Twice Told Tales: Grasshoppers pose crop threat

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Twice Told Tales: Grasshoppers pose crop threat

Twice Told Tales: Grasshoppers pose crop threat

60 years ago

Grasshoppers Pose Crop Threat: A grasshopper infestation in the hills south of Byron near the Alameda county line and in the foothills to the south and west of Brentwood was being closely watched with growing concern by inspectors of the county agricultural commissioner’s office today.

First noted on the Port Chicago ammunition depot inland storage area over a week ago, the hoppers have spread over the hills toward Pittsburg and eastward behind Antioch as well as several “spot infestations” near Byron.

The foraging of the hungry insects is broadening as they multiply and grow larger. So far any damage has been confined to rangeland and hill ranchers’ vegetable gardens but it is feared the insects will move down into the valley crops unless something stops them.

Against the time about two weeks from now when the hoppers get their wings, Commissioner A. L. Seely has advised householders to get supplies of insecticide to protect their lawns and gardens and said he may have to go to the Board of Supervisors for financial aid for a large-scale grasshopper control program.

20 years ago

Counties facing off over costs of Vasco Road redo: East Contra Costa County’s main commuter lifeline to jobs in southern Alameda and Santa Clara counties is fraying, but no one wants to pay the millions required to fix it.

Cheaper housing is luring thousands of people to East County, and Vasco Road is the main north-south link. Surveys show as many as 14,000 cars traverse it each weekday. Most are driven by commuters.

But the Alameda County side of Vasco Road needs about $28 million in safety improvements.

“It’s like all the other transportation projects,” said Contra Costa Supervisor Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg. “Everyone is looking to find money. But this is a question of providing safe and decent access for people who are employed in Alameda County and live in Contra Costa County.”

Turns into a bumpy ride.

Vasco Road rolls out of Brentwood in good shape. The road is wide with shoulders, slow-vehicle passing lanes and smooth pavement. The Contra Costa Water District put $40 million into a new 13-mile realignment as part of its Los Vaqueros reservoir project.

But just north of the Contra Costa County line and on into the outskirts of Livermore, the road turns bumpy and narrow. Its curves are sharp and it has 30 mph speed limits.

The Alameda County Public Works Agency estimates it would cost $28 million to improve a 4-mile segment. The worst 1-mile stretch could be fixed for $9 million.

The project would include lane widening, the addition of paved shoulders, guardrails and drainage systems, and a resurfaced roadway.

Alameda County does not consider its portion of Vasco Road a high-accident area, said Don LaBelle, Alameda County’s public works director, but as more commuters join the trek, it could get worse.

Accident statistics on the small Alameda County portion of Vasco are not available. But the California Highway Patrol has said the remodeled Contra Costa section has had dramatically fewer wrecks since opening in April 1996.

Gridlock is coming.

Today, the commute jam on Alameda County’s section is annoying but not infuriating, say some regular Vasco Road drivers.

“Vasco Road is not my nightmare. Sunol Grade is my nightmare,” said Pat Hennion, an Antioch man who drives to a Milpitas job.

Mike Wilson, who drives from his Brentwood home to Oakland daily, says the road “is usually not a problem. It does slow down if you are following a large truck going uphill.”

But it will likely worsen.

The Tri-Valley Transportation Plan estimates Vasco Road will top 1,800 cars an hour during the evening commute by the year 2010. It has 1,500 to 1,600 cars an hour today. At full capacity, the road has room for as many as 20,000 cars a day compared with 14,000 now, the study says.

The Cowell Ranch project proposed for east Brentwood could push the road toward serious congestion. An impact report on the 5,200-home project says the new residents would seriously overcrowd it.

Some say the road should be widened to four lanes and used as a major north-south commute thoroughfare between the two counties. The only other route is Interstate 680, already clogged for hours each day.

That’s the position of the Cowell Ranch developers. “We owe it to ourselves to be farsighted, because growth is going to happen. Vasco Road has to be widened,” Cowell Development Coordinator Louise Rice-Lawson has said.

“Safety improvements would be OK, and we would consider adding capacity only for ride-sharing programs such as car-pool lanes,” said Dennis Fay,  Alameda County Congestion Management Agency director. “There is only so much we can afford to build, and we need to shelter the downstream communities.”

Others say only the predominant users — Contra Costa commuters — should pay for improvements.

“Contra Costa County has created the situation. Why doesn’t Contra Costa pay for it?” asked Livermore City Councilman Tom Reitter. “They are just trying to transport their bottleneck downstream into the Tri-Valley.”

Reitter is wrong, said a former Brentwood City Council member.

Jobs created in the Livermore-Pleasanton area draw commuters who seek affordable housing in Contra Costa, said Greg Sherman, the former councilman who also commutes on Vasco Road to his job at the Livermore National Lab.

“If you people in the Tri-Valley continue to bring jobs to the area, you need to participate in the road issues,” Sherman said. “You have an obligation to pay for your impacts.”

Officials in both counties agree safety improvements are needed but the competition amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Tri-Valley alone has a list with $311 million in transportation improvements identified for possible funding through a regional impact fee, and Vasco is near the bottom of that list. East Contra Costa collects steep traffic mitigation fees from its developers as it prepares to build several major roadways including a Highway 4 bypass.

“Vasco Road is a regional problem, but I have to be able to convince the people in my district that it needs to go ahead of the Interstate 680 flyover or the Highway 84 bypass or the (car-pool) lanes on the Sunol Grade,” said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. “I don’t think I can do that.”

Robert McCleary, executive director for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, has suggested the two counties apply for federal money.

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Published at Sun, 18 Jun 2017 18:31:49 +0000