11-mile detour plan draws criticism in Richmond

Western Drive

November 28, 2011 7:48:48 PM PST
Some Richmond residents are fuming over a Caltrans repair project that will force them to make a lengthy and expensive detour for the next two years. Drivers will need to make an 11-mile detour across the Richmond Bridge and back just to get out of the Point Molate neighborhood.

Western Drive, a route so forgotten that a person must squint to see its name, with pavement so empty that when people do drive it, they ignore stop signs to take in the views. And now, a road at the center of a misunderstanding at best, and a controversy at worst.

"They're hunkering down, they're arrogant and high-handed," said Richmond resident Bruce Beyaert.

"I'm hoping that it's just a staff member who just wasn't paying attention," said Assm. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland. "That's what I'm hoping."

The problem is an $8 million Caltrans plan to reconstruct the Richmond Bridge approach. In the process there would be no eastbound access to Interstate 580 off Western Drive. Cars and trucks from a nearby quarry would need to go 11 miles out of their way to Marin County and back before going even one exit east.

Local officials are upset because they say Caltrans never consulted them.

"Well, there should be some discussion about whether this is really necessary to detour people. Is there a better way to do it?" said Beyaert. "There's been no dialogue."

Not exactly true. At Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, marina owner Eric Johnson says Caltrans came to him months ago offering free toll passes, among other solutions.

"It's just the reality of the situation. Stuff wears out. It's got to be fixed," said Johnson. "Caltrans spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to make access for everybody the safest way."

But clearly not the best way in terms of relations with local governments.

"I would say that we got to do a lot better and I think we're going to see some responsiveness from Caltrans right now," said Skinner.

Late Monday afternoon, a Caltrans district manager finally returned our calls and said that this issue has been blown out of proportion. He says the project remains in a preliminary planning phase. Nothing will proceed until all parties are on the same page.

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