Subscribe to the Napa Valley Register Please note that this site relies heavily on the reporting and the letters-to-the-editor in the Napa Valley Register. I would encourage you to subscribe here if you really wish to follow what is going on in Napa County - and to make sense of my blog. The cost is nominal compared to the major dailies, and, unlike them, the Register contains news and views that are simply unavailable elsewhere. (Also note this is not an ad: I'm sure the NVR could care less about sodacanyonroad.org)
Mar 17, 2015
Friday 9:45 am
Traffic is the most visible symptom of the development boom that is happening in Napa County and is often mistaken as THE problem. Some people at Planning Commission meetings relate stories of 1 hr commutes from Napa to Calistoga and 20 minute waits to make a left turn on to the Trail. Though disputed by traffic studies, people describe how much worst the traffic has become in the last few years. It is an issue that cuts across all of the county's interest groups. At the May 2014 joint BOS-PC meeting which kicked off the review we are now involved in, Rob Mondavi, fierce proponent of a tourist based economy, lamented the trouble he had getting out onto the Trail from his house.
Many concerned over the increased congestion have focused the blame for the increased traffic on to the ever-expanding tourism economy. The continuous traffic jam in St. Helena in the summer is entirely tourism generated. But in addition to the daily influx of the tourist population, there is the daily influx of the tourism workforce that can't afford to live in the county. And then there is the traffic generated by the expansion of industrial and housing projects in the south county. It is not just a tourism growth problem, but an urban growth problem.
Coming up from Berkeley every weekend for the last 22 years has made the growth seem somewhat like a time lapse movie, as the housing projects and shopping centers, motels, and school were added to American Canyon, and the warehouses and hotels and industrial parks rose around the airport and south Napa and as the shopping centers and waterfront projects grew along Soscol and as the lower Trail infilled in with housing projects and car dealerships. And as every road widening and signal was added along the route.
Napa County is principally accessed from the rest of the bay area by Hwy 29 from the south. Housing tracts and industrial development on the south boundary of the county along Hwy 29, concentrated there to maintain the agricultural zones to the north, have already created Napa's most consistent traffic jams. It is congested enough now that tourists (and wine travel writers) are beginning to debate whether wine tasting is worth the traffic. Yet much more housing, industrial and commercial development is already in the works..
North of this bottleneck and just south of the city of Napa the access to the valley splits with Hwy 29 on the west, and on the east a road running into downtown Napa joining eventually the charmingly named Silverado Trail along the more undeveloped eastern edge of the valley. They are connected by infrequent crossroads. In the 1960's the portion Hwy 29 at the west edge of Napa was widened into a 4 lane freeway with the intention to extend it to Calistoga. The extension was shelved after community resistance, essentially saving the vineyards of the valley, and indeed the wine industry itself, from being wiped out by urban expansion at the time.
The county has ever since resisted 4 lane development and signalization on Hwy 29 and the Trail above Napa City, and has resisted freeway development in the South County, in an effort to curb urban development. The 2007 Draft EIR done in preparation for the 2008 General Plan included a catalog of improvements necessary to mitigate the road conditions anticipated in 2030. These recommendations were dropped as being "inconsistent with the vision set forth in the general plan".
Unfortunately, building projects continue to be approved and the traffic congestion continues to mount. In 2014 Rte 12 though Jameson Canyon, linking Napa to the Centra Valley, was enlarged into a 4 lane freeway, a project pushed by Supervisor Bill Dodd, a prime force in Napa's urban development since his election in 2000 (and now as a State Senator.) Traffic jams at the 12/29 intersection, induced by the completion of the project are now significant, driving more freeway building proposals.
Given the impact that traffic is having on everyone, the County has taken steps in preparation for the months-long review of long term planning issue to take place throughout 2015-16 (now 2018). The Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency (NCTPA) [now NVTA] has commissioned the research firm of Fehr and Peers to produce a travel behavior study as part of its Vision 2040 project. I'm sure that someone can make some sense of its conclusions but the overlapping traveling cohorts and variable time periods make the numbers a bit impenetrable for the normal viewer. Perhaps for county officials as well. Unfortunately complication and confusion are always the handmaidens of profit seekers.
Update 1/8/17: It appears that since the sale of the Napa Valley Wine Train to a new owner in 2015 (it never should have been sold to a private entrepreneur in the first place) that the sensible idea of using the tracks for commuter and tourist cars is now a consideration. While the talk is only of a commute line between Napa and St Helena, the line really needs to be able to run from the Vallejo ferry terminal, to an airport parking structure to Calistoga.
