This article was originally published on March 17, 2014 by the Contra Costa Times.
By Paul Burgarino
PITTSBURG — A long-sought expressway that would untangle local traffic could soon get the green light, but it could still be years away from reality.
Pittsburg recently released a final version of an environmental impact report for the James Donlon Extension — a 1.7-mile road south of the city that would run from the western edge of Discovery Builders’ planned Sky Ranch II subdivision to Kirker Pass Road.
The City Council will consider approving the report next month, but the proposal codul still face an uphill battle. If approved, Pittsburg would then work with the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission on annexation for the area around the planned alignment.
The two-lane road through the steep hilly terrain, estimated by Pittsburg to be in low $50 million range, has been part of the city’s plans for more than three decades. It is viewed as a key route to take commuters to Central Contra Costa from Antioch and farther east, moving them off Buchanan Road.
“It’s a milestone,” City Manager Joe Sbranti said. “(Pittsburg) has been looking at (the road) at least as far back as the 1980s. Now, we’re finally at a point where the Council has something to look it.”
Documents identify several “potentially significant” effects, including aesthetics, biological resources, geology and soils, noise and air quality. The study also addresses landslide prevention, crossing seasonal stream beds and the relocation of utilities.
“We know it’s an environmentally sensitive area, and we will do what we have to do to mitigate that,” Sbranti said.
The 243-page final report includes comments from government agencies, residents and regional environmental groups on the proposed expressway, along with city responses.
Concerns include how the road would affect ranching and other land uses, annexation, and accounting for stormdrains and a Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Pittsburg says the project will not require removing or displacing any homes or people, and that it will add culverts large enough to allow cattle and ranching equipment to safely cross the road.
Regional conservation groups Greenbelt Alliance and Save Mount Diablo have said that the road would require drastic cuts and extensive grading for the sloping hills and canyons in the vicinity, destroying some of the most pristine land and views in the region. Save Mount Diablo, which has retained experts and legal counsel and plans on submitting more objections to the report, says the city is underestimating the cost of the project, projecting it would cost $100 to $125 million.
“It’s a flawed document, and we don’t think it’s legally adequate,” Seth Adams, the group’s land program director, said.
Approximately 2.1 million cubic yards of grading would be required for the roadway, according to city documents.
The two groups also say the construction will prompt suburban sprawl development.
“The proposed project would not cause or contribute to ‘leap frog’ or ‘premature’ development,” according to the report. The area in question will also be zoned in Pittsburg’s general plan as open space.
Even so, work could be years away. It will also have to acquire right-of-way for the piece of the road that would bisect the Thomas Ranch property, then work on utility relocation.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
MORE INFO: To view the Environmental Impact Report on the James Donlon Extension, visit: http://www.ci.pittsburg.ca.us/index.aspx?page=745.
The Pittsburg City Council will consider adopting the environmental impact report at a meeting in April. A hearing is tentatively scheduled 7 p.m., April 7, at the City Council chamber, 65 Civic Ave.