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.