NVR 1/8/17: Wine Train willing to explore employee commuter service
The Napa County Grand Jury has issued a report on the Napa Valley Transportation Agency's "Vision 2040 Plan" and it is not pleased, saying that the $250,000, 2-year effort "did not result in an actionable plan to measure and solve traffic congestion". As if the NVTA had the ability to "solve" congestion problems.
The congestion problems are simply a symptom of the amount of development taking place. As long as building projects continue to be approved in the county, bringing more workers, more deliveries and shipments and more tourists, transport infrastructure projects from trails to bus routes to light rail to freeways, which are expensive and take a very long time to complete, will never keep up with the congestion created. The solution to the congestion problem is to reduce the amount of development, unfortunately well beyond the mandate of the NVTA.
The failure of the Grand Jury report and of the CAC recommendations is that they assume that once congestion reduction measures are implemented that the congestion will be reduced. The example of the widening of Jameson Canyon to 4 lanes is instructive in this regard. As a commuter coming through the Jameson/29 intersection every weekend for the last 23 years I can testify that widening Jameson Canyon to 4 lanes not only did not relieve congestion, it has induced it to become more congested than ever. As traffic researchers know, when measures are taken to ease the flow, more development is induced by the promise that easier access is just around the corner. A vast amount of industrial development has occured in anticipation of the easier link to the central valley which filled the increased capacity even before it was operational. And now the intersection is more congested than it was before the widening.
The NTVA seems to be recognizing this paradox and in its most recent discussions is advocating not doing the proposed widening of Hwy 29 around the Jameson Canyon bottleneck. "If you build a six-lane road, traffic is going to follow," the NTVA director said. "People go where there's capacity."
In this approach they are doing the only thing they can do to relieve the congestion: insure that the congestion will become just bad enough that developers and tourists and businesses will begin going elsewhere. The alternative is that urban development will continue to consume the Napa Valley as it has the rest of the Bay Area. It is stern medicine, but necessary if the patient is to survive.
Unfortunately, without the committment from county governments to curtail development projects (the strategy that allowed the wine industry to survive in the first place), NVTA will not be able to maintain this approach for long, and the demand by those convinced that congestion can be "solved" with more infrastructure, and those who want more infrastructure to enable more development, will force the NVTA to relent. And the flood gates will be opened once again, continuing to drown the vines and open spaces of Napa County in urban sprawl.
At the Planning Commission hearing on the Nova Wine Warehouse the LIUNA union lawyer argued that cumulative traffic impacts had not been considered in the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project. Comm. Hansen, in supporting the project, stated that cumulative impacts had been considered in the Specific Plan developed for the entire district and didn't need to be considered on an individual-project basis.
The Napa Business Park Specific Plan and EIR was done in 1985. In discussing traffic impacts, it made some mitigating assumptions: by the year 2000 the Soscol/29 and Jameson/29 junctions would be grade-separated interchanges and that Hwy 29 would be 6 lanes; by 2015, the Jameson interchange would have loop ramp access and that a secondary north-south road would link the entire site. By 2015 it projected peak-hour one-way traffic on 29 at the junctions would be 3600 vehicles. (In 2019 the infrastructure mitigations are still unlikely to happen any time soon. And the actual peak-hour one-way traffic in 2015 was 4600 vehicles.)
Even with the proposed mitigations the EIR concluded:
"By the buildout condition (i.e., in 50 to 60 years, according to Table 10), traffic congestion will be a serious constraint in the planning area vicinity, assuming that current industrial characteristics, transportation patterns and habits continue well into the 21st century. Regional roadways will become congested (even with recommended improvements) and congestion on local roadways will be a serious problem."
There is a similar conclusion in the 2018 EIR which was done for the Airport Corporate Center discussed below: "Transportation impacts remain significant and unavoidable:"
Comm. Hansen is right to say that traffic impacts were considered in the Specific Plan. But then they were ignored. And the mitigations didn't happen. Whatever their real motives, LIUNA is right to bring the impacts up again. There is a legitimate question about a planning process that promotes building development, goes through an elaborate process to show the development will cause problems in the future, and then ignores the problems in the holy name of promoting growth. One questions why a planning process is needed in the first place.
Update 4/23/19The County Planning Commission will be taking up the Nova Wine Warehouse use permit application at their May 1, 2019 meeting. Agenda and Documents here.
It is 400,500 sf with parking for 263 vehicles that will add to the bottleneck and 20-40 new employees looking for housing. A Neg dec was issued with less-than-significant impacts according to staff, as usual.
