Commuters and others traveling between East County and Central County can look forward to less traffic congestion and quicker, safer trips over Kirker Pass Road.
A new truck-climbing lane for northbound Kirker Pass Road had been fully funded and early planning is under way, according to Clayton Councilwoman Julie Pierce.
The Kirker Pass plan is for an additional 12-foot wide truck lane and shoulders for future bike lanes that will extend from Clearbrook Drive in Concord to approximately 1,000 feet east of the eastern intersection with Hess Road in unincorporated Contra Costa County.
"We have wanted to do this for 20 years," Pierce said.
Funding has been an issue because the project was too big for any one agency to do alone and too small to qualify for grants, she said. The rest of Central County waited while available state funds were used to improve Highway 4.
"Now we can do some of the other projects," she said.
Pierce represents Regional Transportation Planning Committee (TRANSPAC) and is vice chair of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, which has entered into a cooperative agreement with Contra Costa County for an estimated construction date between 2017 and 2018.
"I am very pleased to learn of this," said Laura Hoffmeister, assistant to the city manager in Clayton, and also a Concord councilwoman. "It will help the traffic flow especially in late afternoon as trucks make their last delivery out for the day and late afternoon traffic flow often starts around 3 to 4 p.m."
CCTA reports that Kirker Pass -- part of a major commute route between Interstate 680 in Walnut Creek and Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg -- is used by 1,200 trucks a day, and with multiple grades of 8 percent or more, slower truck traffic can cause cars to back up for miles during commute hours. The situation is also considered a hazard because of limited visibility in some places and the temptation to pass slower traffic in an unsafe manner.
Clayton Councilman Howard Geller said, "There definitely is a need for it. I know a person who was blinded by the sun while coming up the hill and he could not see. He ran right under a garbage truck."
Pierce said that a car coming up the hill at the speed limit may not be prepared to encounter a slow-moving truck that is just out of sight.
The $13 million needed to fund Kirker Pass project is a combination of $6.1 million in Measure J funds, $2.6 million from California State Transportation Improvement Project coffers and a $4.3 million commitment from Contra Costa County, Linsey Willis, director of external affairs for CCTA reported.
Measure J is 2004 voter-approved fund to be used for road improvements in areas with a history of heavy traffic congestion such as the Caldecott Tunnel, Highway 4 and Kirker Pass. STIP is a multiyear state fund designed to support local, county and interjurisdictional projects, including roads, highways, bike lanes and other transportation elements.
Preliminary engineering phase work is expected to begin on California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy requirements, design and right-of-way activities preparing for construction as soon as April 2017. CCTA engineers anticipate a mitigated negative declaration for CEQA and a categorical exclusion for NEPA, and expect no need for an EIR, Willis said.
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