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Fremont: Citizen groups blast Caltrans’ Niles Canyon bridge replacement

One of those disputes that apparently will never end.

FREMONT — The yearslong debate over widening the highway through Niles Canyon has continued, as environmental groups this month blasted Caltrans’ Alameda Creek Bridge project.

Caltrans says that replacing the 87-year-old bridge would improve safety for drivers and bicyclists on a half-mile stretch of Niles Canyon Road, a winding highway that connects Fremont to Interstate 680 near Sunol.

But opponents, including citizen groups and environmentalists, say the project would damage wildlife habitat and reduce driving safety by increasing the speed limit in parts of the scenic canyon.

“(It’s) anything but a simple bridge replacement — it involves … removing hundreds of native trees and excavating along thousands of feet of the canyon, adding large retaining walls,” Alameda Creek Alliance director Jeff Miller said. “Caltrans’ overbuilt approach is simply not needed to make the bridge segment safer.”

The state agency says the $24 million project will increase the bridge’s total width to 42 feet, giving bicyclists and motorists more room to maneuver. Caltrans would widen the roadway’s two lanes and add modern safety railings and 8-foot shoulders on each side. Those changes “have been proven to provide improved safety benefits,” Caltrans spokesman Marcus Wagner said. “The project is not expected to increase speed in the corridor. The project … will allow a safe, consistent speed.”

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Chris DeBenedetti

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