Susan Miller, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s director of projects, gave an update at Tuesday’s Antioch City Council meeting on the project that will widen the freeway from two to four lanes from Loveridge Road in Pittsburg to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch. The entire project is estimated to cost more than $500 million – most of which comes from Measure J tax dollars and money from state and federal sources.
“We’ve been very successful in applying those dollars to Highway 4,” Miller said. “We’ve leveraged a lot of state and federal funds.”
The project carves out room in the Highway 4 median for BART lines from the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station to the proposed eBART stop at Hillcrest Avenue.
Antioch, however, has been unhappy with BART’s proposal and could pull out of the eBART project. At Tuesday’s meeting, City Council members asked how the eBART controversy could affect the widening project. Miller said that although the two projects go hand-in-hand, the Highway 4 work would continue should Antioch nix the eBART proposal.
Antioch’s withdrawal from eBART, however, would make an impact on the planning process. “We decided that the structures in the median would be designed for any mode,” Miller said. “I would hate to see a situation where we have to redo plans, we have to slow down the freeway schedule if there’s changes in the decision on the eBART project. I personally have been involved in both these projects for a very long time and I can understand the city’s concerns, but I’ve been so excited to finally see some of this come to reality, and to think that we’re going to have some service and some transit extension so badly needed into East County.”
In a PowerPoint presentation, Miller showed plans for the future, as well as the design of the retaining walls skirting the freeway. The walls will be etched with depictions of vegetation and marsh life, an homage to the Delta. In response to concerns about the potential for graffiti, Miller said that the color of the walls is the same color of the paint that CalTrans workers keep in their trucks. Any graffiti on the retaining walls or the soundwalls would be removed in a timely fashion.
City Council member Gary Agopian stressed the need for the freeway improvements to reflect a positive image for the city. “I’m envisioning, and I think the public is envisioning, three great entrances into Antioch,” Agopian said. “It’s very, very important that the quality of the appearance is at an excellent level. Not an average or below-average level. This is very critical for the image of our city.”
This month, workers are laying down concrete on the segment from Loveridge Road to Somersville Road and putting up soundwalls. Next month, they will close the undercrossing at Century Boulevard to work on that part of the freeway. In April, contractors plan to start pile driving for the southbound Loveridge Road bridge.
Work on the stretch from Somersville to L Street should begin in March and end by June of 2013. The segment from L Street to Lone Tree Way is slated to start in December, be finished in September of 2014. The final phase of the project – from Lone Tree Way to Highway 160 – should begin in March of 2012 and be completed by the end of 2014.
Miller said the authority will work with local schools as workers temporarily close overcrossings at G and L streets in Antioch in the coming years.
“I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve seen out there,” Mayor Jim Davis said. “The finishing dates look really encouraging.”