Trans is concerned about are vehicles, many of which, are not simply “avoiding the scales” and, second, the highly visible semi’s we so frequently generalize when we say “truck traffic”, are not identified by Cal Trans as contributing to the safety problems in the canyon.

  7. Box, that was a shockingly cogent post. Bravo to your knowledge on this. Have a good 4th!

  8. Bbox,

    Having rented UHauls and heavier trucks then done the research, yes, they’re required to stop at most weigh stations. I don’t know what the Sunol signs say, but it probably says something about no pickups, which would mean yes to box trucks and panel vans.

    Those posts give far from a clear picture. Where are CalTrans’ hard numbers?

  9. It *isnt* the type of vehicle that determines whether a given truck must stop – but how the vehicle is registered. CA-DOT specific wording is – – – “..of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.
    (b) Passenger vehicles which are not used for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit and housecars are not commercial vehicles. …
    (c) Any vanpool vehicle is not a commercial vehicle.” –


    Re data – as I said, Jon – you’ll need to follow the links.

    If memory serves, you’ll find a section in the original Cal Trans DEIR for the project in a section therein entitled “NEED”. While I could not quickly put my hands on the original link, I’ve referred to it several times and I know it’s there.

    The original accident rates for Niles as compared to some statewide averages are shown in Tables 1-1 and 1-2.

    *That* data is actually somewhat dubious IMHO and could be argued either way (based solely on margin of error).

    However, additional clarification to the original data has been offered in various community meetings, most of which have been nicely summarized in the past discusions of this topic.

  10. Jon –

    Let’s be clear here – your original general request for “data” was relative to the Niles Canyon project which the DEIR deals with. (I think)

    Regarding YOUR point about wanting to ban ALL trucks in the canyon, and MY feeling that doing so could not be rationalized on any available accident data – – – the only data that has been presented that I know of is here –


    Last paragraph, as reported by Argus – “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.”

    I dont know what data Artz had access to to make this statement, but I did trust that has source was credible. You might try to take your question up with him.

  11. Usually bans are by weight, so if there was a 9000lbs weight limit, most of those large trucks would be banned. That includes UPS trucks and the like.

    The Caltrans link you gave sums it up nicely: “designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property”.

    That means a Uhaul, UPS, and work truck would all fall under commercial. Pickup trucks do, too, most of the time. Either way, a commercial weight limit would probably be the best ban. A 14′ Uhaul comes in at 7860lbs empty. People could still drive their Hummer H1 through since they’re passenger vehicles.

  12. Oh . . . goodness – where to start ? ? ?

    Commercial vehicles in CA are those “operated for hire” – which does *not” unilaterally include all rental vehicles where the operator is hauling their own stuff.

    California DOT DOES require that any vehicle with a GVW of greater than 10k lbs be registered as a commercial vehicle and thus would be required to stop at a weigh station. There is a specific exclusion to this registration requirement if the vehicle is considered a pickup truck and EVEN IF the pickup has a GVW greater than 10k lbs.


    A quick look at the U-haul web site indicates that, of the large trucks they offer for rent, a pickup truck, their enclosed van, and even their 10′ box van would all come in under the 10k GVW limit and as such would not be required to be registered as a commercial vehicle. Their larger 14′ and 20′ vans exceed the 10k weight limit.


    BTW for future reference, it’s GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) that is the determining factor here, Jon – – not the “empty weight” which you reference(7860 lbs).

    Finally, I *do* think we’ve lost site of the original and important point which is that you would like to see all vehicles over a given weight classification banned from the canyon.

    My question continues to be, on what basis would you prohibit large semi’s from using this public highway? According to the reported data, they have not been a contributor to safety concerns in the canyon, so, on what grounds do you tell these guys they can’t use this road ?

    Constraining a right to use should only occur in the face of more significant alternative considerations – like safety. In the case of semi’s using the canyon, based on all of the discussion thus far, I’m not sure what that other tradeoff might be – other than someone’s personal preference.

  13. Bbox,

    You want it both ways:
    1. The Niles Canyon roadwork should happen to increase safety. The road is unsafe as is.
    2. Large vehicles should be allowed because they’re safe.

