Waiting For Caldecott Environmental Review

Due to our state’s budget ills, the fourth bore construction funding has been delayed for the Caldecott Tunnel – at least until mid-February or perhaps far longer.

We wondered whether this delay impacted the Fourth-Bore Coalition (FBC) and its efforts, and the quick answer is no.  The FBC continues to push for a full environmental review, including the construction-related pollution that would impact Montclarions living near Highway 24.

Fourth Bore Coalition

“Our major concern, at the moment, is that the governor would like to exempt the Caldecott improvement project from CEQA, so the project can move forward quickly.  We feel this is a very short-sighted move, ” declared Ann Smulka, FBC chairperson.

FBC brought suit against the California Dept. of Transportation, saying that it violated environmental reviews required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The Alameda Superior Court hearing took place on November 5th and Judge Frank Roesch will be handing down a decision soon.

There are many legal briefs you can read at the Fourth Bore site, and here’s a choice quote:

Caltrans does not have the kind of discretion that, at one time, was practiced by absolute monarchs.  Rather, CEQA requires that its provisions be interpreted in such a manner as to afford the fullest possible protection to the environment within the reasonable scope of the statutory language.

Smulka said “the health and safety effects of the project could be relatively easily avoided by Caltrans through project modifications.  The cost of mitigation would be very small in relation to the $420 million cost of the project.”

On a practical level, the Coalition wants Caltrans to “acknowledge and mitigate the project’s impact on nearby schools, residents and parks.  We are particularly concerned about the impacts of Oakland’s Claremont Middle and Anthony Chabot Elementary schools which, given their proximity to the highway, are already subjected to hazardous air and noise pollution.”

Now our neighbors living by the Tunnel wait for the court’s clock to count-down.  Judge Roesch is required, by law, to deliver his ruling by early February.  If the review is approved, it represents another twist – right along with the funding freeze and delayed schedules.

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