The interesting thing about this project is that it has received a CEQA challenge (biological resources, air quality, traffic, stormwater) by a union, the Laborers International Union of North America representing construction workers. (This is the second project to run up against union opposition - Watson Ranch the other.) The Union's concern for the health of the environment, and its willingness to invest in the consultants and lawyers needed to protect it, is commendable - assuming no other motive. As happened with Napa Airport Corporate Center, a full EIR would probably show traffic and air quality impacts will "remain significant and unavoidable". Unfortunately, it would probably be approved anyway.
One side note: while all warehouse buildings are apparently now required to have the structural capability to support solar collectors, the county has not put in place a policy requiring the installation of panels. Instead, in approving its first solar farm and setting a really bad precedent, the County has decided to use up agricultural land for the purpose. An initial BOS discussion was held regarding solar farm regulations, and while the use of industrial buildings and parking lots was discussed as possible locations for solar farms, nothing was suggested to make it so.
It's not quite clear how the traffic analysis dropped from 4900 to 1100 trips/day - which is still a lot and caused a resident to respond: Alleviate traffic in American Canyon - not make it worse. Not to mention the cancer. Of course 1100 trips is a drop in the bucket compared to Napa Logistics soon-to-be-added 11,700 trip/day
Update 6/14/18 Nova Wine WarehouseAnother huge concrete box will be up for a use permit before the County Planning Commission on July 18th, 2018. The Nova Wine Warehouse will add 400,500 sf of space, 263 parking spaces, 80 loading bays 20-40 more employees to the congestion in this already badly congestion location. This follows the proposal down the road of another similar sized warehouse project which, unlike this one, went through the EIR process ending with a liftiny of significant and unavoidable traffic and cancer causing impacts. Will this project, and every project proposed in these two industrial zones, do anything but add to those significant and unavoidable impacts? As the EIR pointed out, there are no traffic fixes on the horizon.
There seems to be no end to the desire to link the urban sprawl of Napa with that of American Canyon to bring traffic in this bottleneck to a complete standstill while making the grand entry to the fabled Napa Valley as charming as a traffic jam on I-80 through Oakland. In an abstract effort to concentrate urban development lust in the south county, the ultimate buildout of American Canyon and of these industrial areas have never been considered from a regional traffic standpoint. Once the traffic is bad enough, the thinking seems to be, someone will build some flyovers, or freeways or something. NVTA, responsible for transportation projects in the south county, doesn't see that happening.
As an aside, in this case the project will fill in the lowlands surrounding the historic and bucolic Rocca Winery and tasting room, destroying their isolation and bringing noise and cancerous pollution from the vehicles looping around their property each day. A parking lot and blank wall of the project push up against and ignore the wooded meander of Soscol creek. This is not the 19th century. Creeks should be planned for human enjoyment, not left to become the forgotten back alleys of industrial operations.
The American Canyon Planning Commission has just approved another bunch of warehouses that will generate 4900 more trips per day to add to the traffic jam through American Canyon and south Napa that is Bottleneck Junction. Along with Napa Logistics Park it will clog up the S. Kelly Rd intersection to match the Jameson Canyon intersection. The project will also, incidentally, increase the cancer risk for American Canyon Residents!
"Air quality impacts remain significant and unavoidable:"
-"The operational emissions from the total project evaluated in the EIR exceed the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's (BAAQMD) thresholds of significance for Nitrogen Oxides"
-"A community health risk assessment was prepared because of the proximity of two residences to the project site and found that the increase in cancer risk because of the project construction and operation exceeded the BAAQMD significance threshold"
-"Project Greenhouse Gas (GHG) gas emissions would exceed the BAAQMD threshold of significance"
"Transportation impacts remain significant and unavoidable:"
-" The addition of Project traffic to existing conditions would result in the  following intersections operating at unacceptable level..."
-"The addition of Project traffic to existing conditions together with other pending projects (background development) would result in the following  intersections operating at unacceptable levels..."
-"The addition of Project traffic to projected cumulative traffic conditions would result in unacceptable levels of service at 13 intersections"
-"the proposed project may conflict with the Napa and Solano County congestion management plans"
-And "While improvements have been identified to address these impacts, most of them are under Caltrans jurisdiction and funding and plans have not been approved. Therefore, there is uncertainty about whether the improvements would be implemented, so the impacts remain significant and unavoidable"
The solution to significant and unavoidable impacts that endanger the lives of Am Can residents and make traffic worse for everyone commuting to and from the Napa Valley? Draft some Findings of Overriding Consideration. All ten findings can be questioned on their merits, but these 2 are pet peeves:
"7. The Project will facilitate the logical and orderly development of the Devlin Road corridor in accordance with the City of American Canyon General Plan and Napa County Airport"
As we know from the 2008 changes made to Napa County's General Plan to equate winery tourism with agriculture, industry insiders shape general plans to their financial advantage. American Canyon's General plan is in fact just a developer's wish list for turning raw land into buildings. Almost every square inch of the City is to be developed into housing or commercial projects and the governmental projects needed to serve them. The Land use element is here. It is ludicrous to argue that an overriding consideration to significant and unavoidable impacts is that we have a plan that creates significant and unavoidable impacts. (as does the Napa County General Plan.)
