Monday, September 12
On the Freeway with Richard Pombo
Just dissecting a recent news article on the proposed Diablo Range freeway...
What have environmentalists "claimed" that Representative Richard Pombo from Tracy has been up to lately? The Manteca Bulletin says:
They have tried to claim that Pombo is proposing studying a corridor that would go up Del Puerte Canyon out of Patterson.
So someone questions whether Rep. Pombo has ever supported developing a transportation corridor somewhere between the Altamont and Pacheco Passes? From the first session of the 109th Congress, HR 723 (introduced by Rep. Pombo):
To direct the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a highway in California connecting State Route 130 in Santa Clara County with Interstate Route 5 in San Joaquin County, and to determine the feasibility of constructing a fixed guideway system along the right-of-way of the highway.
Okay, so we got that one out of the way. Now, details, please?
 It would leave the valley near the junction of Interstates 5 and 680 south of Tracy. It would head over the hills in a southwest route and ultimately connect with freeways in San Jose.
 "It would be a toll road only with no truck traffic allowed,' Pombo said.
 He believes the terrain as well as a condition that access points be limited. That means there won't be any growth inducement along the corridor.
 "It would pretty much be like the Altamont portion of 680," Pombo said.
1) For the highway to head over the hills southwestward from the Interstate 5-Interstate 580 junction (the writer surely means 580, since 680 doesn't touch I-5) definitely means it will pass through almost completely virgin land, including Joseph D. Grant County Park.
2) Pombo says truck traffic will be prohibited; if this is because of weight concerns, does this mean a fully-loaded bus would not be allowed? (In fairness, the corridor would supposedly include a "fixed guideway" for transit.)
3) How "limited" will the highway's access points be? Case after case shows that junctions along new roads spark growth. If any loophole allows an interchange anywhere between the floors of the Central and Santa Clara Valleys, there will be growth and development in the Diablo Range--guaranteed, unless the affected counties completely prohibit development in that area. (And no, as phrased, the first sentence in that paragraph does not make sense.)
4) Is that a good thing?
The congressman also contends the expressway wound eliminate a lot of idling that is responsible the waste of energy and increased air pollution.
"About 20 to 25 percent of the traffic that goes over the Altamont continues over the Sunol Grade out of Pleasanton to the Silicon Valley," Pombo noted.
Hence, the Sunol Grade (I-680 between Pleasanton and Fremont for you out-of-regioners) will be decongested as more drivers choose the Diablo Range route instead.
Wasted-energy-and-increased-air-pollution is a valid point, but that's the same argument the highway lobby uses to persuade the public to expand and widen roads--yet the enlarged and new roads allow motorists to drive more miles, which in itself causes increased energy consumption and pollution. Should this argument be accepted, the Diablo Range will see existing Tracy-to-Bay-Area commuters plus road-induced, Patterson-area population growth consuming more fuel than ever and emitting pollutants never before smelled in that area.
To repeat: is all this a good thing?
P.S. A shout-out to ザイツェブ at Tracy Today.
file under Tracy, Central Valley, Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area, Altamont Pass, Pacheco Pass, Diablo Range, Richard Pombo, Pombo, Congress, House of Representatives, federal government, freeway, freeways, commuting, environment, population growth