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By Roz Rogoff

Be afraid, be very afraid (NOT)

Uploaded: Oct 10, 2013

OK now they've done it. Now I'm getting mad. Perhaps I have a too rosy view of the benefits of the HOV ramps proposed for the Norris Canyon overpass, but the latest anti-HOV literature is sooo false and negative that I need to answer it right away.

I'm not saying my views or predictions for the HOV ramps are correct, but I am saying that the political mailer I received on September 9th is completely incorrect. So I'd like to go down each claim one by one. I'm attaching a scanned copy of the of the mailer to this blog, but I shall repeat the contents of each section in case the image isn't readable.

The headline on the card says, "Think the Norris Canyon HOV ramps are about reducing traffic? THINK AGAIN." Well that depends on where the traffic will be reduced.

The mailer claims, "MORE CARS ON LOCAL ROADS. The proposed Norris Canyon HOV ramps will dump traffic onto our local roads, impacting neighborhoods and putting kids at risk on the way to and from school."

Wow, is that out in left field! The goals of the HOV ramps are to reduce traffic on the I-680, but if the planning is correct there would be FEWER cars on local roads. I'll agree that's a maybe and not an absolute, but it is more likely than the naysayers' scenarios.

The ramps will make it easier for high speed buses to get on and off the I-680 HOV lanes. One bus could remove as many as 42 vehicles from the I-680 and that means 42 vehicles that ARE NOT exiting the freeway onto our local roads.

The traffic going to and from Bishop Ranch in the early mornings and late afternoons already clogs up our local roads. The HOV ramps would reduce the amount of traffic during peak hours. Vehicles using the HOV ramps would be restricted to buses, carpools, and vanpools during those hours.

The assumption in the mailer is that the buses would be empty. Buses are not heavily used in this area now, but this plan is for 5 to 10 years in the future. Buses are heavily used in other localities, and could be made more attractive to more commuters if they make the commute easier, less stressful, and cheaper. The HOV ramps are designed to produce those results.

During non-peak hours the only vehicles likely to use the HOV ramps would be people coming to shop in San Ramon and boosting our sales tax revenues and the people who live in those neighborhoods who are now objecting to this. Yes they would get the most benefit from having those HOV ramps close to home, but far enough away so other traffic would NOT impact their neighborhoods.

I've driven through there and that overpass on Norris Canyon is at least half-a-mile from the closest home and up a hill. You can't even see it from San Ramon Valley Blvd. Residents in that neighborhood fear their real estate values will be threatened by the HOV ramps on Norris Canyon, but so far they haven't been hurt by proximity to San Ramon Valley Blvd. and the Safeway shopping center which are much closer.

The next false claim in RED says "The cost: $102 million taxpayer dollars." Why do I say that's a false claim? Isn't this funded by taxpayer dollars? Sort of. This is funded by the ½ cent tax on gasoline originally passed in Measure C in 1988 and extended by Measure J in 2004. The money has been piling up for years and is dedicated to highway improvements in Contra Costa County. It CANNOT be spent on anything else.

Then the mailer says, "We don't need the Norris Canyon HOV ramps." Who doesn't need them? Who is "We?" " "We" consists of those who are against the ramps, so "They" don't need them. Other people who use the freeway might need them. In fact a San Ramon resident posted a comment in Tri Valley Views lamenting the lack of shuttle busses from the Tri-Valley to Silicon Valley. He's an example of someone who would need the HOV ramps.

These HOV ramps could be very valuable time savers, traffic reducers, cost savers, and provide a safer path for children going to school, but the anti-HOV faction, which is at most a few hundred frightened, angry, misinformed, NIMBY's, don't need them. So nobody should have them.

Photos in the mailer show children trying to cross the street and one with a skinned knee from falling of his bike. Apparently the anti-HOV crowd has not been paying attention to the improvements planned for the Norris Canyon overpass.

The overpass will be widened to include bike and pedestrian paths on both sides. The on and off ramps will have stop lights. The overpass will be seismically upgraded to better withstand a major earthquake. These improvements would benefit everyone who drives, walks, or bikes over that overpass.

The HOV fighters are under the impression that our City Council can prevent this. Three candidates have promised to vote against these HOV ramps, but the project is regional and has been planned for over ten years. This isn't a local issue that can be voted away by our City Council.

This isn't even a current issue. The actual construction of the ramps isn't scheduled to begin until 2018. So maybe the scary rhetoric should be toned down for now. Halloween is coming up soon. The HOV ramps are about as threatening as the ghosts and goblins out trick or treating on October 31.