Caltrans may close an I-580 ramp in Richmond for years
By Hannah Dreier
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 11/25/2011 08:54:40 PM PST
Updated: 11/25/2011 09:17:43 PM PST
Caltrans is planning a deck repair project east of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge that will close an Interstate 580 onramp, angering leaders and some residents who say they should have been consulted.
The project will replace the concrete bridge decks at Scofield Avenue and Western Drive, according to a fact sheet obtained by Richmond Councilman Tom Butt.
Construction will extend from this spring through the summer of 2014, according to the fact sheet, with the onramp at Western Drive closed "for an extended period of time."
For a detour, the state agency suggests that drivers in far western Richmond who want to go east on I-580 first cross the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Marin and then drive back, a 10-mile trip.
Councilman Butt charged Caltrans with shutting out city leaders and residents from its planning process and keeping the project a secret.
Butt said that the agency should have put the bridge repair through a formal environmental review instead of declaring that the project was exempt because it would have no significant impacts.
"I think they totally illegally used some kind of categorical exemption to get it in there," Butt said. "They played this like it was a fix-up project, instead of one that had massive impacts."
Caltrans did not return requests for comment.
The agency has completed its planning and is looking to put the project to bid.
The agency will pay for the construction with $17.57 million in funds earmarked for repairing bridges "that are unsafe because of structural deficiencies or deterioration."
Butt said that the ramp closure will lead to an increase in greenhouse gases, and will inconvenience many Richmond businesses, including Chevron, the San Pablo Yacht Harbor, Dutra Materials, the Richmond Rod and Gun Club and East Brother Light Station.
These businesses did not return calls for comment, with the exception of Chevron, which does not object to the planned construction.
"Chevron is aware of the project and it will not impact our operations," spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said.
A group of men shooting at the Rod and Gun club Friday said they were fine with the project because their club is west of the onramp in question.
Environmentalists are taking this opportunity to renew their request that Caltrans help close the San Francisco Bay Trail gap between Castro Street and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
"If Caltrans looked at this seriously, they could find a way to incorporate a portion of the Bay Trail in this project," said Bruce Beyaert of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee.
"Caltrans failed to even consider the impacts of the project. If they had, they would not have the public outrage their face with right now."
Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier.