A Bridge To The Future

Officials celebrate the completion of the Isabel Avenue interchange project that better connects Highway 84 and Interstate 580

Better traffic flow. Smoother transportation of products. BART to Livermore. Measure B on the November ballot.

All these topics were the subject of conversation Friday as local officials celebrated the completion of the Isabel Avenue interchange project at the junction of Highway 84 and Interstate 580.

The $66 million project took nearly three years to complete. It was done in three stages. The final link was the Portola Avenue flyover, which was opened on March 21.

Politicians, CHP officers, Livermore police and fire personnel, Caltrans engineers and regional transporation officials gathered under a tent in a parking lot just west of the interchange on Friday morning to mark the occasion.

"I can't overstate the importance of this corridor to this community," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who served as master of ceremonies. "It is a critical regional corridor."

Among other things, the Caltrans project widened and realigned State Route 84 near the freeway, improved local streets nearby and constructed a new full-access interchange at 84 and I-580.

Local officials told the more than 50 people gathered that the new interchange will encourage more drivers to use Highway 84 as they travel from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley. This will ease the burden on the Interstate 580-680 interchange as well as I-580 itself.

"This is one big step in improving the quality of life for this corridor," said state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan.

Buchanan, a former San Ramon Valley school board member, said she can remember when her five children were younger and had evening games and other activities in Livermore. She said she'd leave her home at 3 p.m. to avoid the late afternoon traffic on I-580.

This, and other projects, have made that drive much easier.

"What a difference these improvements have made for the people who live in the Tri-Valley," Buchanan said.

Caltrans District Director Bijan Sartipi said the new interchange also helps Las Positas College because it provides easier access to that campus.

He noted traffic from the Central Valley into the Tri-Valley is expected to rise dramatically over the next decade. He said the new interchange will more than pay for itself in improved commerce.

"This is more than just traffic. This is about our economy, too," he told Patch afterward.

Livermore Mayor John Marchand said the improvements to I-580 have also helped his city redevelop their downtown.

"This has been a long time in the works and I'm glad this day has finally come," he said.

Marchand and others also used the occasion to bring up the proposed extension of BART along I-580 to the Isabel Avenue interchange. He and others said this project would furthur improve traffic on 580.

"This project is the model we hope to use to bring BART to Livermore," he said.

Haggerty said afterward officials have put aside $100 million so far for design and other preliminary work on the BART project. He said this project isn't just about traffic, it's also an environmental issue because of the reduction in auto emissions it would bring.

"This not just a congestion issue. It's a public health issue," he said.

Haggerty and others also took the opportunity to promote Measure B on the November ballot. That initiative would provide more than $7 billion in funds for transportation projects by doubling the existing transportation sales tax and extending it forever.

The Isabel Avenue project received $45 million from Proposition 1B, passed by voters in 2006. The remaining $21 million came from federal and local funds.



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