Interstate 580 already had returned to pre-pandemic congestion and it just got much worse this week with a huge mudslide making at least one eastbound lane unsafe.
I checked in with Mike Tassano, Pleasanton’s traffic engineer, who wrote that some areas in town have returned to pre-pandemic volumes as well as I-680. Commuter buses have returned to the fairgrounds off-track betting park lot with about 500 cars a day using it. Notably, I was out on Monday and the traffic back-up on Sunol Boulevard at I-680 was minimal as was the parking lot at mid-afternoon. Come Wednesday, there were plenty of cars in the fairgrounds lot and traffic was backed up on Sunol Boulevard back into town.
It seems Wednesday is the new Monday when people are going into the office and Friday remains lighter than ever.
Tassano also noted that Foothill Road is still closed for repairs to the under-cut bank near the Pleasanton ridge parking lot and there’s construction on I-680 at Highway 84 plus occasional flooding that closed Sunol Boulevard south of Castlewood Drive.
As bad as that is, it pales in comparison to the challenges for Alameda County to repair the Shadow Cliffs cliff that fell in taking the Stanley Boulevard bike path with it to say nothing about the landslide that closed two lanes of eastbound I-580 just over the Altamont Pass. CalTrans hoped to get the road restriped this week to get four lanes functional to alleviate some of the traffic jam.
Kira and Mark Zabrowski, owners of Much Ado about Pizza in Pleasanton, will head back to Las Vegas next week to compete in their second International Pizza Challenge. In their debut last year, Kira took 4th overall for her veggie-forward Peaseblossom pizza, while Mark took 43rd internationally in the non-traditional pizza for his German-based pie.
They will be striving to improve this year after opening their take-out only storefront in the Valley Plaza Shopping Center on Santa Rita Road.
More bad news out of Sacramento after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a deal with the Legislature to put the California Energy Commission, an appointed body, in charge of overseeing the profits of California oil refiners. Newsom earlier had declared a Legislative special session to punish oil companies for the soaring gasoline prices last year. In the fall and early winter, California motorists were paying $2.70 per gallon more than the national average. California has higher taxes and different special blends for summer and winter that add to the prices. You’d never know that we pay such high taxes to drive on such poorly maintained roads.
This latest maneuver allows both the governor and the Legislature to pass the buck to the unelected board. It’s the same type of ploy that is used throughout the state on the state and regional air boards. Those boards, appointed at the state level and made up of elected officials from cities and counties on the regional boards, are immune for accountability to the voters. The Legislature gives the boards stringent climate-related goals and charges them with figuring what it will take to achieve them.
We saw that earlier this month when the Bay Area air board followed its staff recommendation to ban natural gas water heaters and forced air heaters. The low-ball estimates by the air board put additional costs at a couple of thousand dollars for the water heater and significantly more to install a heat pump instead of a natural-gas fueled heater—the reality, particularly for older homes is likely much more.
Of course, those costs mean nothing as the board rubber-stamped the recommendation despite plenty of concerns raised by contractors and others affected by the changes. The board estimated that the new rules will prevent 85 premature deaths a year as one of its justifications. How you weigh that against the economic costs, recognizing there are tradeoffs for any policy.
Incidentally, Dublin already is a step ahead (behind?) in this process. Any residential development in the city now must be all electric—no gas ranges. It was notable how quickly the Biden Administration backed away from a comment from one regulator about banning gas ranges.