At the October 16, 2012 City Council hearing for the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village, I attempted to point to an omission from the traffic component of the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
Back in 2002, a study prepared for the Mercer condos showed that when the traffic from that now completed project was factored in, the left turn movement out of Cole Avenue onto California Boulevard would operate at, or close to, Level of Service (LOS) F, the worst possible rating – and the threshold that normally triggers some requirement for remediation. There was, and still is, no traffic light at the Cole Avenue intersection. The Council at that time accepted the Mercer developer’s argument that the intersection might not operate as poorly as the LOS would indicate, so they didn’t make the developer pay to install a traffic signal.
Now, ten years later, the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village with almost 600 units will dump new traffic onto California Boulevard just a few blocks upstream from Cole, yet the Transit Village EIR didn’t even analyze the Cole Avenue intersection. If an intersection is already operating close to LOS F, wouldn’t you think that it deserves a new look when 600 units are proposed only two blocks away? That’s the question I raised at the City Council’s public hearing. As usual, the City Council thanked me at the end of my three minute testimony and asked no follow up questions – indicating that it was time for me to go sit down and shut up.
After the public comments were closed, then Council member (now Mayor) Cindy Silva made a big show of “following up” on my testimony with the developer’s traffic analyst, while deftly avoiding the issues I raised. She never asked the consultant about the 2002 traffic study I mentioned. She emphasized the fact that the intersections to both the north and south of Cole operate smoothly, and concluded that it must be valid to therefore assume there couldn’t possibly be any issues at Cole (conveniently overlooking the fact that the intersections to the north and south have traffic signals, but Cole Avenue doesn’t). The Council then voted to certify the BART Transit Village EIR and approve the project.
Now a draft EIR for a new project down the street at 1500 North California has been posted and, interestingly enough, their traffic study includes the California and Cole intersection. The study shows that the intersection is currently operating at LOS E, but with the additional traffic generated by already approved projects (12 units on Cole and 600 units at the BART Transit Village) the intersection will exceed the LOS F threshold before new traffic from 1500 North California is even considered. (And since the previously approved projects will already cause an unacceptable level of service, the 1500 North California developers aren’t responsible for fixing the situation, either.)
The Walnut Creek City Council certified that the Environmental Impact Report for the BART Transit Village was complete when clearly it wasn’t. The study should have evaluated traffic impacts at the Cole/California intersection. But Cindy Silva and the rest of the Council were only interested hearing “facts” that supported their pro-growth agenda.
Our City Council members regularly blame traffic congestion on regional issues. But they themselves are far from blameless.