Fremont Residents Concerned About Proposed Road Projects
Story by Linsay Rousseau Burnett
In a unanimous vote, the Fremont City Council voted to support Senate Bill 791 during its September 16 meeting — a bill that, if passed by the Legislature, would allow the city, and surrounding areas to sell land currently owned by the California Department of Transportation and use the revenue for approved local transportation projects.Supporters see the measure as a positive step toward completing city road projects since the current law says the revenue can only be used on state projects. Opponents have raised concerns over wasteful spending and environmental hazards.
CalTrans and the Alameda County Transportation Authority own roughly 60 acres of land in Fremont. This land was originally intended for the construction of a freeway.
Jim Pierson, the director for transportation and operations for Alameda County, said that, for development reasons, this “Historic Alignment” design was abandoned almost 20 years ago. As a result of a growing population, Pierson said, “The “need for a highway in the area is increasing.”
In order for the city to build this highway, it must first find a source of revenue. Pierson explained that the current law states that whenever land owned by Caltrans is sold, that money goes into the state Caltrans budget.
SB 791 will allow revenue from the sale of the Caltrans property in Fremont to be used for three specific non-state highway projects. This includes the construction of a connector road from interstate 880 through Fremont and Union City.
But half a dozen residents who attended the meeting felt that SB 791 is not in the best interests of the community.
Ron Moeller, 67, said the city council has shown a complete disregard for a huge amount of money that only applies to a small amount of land.
“It’s a 1.4-billion dollar road like the Alaska bridge to nowhere,” he said.
Melodye Khattak is concerned about the pollution this new road will produce.
“We’re going to get a lot more traffic from the valleys going right through Fremont. That’s going to affect our air and our drinking water,” said Khattak.
For residents neighboring the Caltrans property that will not be developed into a roadway, some are still reluctant to see that land developed at all.
For the past 20 years, Marcus DiFranco, 50, and his wife and two daughters have been able to open their backdoor to see grazing horses belonging to a farm renting the property from Caltrans.
“We bought this house knowing there might be a road in our backyard one day,” said DiFranco, “It’s a relief to know that won’t happen, I just wish they could leave the horse farm. It’s beautiful.”
As the measure moves forward and construction projects begin, there will be people on each side following the issue. When asked what he’s going to do next, Moeller replied, “I think I’m going to sit in a tree. Maybe we’ll try and hire those [Berkeley] tree sitters to come down here.”
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