"10. The Project will contribute to the long?term fiscal health of the City by generating new taxable sales, development impact fees, business license fees, property tax, and other sources of revenue."
As Volker Eisele warned:
Development doesn't pay for itself. It doesn't. [If] you are looking at Napa Pipe now in south Napa, where a developer again is circulating memos showing how much profit it would generate, the profit might be actually true but it isn't really profit, because the cost items are all left out, whether it's traffic, clean air, noise, health, education and other items [concerning] social welfare.
Residents of American Canyon, the County and the State will end up subsidizing this project through increased taxes and bond measures to pay for the infrastructure and service costs that are never covered by the project's mitigation fees. Again ask yourself, do big city residents pay more or less in taxes to support their government? Are large cities fiscally healthier than small towns? Will the city end up spending more to maintain and service 30 acres of industrial development or 30 acres of wetlands?
The city is already desperate (with a $1.2 loss in 2016) for the revenue generated by this project to help pay for the long term burdens of previous urban development. How much will residents have to pay for the road widenings, and intersection upgrades and eventual freeways needed for the thousands of additional daily vehicle trips generated by this project and Napa Logistics Park? How much more for the services and infrastructure upgrades that an increased daily population will need?
The solution to Napa County's urban problems of traffic and lack of affordable and ever rising taxes and bond measures to pay for increased infrastructure is to stop urbanizing. Develop a general plan created by residents who must live with the results rather than businessmen who profit off it.
Update 5/24/18 Trinitas Hotel-WineryThe Trinitas Mixed Use (Marriott Hotel-Winery-Office Bldg) complex is up before the Airport Land Use Commission (County Planning Commission + 2) on June 6, 2018. It is a 253 room hotel, 25,000 sf winery (no capacity or visitation specified but 57 parking spaces allowed), 30,000 sf office bldg, and 441 total parking spaces. The notice is here The project documents are here (large file)
Is it compatible next to the airport? No less than the Meritage or the County office buildings, one would assume. Will the current traffic jam at the entrance to the airport, made that much worse by one more huge project up the road, be discussed? Probably not.
The Napa City Planning Commission seems to have focused on the uninspired architecture floating in a sea of cars. One always hopes for good urban design, but the other chain-tenant shopping plazas and car dealerships they have approved on Soscol don't offer much guidance to the designers. What was not discussed, apparently, was the impact of another few hundred vehicles coming and going each day (not to mention concerns about housing the project's workers) in this increasingly bottlenecked area of the county, once again highlighting the way in which the municipalities' development lust ignores impacts down the road (literally).
The fact that both visitors and workers are turned off by the commute is a good thing for those of us wishing to slow the urban development currently happening up valley. And that attitude seems to be taking hold in the county as well. The Napa Valley Transportation Authority recently decided against enlarging Hwy 29 at the junction. Building transport infrastructure just induces more development to fill the increased capacity, the reasoning goes. The theory, though perhaps not expressed directly at the meeting, is that you can control urban development just by making it impossible to get to the development sites. That theory was at the heart of the decision in the 1970's to stop building freeways in Napa county beyond the one small stretch through Napa City.
Unfortunately, based on approved projects, the bottleneck at this junction is only just beginning to build. Besides the many building projects in the pipeline further up valley that will be adding all of their visitors and employees to this junction, the proposed development around the junction itself, which the Marriott project again shines a light upon, is enough to make any traffic engineer blanch. It includes:
Napa Pipe: apartments, commercial space, a hotel, 3300 parking spaces
These projects will add tens of thousands of vehicle trips per day to the traffic already there. The gridlock distances and hours will continue to expand. The legal problem is that all of the developers already with approvals are now expecting government to insure that people can get to their projects, and they will exert a lot of pressure. And the municipalities, concerned as always only with economic expansion and no concern about the urbanizing pressure their developments exert on the unincorporated county, have no interest in limiting access. Even residents who see the value of preserving what is left of unurbanized Napa will not tolerate an hour to get through the junction for long. And, because these are state highways, Caltrans will be forced to do something. The county's desire to disincentivize urban growth by limiting access will be forced to mitigate the traffic they have already sanctioned before they can implement a restriction plan - or be sued. The road will have to be widened to 6 lanes and the Soscol flyover built. Napa residents and state residents will have to come up with the money to do it. But what happens after that? Once built the increased access will induce more development. And so on.
