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Sycamores safe for now

Council will weigh options for improved safety at a later date

Tree huggers and San Ramon residents alike may be pleased to discover that 85 trees lining the Bollinger Canyon Road will continue to shade the roadway between Alcosta Boulevard and Canyon Lakes until a final decision is reached by the City Council at a later date.

The city was planning to cut down the sycamores and replace them with smaller trees, including some evergreens, as part of a road-widening project on Bollinger Canyon. That plan came about as a result of eight accidents along an S-curve on the road over the last year or so and the potential dangers to pedestrians and bicyclists. However, after learning of the plan, some residents started a grassroots movement that gathered more than 700 signatures in days.

Collisions along the segment were mostly due to failure to maintain lane position and, in some cases, speed, according to Police Chief Scott Holder. Mayor Bill Clarkson, among other City Council members, expressed immense concern for the safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians along the specific section.

"Nobody disagrees that road is unsafe," Clarkson said.

However, residents that attended the Aug. 28 Council meeting disagreed with all decisions to remove any of the trees in order to widen the road for safety reasons.

"We moved here for the trees and the schools," said resident Darren Lee, whose children accompanied him at the podium with sentimental homemade posters regarding the trees.

Five alternatives presented by Brian Bornstein, the interim city engineer, addressed the need to widen the road in order to meet eastbound operational improvement objectives. The first, and most cost-friendly alternative at $1.1 million, was to remove all the sycamores and widen the road by four feet into the median with an estimated completion of six months. The other four options are as follows:

- Widen the right lane by 18 inches, impacting the median island by 36 inches. The project would take approximately nine months to complete and cost $2.1 million.

- Widen the lanes by 4 feet after acquiring 6.5 feet of a neighboring golf course. Estimated completion date is 2.5 to 3.5 years and would cost $3 million.

- $2.9 million: Relocate the pedestrian and bike path to the north side, widen the eastbound and westbound lanes by right-of-way acquisition. The project would take over 2 years to complete and cost $2.9 million.

- $1.5 million: Widen eastbound lanes by 4 feet but transplant 64 existing sycamore trees back into median. The project would take one year to complete and cost $1.5 million.

As residents fervently voiced their opinions on the value of the sycamore trees, another issue was pointed out about the safety of pedestrians along the sidewalk, protected by merely a chain link fence.

"All those trees are not worth one life," said Clarkson.

The Council emphasized that it is their first and foremost mission to ensure public safety. While the Council takes public concern about the fate of the trees into consideration, a temporary k-rail will be installed to act as an immediate measure to eliminate risk of vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian collisions. The installation will require the removal of the existing fence and a reduction of path width which will cost $75,000 and funding is available.


Posted by Isabel Lau, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 4, 2012 at 7:39 am

I don't understand why we are "saving" diseased trees.

That section of Bollinger Canyon is unsafe as is - the lanes are too narrow.

Re-doing this road is necessary and replacing these trees with healthy ones, and fewer of them, will go a long way to help keep our residents safe while traveling this section of the road.

Posted by Michael, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

They are saving the trees because the council doesn't have the B*lls to stand up to "tree huggers" and cut them down. Like everything else it will be put off until someone dies on that road.

Posted by mloliver, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 5, 2012 at 11:20 am


I think you mean when someone ELSE dies.


Posted by Dan, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Whoever likes to cut those trees, please travel to Westchester County, NY to try to drive along the Bronx River Parkway. Their speed limit is the same (40 mph), but the narrower Parkway runs about 20 miles. During the past 20 years, I drove on the Parkway so many times because I had to stay there for many months. I had never heard that their local residents would like to cut trees. I had seen people driving more than 60 mph, and police cars drove even faster in order to stop them. Please consider not to cut those trees.

Posted by Harry S. , a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 8, 2012 at 11:02 am

God forbid there is but one more accident on that stretch of road. $1.5 million will look like peanuts when litigation shows that public safety was sacrificed for asthetics. The city council needs to do the right thing and put pedestrian, bicycle and auto safety FIRST. Transplant the trees, widen the road and move on.

Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I can't believe that there is even a half second of debate between public safety and trees. How insane can we be? Given a choice between preventing the loss of one human life I would be willing to cut down every tree on that stretch of road. Come on people, wake up! Move the trees, let's get real here before another family has to bury a loved one.

Posted by Todd, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm

To Bob and all residents who think a wider road will save lives,
don't you think people would drive even faster with wider roads?
Do you really think it's safer?

Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Todd, as I remember that part of Bollinger Canyon, there are various issues that combined make it very unsafe. There is the narrowness of the street, combined with the sidewalk being too close, and the downhill portion allows unsafe speeds. The solution would be to move the sidewalk farther from the road. The trees where they are currently prevent that. It is true that widening the road will possibly increase the speed, but what will make it safer for pedestrians would be to get them away from the cars that might jump the sidewalk.

Posted by Dave, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm

The delay is to see if we can move the sidewalk. No one is complaining about the section near the fountain.

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