    You have one way to move me away from my position:
    1. Show quality statistics saying that passenger vehicles are the heart of the problem, not trucks. You’ve referred to such statistics in vague ways and sent me a bunch of links, but I found nothing. Now put up or shut up.

    I’m also amused by your hypocrisy over government waste. This is clearly government throwing away tax money. Clearly, the government is working against the will of most people, which I think you dislike. Clearly the benefits of the widening are few but the environmental impact is massive. Make that last one is something you do like?

  14. These so called “safety improvements” are not worth it. Wider roads are most likely going to encourage people to drive faster not safer. Caltrans conveniently neglected to factor in drunk/reckless driving in their million dollar survey and kept its EIR in hiding. This colossal boondoggle is a waste of tax payers money!

    Don’t trucking companies have to pay an extra road use tax?
    Don’t truckiing companies pay extra tax when buying tire also because of the size of the tires?
    If trucking companies are paying all these extra taxs then maybe we should ban all cars from the canyon and make it trucks only?

  16. Hey Worble…80,000 pound trucks don’t belong in Niles Canyon. Let the 18 wheelers get on 680 in Warm Springs. Widening 84 for the convenience of truckers/trucking companies or for the benefit to Caltrans is WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY! Faster is not safer! As you know experienced truck accident lawyers believe there are least 200,000 truck drivers on our roads today with substance abuse problems. Add that to all the drunk and reckless driving already going on in the canyon, speed it up and you got a recipe for disaster. Is this project worth 80 million dollars of taxpayer money?

  17. About $34 million of that total is the cost to replace the bridge. I’m not sure if this is work that has to be done now. But I remember a study of California bridges that came out after the 2007 Mississippi bridge collapse that gave ~80% of our bridges poor ratings. I suspect that artifact in the canyon is one of the bad ones.

    There’s things I’d rather see our money spent on. But, when the opportunity to improve your local infrastructure arises, I say take it. Because that money is not coming back to you and I. They will spend it one way or another. That’s what they do.

  18. Oh – – goodness, Jon – you are sorely, sorely mistaken – again.

    Dont know where you got the idea I was a fan of the Niles improvement project. I do not believe I have come out in favor or against this project as of yet. Fundamentally, I’m not a fan. . . . and the more I look at the data, the less convinced I am that ANYTHING needs to be done. . . . . if I read the data correctly, I am betting that the margin of error on the analysis is greater than the difference between Niles Canyon and state-wide averages. . . . . but, my uncertainty on this point is precisely why I haven’t come out one way or the other.

    Having said that, I am amused by those who want to generalize *ALL* “trucks” as “unsafe” in the canyon.

    I think I have access to the same “data” you have.

    Proponents of this project have supplied some information which indicates an accident rate ever so slightly worse than state-wide averages. Those same proponents have indicated to our local newspaper “reporter” that it is the “smaller” trucks (not the larger multi-axle semi vehicles) that contribute disproportionately to the rate of accidents in the canyon.

    WHERE the substantiating data is for that statement, I dont know – but, as I have previously said – I’m going with the notion that Artz knows his source and has confirmed them as reliable before making his claim.

    Ergo – the larger multi axle vehicles being eliminated from traffic in the canyon would do nothing to improve the relative “safety” as measured by Cal Trans.

    P.S. – as loudly as you whine about the need for data, I still haven’t heard a rationalization as to why, based on what, you (or anyone else) could rationalize a ban of multi-axle semi trucks.

    Of the two of us, I think *I’m* the one in this dialogue that’s much closer to a “do nothing” stance on this project – – – you on the other hand are suggesting a ban on all trucks over 9,000 lbs and I am simply (continuing) to ask “based on what ?”

  19. Agreed we shouldn’t pass on local infrastructure upgrades that will benefit us locals. Should we name the $34 million bridge the Haggerty or the Bacon bridge? It’s too bad our FCN brothers and sisters couldn’t have sucked it up and supported the ballpark for that would also been a benefit the to us locals. Look on the bright side…at least we’re getting a toxic railroad yard!

  20. Charlie, “Bacon Bridge” would have to carry freight trains. That’s just common courtesy.

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