Thursday, November 03, 2005

Caltrans wants AmCan to widen Highway 29 to Napa

November 3, 2005

Caltrans wants AmCan to widen Highway 29

By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

AMERICAN CANYON - The California Department of Transportation is demanding the city widen a portion of Highway 29 to six lanes.

The city has fired back in court.

According to a Napa Superior Court suit filed Oct. 28, Caltrans has made the road widening a requirement for approving a permit to install a traffic signal at Highway 29 and Eucalyptus Drive.

The new signal is needed to accommodate the new Napa Junction mixed-use project, which will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter as well as added stores, an apartment complex, park and hotel.

The suit contends that Caltrans unfairly demanded the road widening and failed to deny or approve the permit within the legally designated 60 days. As a result, it should be automatically deemed approved.

City Attorney William Ross offered little comment on the suit Wednesday, noting that Caltrans has not yet been served, and a meeting between the agency and city officials is scheduled for today.

"It's possible the litigation would not go forward if the matter can be settled," Ross said.

Caltrans representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The widening of Highway 29 -a concept first raised in a 1985 Caltrans study but never adopted by any local planning agency - has long been a sore spot for American Canyon.

With the community already dramatically divided by the highway's current four-lane configuration, city officials have touted alternate routes such as the extension of Flosden Road to relieve traffic pressures.

The city's lawsuit claims Caltrans has been aware of the needs for traffic improvements at the Eucalyptus Drive intersection since at least 1994 when American Canyon adopted its general plan.

In October 2003, the city formally notified Caltrans of the Napa Junction project and the agency declined to participate in the state-mandated environmental review of the project, the document states.

The suit claims the city formally submitted its application for a permit to build the signalized intersection after 17 months of corresponding and attending meetings with Caltrans, which made no mention of expanding Highway 29.

Nevertheless, in a letter dated Aug. 25, Caltrans demanded the widening of the state route as a condition of issuing the permit for a new signalized intersection.

"Caltrans, for the first time, demanded that the city widen to six lanes the entire length of (State Route) 29 within the city - only a portion of which abuts the (Napa Junction) project," the suit reads.

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