CONCORD -- The city is pursuing eminent domain to acquire the land it needs to widen Treat Boulevard at an intersection notorious for long backups during the evening commute.

The $2.8 million project is designed to improve traffic flow and increase capacity at the intersection of Treat Boulevard and Clayton Road, according to Ray Kuzbari, transportation manager.

Currently, one of the four lanes on Treat Boulevard as it approaches Clayton Road carries traffic that is turning left or going straight toward Denkinger Road.

Concord wants to buy a 16.5-foot wide strip of land from the frontage of the Bel Air Shopping Center property to shift the existing right-turn lane on Treat Boulevard. By moving that lane farther east, the city can create two left-turn only lanes and two through lanes of traffic.

The shopping center would lose 24 parking spaces. Earlier this year, the property owner rejected Concord's $361,149 offer for the land and a 12-month temporary easement so the city could stage construction equipment on-site. The two parties could not reach an agreement on the fair market value of the property, and in March Concord notified the owner that it planned to pursue eminent domain.

At the April 8 meeting, the City Council unanimously declared the property is needed for a public project, the first step in eminent domain proceedings.

"We don't want to lose the parking; we are going to lose trees, we are going to lose business during construction," said attorney Scott Jenny, who represents Bel Air Development Company.

Jenny said the city should provide a copy of the full appraisal of the property to his client.

"I suggest that he's got a right to see the full appraisal and be able to determine whether or not you guys are making a fair offer to him and maybe avoid litigation completely," Jenny said.

Jenny also said the city's resolution is vague because it doesn't indicate how many of the shopping center's three driveways would be blocked during construction or if they might be closed permanently. The owner needs that information to commission his own property appraisal, Jenny said. He also objected to the city's request for an option to extend the 12-month construction easement for three months.

Concord isn't required by law to turn over the full appraisal, said attorney Leah Castella, who is handling the issue for the city. Although Castella dismissed Jenny's claim that the resolution is vague, she noted that the city amended it to include more detail about the duration of the temporary easement.

Although the widening project has been on the drawing board for about 20 years, it has been on hold because the city couldn't secure funding, Kuzbari said. Concord plans to use $2.1 million from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and $730,000 in local matching funds -- including gas tax dollars -- to pay for the roadway improvements.

In 2013, there were 13 collisions at the intersection of Treat Boulevard and Clayton Road, placing it among the top three locations for traffic accidents in Concord, according to police.

"We're looking at this as a sorely needed improvement, not just from an efficiency standpoint, but also safety," Kuzbari said.

Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.

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