Controlling urban growth by limiting access is only half of the solution needed. The other must be to stop granting use permits and building permits, based on the unacceptable impact they will have to the access needed for businesses already in existence and those already approved. Unfortunately, since the Marriott is within the city's southern gerrymander, little can be done. But if the county is serious in their access restricting strategy, then the next step beyond saying no to infrastructure projects is to start saying no to new development throughout the county. It is either that or to begin making plans for the Hwy 12 and 29 freeways that will inevitably be necessary.
At every planning hearing, government officials and some residents have stars in their eyes over the tax revenues and fees projects are expected to bring. It is only years later that the real cost of those approvals are known. The widening of Hwy 29 and the Soscol flyover will cost about $150 million - just one of numerous infrastructure and service costs taxpayers must bear to insure that developers can make profitable investments. "Development doesn't pay for itself. It doesn't." Volker Eisele is sorely missed.
American Canyon officials, in continuing to pursue their long term vision of urban development, want residents to believe they can relieve the congestion on Hwy 29 that they have already created by building more roads. In fact this road is being built to make future development possible. Unfortunately, publicly financed road improvements are seldom about alleviating congestion, but are portrayed as such to develop public support to get them approved. This project is a perfect example. To reduce congestion this project allows the construction of Watson Ranch (1250 units of housing, a hotel, school and commercial center), and opens up another 87 acres for the development of light industrial projects and housing tracts. How much congestion will actually be reduced when the tens of thousands of daily trips created by these projects are added to existing traffic conditions?
The reality is that publicly financed road improvements are almost always an effort to facilitate future development, not to relieve congestion. The developers, well connected to the government planning process, tout the relief of congestion and future tax revenues at the planning stage, but, after making their profits, leave taxpayers to deal with future infrastructure costs caused by the increased population and traffic. It is the vicious cycle of urbanization that falsely promotes future development as a remedy for the adverse impacts of previous development.
Traffic congestion will not be improved by more development.
Another issue mentioned in the article is the revenue sharing agreement that must be reached with the County. In Sept of 2018 the County decided that they needed a cut of future taxes that were generated by the development on county land that gets annexed to the municipalities. Fair enough. But it is worth mentioning again that the County now has a profit motive in the annexation of ag land for more profitable urban uses. The commitment to protect open space adjacent to the cities has become an even tougher decision to justify. Unfortunately, annexation of County land by municipalities needs only the consent of the BOS and does not fall under the limitations on General Plan amendments, Policy AG/LU-110 (Measures J and P), that require voter approval.
I think that the Vine Trail, and the promotion of bicycling as one more recreational experience in the Valley, may benefit some residents hardy enough to walk or bike or scooter (or golf cart!) a distance to work or who seek an alternative to the gym. But, imagining the number of families encouraged to drive here from afar in SUVs loaded with bicycles solely to enjoy such a well promoted attraction, I fear the effort will do little to reduce the county's traffic congestion or GHG's. Nor will the other modest policies and mitigations of the Update, that largly encourage more urban development as a cure for the traffic impacts of previous urbanization.
The most interesting of the public comments is the Department of Transportation letter. While the wine industry keeps touting their "data" that only 20% of Napa's traffic goes in and out of winery driveways, the Department of Transportation has a less sanguine view of impact of tourism traffic to the Napa Valley. Their comments on tourism, the most extensive of the letter are worth noting:
"Wine tourism produces significant economic benefits for the County and State but is also a significant contributor to VMT and other transportation impacts. We are concerned about the direct and cumulative impacts from the expansion of the wine industry and related tourism sector, and that without significant mitigative action, the County's policy goals will not be reachable ...
The County should study implementing both a fast, convenient transit service from San Francisco to Napa, so tourists aren't forced to rent cars to reach their destinations, and a bus/transit loop that stops at the most visited wine and hospitality destinations. This could be modeled on the hop on/off bus services that run in most major cities. Such a service could also benefit the employees of wineries and hospitality sites, especially if paired with express bus service from residential areas."
Their suggestions obviously posit a concentration of wine tourism activities, as do other letters. Policy CIR-3 recommends urbanized areas for new commercial development, but since the County refuses to consider winery tourism to be a commercial activity, it has no policy on their placement. The County's lack of a policy, in fact, encourages new wineries that disperse visitors and hospitality employees into areas of the county more remote and less costly than the main tourism zone. Not only does that substantially increase VMT to access tourism venues, but when visitors or employees must travel the last miles on remote hilly roads not served by public transport, they are unlikely to choose alternative transport to get to Napa in the first place.
