“The chamber has been behind this expansion for quite some time,” Antioch Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Devi Lanphere told the Antioch City Council last week. “We are extremely excited. We know economic development-wise this is extremely important. However, we have run into a flaw that we have continued to talk about now for almost four to five years. We have been asking and asking to be involved as the local community that knows what’s going on. Every (highway) exit is going to be impacted all the way down the corridor. It’s going to impact the Bypass in Brentwood. It’s going to impact Oakley.”
Lanphere is particularly concerned that many businesses along the Highway 4 corridor could lose customers due to road detours taking traffic away from their stores or making it difficult to get to them. “They have to look at whether they are going to change their service deliveries or what they are going to do to let their customers know what this impact is going to do,” she said.
“Will people stop shopping here and be shopping in Pittsburg and Concord before they come home? What will it take to ensure that after a very difficult economy that just as it’s coming back we don’t start losing those businesses that can’t hold on any more as they wait for this great road construction to happen. Put as much thought into the survival plan, not just the detours, as we put into the (highway) design theme. I’d like to hope that we will be involved and help that move forward in a positive way for the businesses and taxes.”
Lanphere raised her concerns after a presentation to the council by Susan Miller, director of projects at the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA), who is in charge of the highway widening project. Miller responded that the chamber and businesses affected by the construction would be brought into the information loop once the widening gets closer to Antioch. Currently they are working with Pittsburg businesses in the Loveridge Road area, which is the focus of the next phase of construction.
“Until the contractor is on board and starts submitting his plan for how he is going to stage things, which can vary, we wait for that information,” Miller said. “You don’t want to start it too early. Things change, and you don’t want to engage people and have them panic a little bit too early. We want to make sure we have the correct information. So we fully intend to engage the chamber.”
Oakley City Councilman Jim Frazier, who sits on the CCTA board, said in an interview that he will be working to ensure that the disruptions are kept to a minimum and those most affected will be kept up to speed on what to expect.
The good news, as far as harried motorists are concerned, is that the widening work – after a one-year hiatus to redesign the project to accommodate an eBART line in the highway median – will restart in June and be continuous until the highway is expanded to eight lanes (four in each direction) all the way to the Highway 4 Bypass. It’s scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 if there are no snags in the funding.
The Loveridge project, which picks up where the widening left off at Railroad Avenue and goes to Somersville Road, has received a low construction bid that is 30 percent less than originally estimated, saving $30 million in construction costs. A groundbreaking ceremony is tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 14. The project is expected to be completed in early 2014.
The next phase of the widening – from Somersville Road to the Bypass – is so large that it’s been broken into four segments:
• Segment 1: the rebuilding of the Somersville Road interchange is expected to start construction at the end of this year or early next year.
• Segment 2: construction bids for the Contra Loma Boulevard interchange and G Street overcrossing are scheduled to be advertised in January. Construction will begin sometime next year.
• Segment 3A: bids for construction of a new Lone Tree Way/A Street interchange will be advertised in the summer of 2011.
• Segment 3B: the Hillcrest Avenue interchange project will begin the construction-bid process sometime after that, depending on available funding.
Much of the existing vegetation in the corridor will be removed to make room for the widening. The retaining walls along the highway will include artistic depictions of Delta vegetation and water scenes, while the sound walls will use the existing Mt. Diablo-like triangular motif but with more variety.
Mayor Jim Davis was pleased with Miller’s update on the project, saying, “There definitely was some good news in there.”