“If East County does not act together and the Naval Weapons Station (development) comes on line in five years, there is no bond money and there will be no improvements on that section of highway,” Antioch resident Terry Ramus said to East County officials at the last Transplan meeting. “Right now you back up on Willow Pass every morning – even during a down economy. If the economy comes back, we will not be able to get out of East County to get to work. East County needs to take a position on it.”
The Antioch City Council on Tuesday agreed to join with other East County cities and the county to write a letter expressing concerns about the planned development and urging that adequate measures be put in place to lessen the traffic impacts from the new residents and businesses that might move into the 5,000-acre site on the other side of the hill to Central County.
Antioch Mayor Jim Davis has also spoken at one of the Concord planning meetings for the project. “I stated then that I am concerned about the impacts on Highway 4 with a major subdivision or cluster of homes and villages,” he said. “If that dumps onto Highway 4 without mitigation, then traffic in East County (will worsen).
“We have been trying to get BART out here and Highway 4 widened for the last 25 years. We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. And here we see possible impacts of gridlock at the top of Willow Pass for everybody.
“I think we need to speak up. I think we can throw our wrench in it and make sure they will mitigate for Antioch, Oakley and Highway 4. I am not opposed to the development and their being able to plan their own land. But when it impacts Highway 4, it impacts us.”
The weapons station project is not yet a done deal. It’s currently in the draft environmental impact report (EIR) stage; a final EIR is expected next spring. The draft EIR confirms that traffic will worsen on Highway 4 east of the weapons station property if either of two projects is built out by 2030.
The preferred alternative of clustered villages devotes half of the property to parks, recreation and open space. It would accommodate up to 12,272 residential units and 6.2 million square feet of commercial and retail space.
The other possible project, known as the Concentration and Conservation Alternative, places most of the housing, retail and commercial development north of Willow Pass Road. It would accommodate up to 10,203 residential units and 4.8 million square feet of commercial and retail space.
“The analysis indicates that traffic conditions will degrade at many locations in the future, with or without either alternative,” the draft EIR states. “Both alternatives would result in potentially significant impacts on the transportation network.”
The preferred alternative is projected to have potentially significant traffic impacts on six freeway segments, most of which are on Highway 4 (the other two are on Highway 680 north of southbound highways 4 and 242). The Highway 4 segments that would worsen are:
• East of westbound Highway 242 in the afternoon commute.
• East of westbound Willow Pass Road in the morning and afternoon.
• East of eastbound Willow Pass Road in the afternoon.
• East of eastbound San Marco Boulevard in the afternoon.
“These six freeway segments operate at acceptable levels under existing conditions, but would exceed the established performance threshold with the traffic from the preferred (development) alternative,” the draft EIR states.
In addition, congestion will increase on 11 highway ramps, including those on Highway 4 at Railroad Avenue in the morning, Bailey Road in the morning and afternoon, San Marco Boulevard in the morning and afternoon and Willow Pass Road and Port Chicago Highway in the morning.
The document’s main suggested mitigation measure is: “Prior to approving a specific development, the City of Concord shall require future developers at the site to contribute a fair share of the cost to construct planned improvements on the adjacent freeway system as determined in coordination with Caltrans and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.”
But it cautions, “Even with the implementation of this mitigation measure, this (traffic) impact will remain significant and unavoidable.”
To read the draft EIR, go online to www.concordreuseproject.org.