"In general, the revised text in the current Draft Circulation Element reflects the recent shift in transportation planning principles, wherein less emphasis is placed on modifying the roadway network to optimize automobile movement. Instead, emphasis is placed on maintaining the existing system; ensuring adequate and safe transportation options for all users, regardless of income level, age or physical ability; and enhancing the efficiency of the transportation network by reducing single-occupant automobile trips. Cascading benefits of reduced vehicle trips include improvements in air quality and public health, as air pollutants from vehicle emissions are reduced and people are provided better opportunities to utilize more active transportation options (walking and bicycling)."
Restating the concept that growth of the road system is to be shunned in favor of other transport alternatives is good. But it ignores the reality of the situation. 90% of the movement in the county happens over roadways. Reducing Napa's road traffic to, say, 80%, equivalent to the rest of the Bay Area with it's greater density and BART service, would be a laudable goal and a miracle if it actually happened. That still means that the vast majority of new traffic, that created by the enormous quantity of approved but as yet unbuilt building projects in the county (including at least 150 winery projects), will be adding to a road system that is already annoyingly congested. And neither the County nor the Municipalities have given any indication that they are going to curtail the rate at which new projects are being approved.
Where are the new zoning policies, like the original Ag Preserve, in which the goal is to slow development and population growth to "protect the County's rural character"? Instead all of the County's zoning restrictions have been relaxed to allow ever more construction and jobs and people on "agriculturally" zoned land. The commitment to hold the line on roadway enlargement, while a decent goal, rings hollow in the absence of real effort to slow the traffic-generating urban growth that drives the need for road enlargement.
One of the most significant changes in analysis presented in the Update is the change from LOS to VMT in looking at the traffic impacts of projects, a change based on new CEQA guidelines regarding VMT. Rather than concentrating on the congestion created by the project at particular times at intersections (and the mind-numbing atomization of traffic to a particular hour on a particular day), now the total vehicle trips generated by a project becomes the critical element in the analysis. (How the miles traveled in each trip are calculated seems still to be defined.) Policies CIR-37, CIR-38 and CIR-39 all present a commitment to evaluate and to reduce VMT on a project basis.
One argument advanced in the Mountain Peak hearings highlighted the 44,000 6-mile long trips (now down to 36,000) to the winery from the Trail each year which would generate 260,000 VMT, 10 trips around the earth. Much more if the distance from the owner's tasting room in downtown Napa is used. The argument didn't seem to have an impact.
Winery development now taking place is most often driven by their utility (and profitability) as tourism venues rather than processing plants. The use of VMT as a development metric should highlight the wisdom of an approach to tourism planning that is based on transporting guests and employees to even the most remote corners of the county to taste wine and have lunch, rather than concentrating those activities in a more GHG friendly central locations. Is such a distributed development pattern justified when reducing VMT becomes a prime goal in the County's Circulation Element?
POLICY CIR-37 indicates that "the County will support measures that eliminate or reduce the length of vehicle trips." To do that, the policy suggests building more housing so employees can live in-county, shuttles, shared parking with other development, mitigation fees to fund alternative transport. Will new affordable housing actually reduce VMT? Affordable housing funding is dependent on a large increase in overall urban development, as Napa Pipe shows, which brings even greater transport impacts. New market rate homes might be affordable for some workers, but they might also become weekend retreats, Airb&b venues, or bedrooms for SF commuters adding to overall VMT. Shuttles, or an expanded VINE system, may help if they're free (paid for by mitigation fees and TOT perhaps) to compensate for the loss of automobile flexibility. Shared parking lots - little impact. And how much must be charged in mitigation fees to make a difference on the major transportation infrastructure projects ultimately needed to change driving habits. The amount raised would likely be insufficient to fund station signs in a mass transit system.
POLICY CIR-38 asks that proposed projects evaluate their VMT with the aim of reducing that number by at least 15%. "Evaluate their VMT" means that metrics will be established for a standard VMT per project and then that standard will be reduced by mitigations like van-pooling or bicycle racks or charging stations. But how are the standards set? Anything above zero VMT is adding to the problems of climate change. This increases rather than reduces the problem. (And naturally there will be an incentive for consultants to inflate the initial VMT numbers in order to present subsequent reductions.)
