There should be less schmutz for Caldecott Tunnel neighbors when fourth bore construction begins later this year. It turns out that the Fourth-Bore Coalition settled with Caltrans, who will add a couple more steps to reduce air, noise and light pollution after all.
Coalition Finally Settles
The Coalition had filed suit against the California Dept. of Transportation, claiming it violated reviews required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Our neighbors felt that Caltrans didn’t perform the proper assessments, especially related to construction mitigation impacting nearby residents.
In November, the group got its day in court and awaited the judge’s decision. “The judge never ruled in our case, ” explained Coalition Chair Ann Smulka. “Governor Schwarzenegger threatened to exempt the project from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as part of the budget negotiations, which would have trumped any decision the judge made.”
Instead, the Coalition and Caltrans settled their differences, with a little help from their Democratic legislator friends in Sacramento.
Reduced Construction Pollution
From the settlement, Chairperson Smulka was pleased with “several important wins that will make a difference to our community” including:
- Contractors must use low sulfur diesel fuel for off-road vehicles and equipment, to reduce air pollution
- Caltrans will seek Cal OSHA approval to use a non-audible vehicle back-up warning system
- Various schedules and restrictions will minimize lighting and noise exposure during construction
Future Corridor Improvements
Smulka also noted that the settlement goes beyond construction commitments, and includes funding to improve the Highway 24 corridor safety and environment. The funding covers:
- Rt 13 by Tunnel Rd/Ashby Ave, for pedestrian, bicyclist motorist safety – $2 million
- Highway 24 study, covering topics like reduced highway congestion and noise – $250k
- FROG Park debris barrier, plus park lease extension from Caltrans – $50k barrier
- Highway 24 paved with sound-attenuating surface, when ready to repave – $ na
Additionally, the Chair pointed to the Coalition’s other success in obtaining $3 million to improve air quality at Chabot Elementary School and Claremont Middle School, which are located within 75 feet of the freeway. While $6.5 million is needed overall, this state funding “is a good start for the air quality improvements,” said Smulka.
As Coalition head, Smulka felt “fortunate to have such dedicated people in our community” and gave kudos to all the volunteers, lawyers, elected reps and school staff who helped thus far. Now the group will switch gears, and make sure the cities and public agencies meet their commitments.