I don’t think so!!

I-680 is getting so LOUD!!

So this is not a very chipper, cheery missive for right before Christmas  (I’ll do that next week, I promise!), but this is a topic we need to talk about. Why has the life blood of this Valley (I-680) been allowed to slip into such HORRIBLE disrepair?

As a local Realtor who does most of my business in South Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville and Diablo, freeway noise is a constant topic of conversation. I live at the very, very end of Livorna Road – we back to Mt. Diablo open space – that’s how far east we are – and sometimes in the early morning  WE can hear the Freeway!

And it’s gotten so much worse – have you noticed? And not only is the noise level significantly worse – the lack of repairs is creating a dangerous road! It’s Awful!!

So what happened? We were supposed to get a repaved freeway a few years ago. I guess we should be glad that project was put on hold as at the time the resurfacing would have been done with “quiet concrete” – concrete that has little indentations (which absorbs noise) rather than little bumps (which creates noise).

It would have been quieter, but still concrete – and while the repairs would be made, the noise would still be there. In the past few years and with the wildly successful quiet pavement used on Highway 24 through Lafayette, it was determined that given our narrow Valley, it would be best to use the new rubberized surface material for the I-680 project that was to commence Spring of 2010.

Hmmmm. . . it’s Winter of 2010 you say? What happened? Blame it on the state budget debacle. All improvement projects were put on indefinite hold. Grrrrrr. . .

So last week I was working with a darling young family relocated here from Southern California (land of the labyrinth of freeways!) and they were stunned by the freeway noise. They wanted to be “close in” for commute reasons, but Mrs. Buyer is very noise sensitive and was worried about the constant hum of the freeway.

I assured her that this was a temporary situation as the freeway would be resurfaced any time now with a new rubberized material that will greatly reduce the noise level.

But then it occurred to me that I really didn’t know that to be the case. I’ve heard buzz here and there, but I really didn’t have the facts. So I went on a little crusade to find the truth! First I went to the internet of course, and got some good info from the Caltrans website, then asked a colleague of mine who has political inclinations who I should talk to? State? Federal? Local representatives?

Wow – I had no idea how confusing and cumbersome that maze is! I finally ended up at Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan‘s office (925-328-1515) where someone was very helpful, but unfortunately all wrong. They told me the project was on indefinite hold until the state budget is resolved. They referred me to someone on the state transportation board, who referred me back to Caltrans.

Good News! The project is back in gear, has been bid out and awarded to a local contracting company with work to start in Spring 2011 and be complete by Spring 2013 (yes that means two years of construction along I-680 – brace yourself for that!)

The project spans 12.8 miles from Rudgear Road in S. Walnut Creek to Alcosta Rd. in Dublin. The good news is that the road will be paved with the new rubberized pavement, using some 20,000 old tires (per mile!) that would otherwise end up in landfills – ALL GOOD! The bad news is only the freeway surface and not on/off ramps or bridges will be paved with that material. So we will still have some noise, but it will get much, much better. And talk about cost – “your tax dollars at work”!

Did you know the price of one mile of pavement is about $60,000 per lane? This rubberized material costs much more – about $93,000 per lane mile!! The total project was estimated to cost $63MM – using a combination of state and federal funds. But the low bid came in from Bay Cities Paving & Grading in Concord at $42MM. That seems like a huge difference to me. But I’m just glad the project is moving forward and will start soon!

So now when
I’m showing property in Alamo I can say with confidence that the freeway noise is going to get better – really! Unfortunately we wont have a Silent Night this Christmas, we’ll have to wait until 2013 to have some real Peace on Earth in our neighborhoods.

Finally, we can all be thankful that Santa flies through the air and doesn’t have to take the Freeway. One look at the potholes on 680 and Rudolph would have a panic attack over a potential broken ankle. And to all a good night!

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