What the County's VMT-reduction policies don't consider is a change in zoning to discourage development. The list of potential development projects in the zoning code for AP and AWOS properties is extensive. (Now including Solar Farms!). The best way to reduce VMT is to reduce the potential that development projects will be proposed in areas away from major transport corridors. By limiting even further the potential for building development in the AWOS areas (perhaps by redefining "agriculture" in County code back to its dictionary definition) not only is Napa County doing its bit to curb VMT GHG's, but it is also providing further protection against urbanization so that Napa may remain an agricultural economy for the next 50 years, a goal explicit in the visions of the General Plan and its Elements, but ignored in the planning approval process which concentrates on (often meaningless) mitigations to allow building development to proceed in the face of obvious degradation of those visions.
The County Planning Commission was given an introduction to the first draft of the new Circulation Element that will eventually replace the current one in the General Plan. Public comments may be submitted to the county staff through June 1st after which the staff will address the comments and produce another draft of the element by this summer. And then there will be planning commission hearings on that draft.
From the staff presentation it seems that the new circulation element will emphasize policy aimed at reducing Greenhouse gas emissions, and as such will work in tandem with the county's stalled Climate Action Plan which may be taken up by the commission in June.
Commission discussion ranged from more electric charging stations to public transport to more affordable housing and the need for regional solutions. The discussion seemed focused at mitigations for problems we already experience or that can be expected in the future. No one talked about reducing the root cause of traffic increases, i.e. the amount and type of tourism and industrial development occurring in the county that generates more traffic and encourages visitor and employee travel. No one ever discusses the possibility of moving from a growth mentality that assumes an ever larger economy with ever more development to the consideration of policies for a stable economy with a finite limit on growth that gives the opportunity to stabilize emissions and then perhaps find ways to reduce them. Reductions in existing GHGs are hard, production of new GHGs from more development and population importation are way too easy, and a net reduction in GHG production will never be achieved as long as "growth" rather than stability is the goal.
In public comments after the discussion Dave Whitmir, who will shortly be replacing Comm. Basayne on the planning commission, spoke about some initial suggestions in looking at the new policies. Despite a concern over his opposition to measure C, one issue he brought up made caught my attention:
"Regarding Circulation policy CIR 36 (pg 20 here): Should there be an action item for this policy to review the new development approvals and insure that roads are adequate for the demands placed upon them? And I would specifically call out some recent approvals on Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak and the concerns of resident in those areas about whether or not those roads are safe to handle that kind of traffic."
The wording doesn't quite make clear whether he is calling for re-thinking further commercial development on problematic rural roads, or for improving the roads so that these rural areas can be further urbanized. I want to believe the former.
Another study - when it's already incredibly apparent that the only relief for American Canyon's traffic problems at this point is a freeway around, or through the middle of, the town.
Much like the up-valley people critical of the profusion of event-center wineries pushing the levels of tourism into the county (a charge vehemently denied by the wine industry - "we're just catering to the tourists that are already here") at least two of the 5 city council members want impact fees on wineries to cover the costs of road improvements. Despite denials from the wine industry and their minions in the county government, these city council members see a link - as I do.
But it's a bit ingenuous to try to re-focus the blame, even if somewhat justified. The Am Can city council, encouraged by the development entities that control it, has approved enormous amounts of industrial development and housing development and they are probably going to approve more. They have never done anything within their power to slow traffic creating development.
The concept that somehow the problem can be studied away while the building boom continues unabated is a bit naive. As with every "growth" problem in Napa County, the real solution is to stop growing. The idea that an economy must be always growing, with ever increasing jobs, ever increasing construction, ever increasing profits is a 1% solution promoted by the 1% that receive the profits. The other 99% must just accept more traffic, more urbanization, more taxes, and a loss of a quality of life inherent in being in a small town.
It is a battle worth waging, and is being waged, rather unsuccessfully, up valley. But given the projects already approved, the large industrial commitment that Am Can and Napa have already made, the Napa Pipe mega-project already under construction, and all those approved hotels and wineries that will soon need tourists and employees, the outlook is a little bleak to solve the traffic problems in American Canyon - beyond a 65mph bypass.
It is not an outcome that I would want; a massive traffic jam in American Canyon and around the airport is one of the most reliable ways of cooling development lust further up the valley. The NVTA recognized the same reality in considering not to pursue a highway widening between American Canyon and Napa. It is unfortunate, but at this point it is a zero sum game - solving American Canyon's traffic problems means increasing the rate of urbanization in the rest of Napa county.
The title of the article might also be "Bridge toll increase needed to facilitate urban growth in Napa County". In many places urban growth may be desirable and unavoidable. In Napa, nominally committed to preserving agriculture, the anthesis of urban development, the necessity of urban growth has been answered with "no" for 50 years. Yet, developers are irrepressible, and projects keep coming, and the traffic keeps increasing. As the flyover attests, the infrastructure lust to support future development (in the name of alleviating existing ills) is really, well, ramping up.
Is this story about concerned citizens objecting to traffic or the mysteriousness of the concerned citizens? I can't help but think that the writer of the headline had an opinion here, not reflected in the story itself.
The reality, left undiscussed in the article, was the fact that Napa Logistics Park, while generating a lot of traffic, is just a part of the traffic that will be generated by the many other projects approved between American Canyon and Napa. Some of those projects are discussed here. And then there is the enormous number of projects that have been approved in Napa and Up Valley all of which will add to the traffic in American Canyon.
Napa Logistics Park will add 5800 more workers to the traffic jam known as American Canyon. Does anyone really think that CalTrans or local taxpayers are going to build road extensions and interchanges and highway widenings faster than the developers add projects and jobs and tourist destinations throughout the county? Hundreds of acres of open fields between Am-Can and Napa are slated for industrial development beyond this humongous project, bringing tens of thousands of employee cars and transport trucks. A couple hundred more projects are in the works throughout the county: housing, commercial centers, resorts, event centers, Costco, Napa Pipe and Watson Ranch, all their traffic trying to make their way through the already congested interchanges of American Canyon and South Napa.
This is one of the few government acknowledgements that road widening doesn't relieve traffic congestion, it enables future development and induces traffic increases to fill the lanes available, a fact already known to traffic researchers. This comes one day after the City of American Canyon presented their plans to widen Hwy 29 to encourage more development. The NVTA director then took issue with the reporting on this article in an editorial here. Kudos to the NVTA.
10/4/16Dignitaries always flock to ribbon-cutting photo ops, but established traffic findings throw a damper on the champagne.
Research at UC Davis -- one of the best in the nation on traffic studies -- has shown that the widening of traffic arteries does not alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, as Professor Susan Handy who was a contributor to that research explained during her last April's presentation at the NV2050 Forum on the Tourism Economy, the widening of traffic arteries alleviates traffic congestion for between one and two years and then makes congestion even worse than it was before. Though Caltrans has not yet adopted that policy, it has posted it on its website. In the face of overwhelming evidence, it will surely follow in time.
That the widening of arteries alleviates traffic congestion is intuitive but the reason why it makes it worse is more complicated.
During the congestion easing phase, all traffic increasing projects which undergo CEQA review evaluate current traffic conditions and are given a green light on their traffic impacts which they might not have gotten had those improvements not taken place. In other words, more traffic-increasing projects are approved than would have been otherwise. This facilitates more traffic until the previous saturation point is reached. But the net effect is that more traffic is dumped on the side streets of communities and overall congestion gets worse. Not to mention increased parking requirements.
A great example of this pattern is the Highway 29/Trancas Street underpass. For those who remember traffic conditions before those improvements more than a decade ago, there was a bottleneck at that location but nowhere else further Upvalley. That ribbon cutting celebrated the easing of traffic congestion. But here we are today, the percentage of pass-through traffic remains at less than 10 percent, but additional development was facilitated by valid CEQA review and here we are with the intolerable conditions of today.
It is great that the eyesore utilities have been placed underground and that the easier left turns will facilitate better traffic flow for a while, but overall traffic will increase because of them. When the rest of the developed world is abandoning traffic lights in favor of roundabouts, St. Helena will get one more of those traffic-delaying relics to facilitate an unwise development project. Make no mistake; even more development will slip under the CEQA radar during the coveted window and the quality of life of local up-valley communities will suffer.
It takes forever for OTS to finish a year (in this case 2014) because they have to gather vehicular Collision data from over 360 separate police agencies in California and compile it into a statistically meaningful report. My understanding is the state uses this data to dole out highway funds (think 'blood alley' which was that stretch of Hwy 101 on the way to Salinas back in the 70's and 80's. Caltrans spent big $ to make it safer)
So how this highly statistical report works in broad, general terms is that it looks at:
Collision data from each of the 58 counties in California,
The number of accidents of different types, then,
The OTS compares that information to both the 'population of each county' and also the 'estimated number vehicle-miles driven in that county', then,
OTS develops this data into a ranking system whereby each county is ranked, apples to apples, against all other 58 county.
So say for calendar year 2014, Napa County is the 7th worst county in California in the category of "Total Fatal and Injury" accidents. It's ranking is expressed as "7/58" or using words "Napa County is the 7th most dangerous (or worst) county out of the 58 counties in California when measuring the total number of fatal and injury accidents".
I added a color coding scheme to help with the interpretation the data, please refer to the Color Coded Legend at the bottom of the page. This is solely my own idea and not that of the OTS. I did Napa County and Sonoma County.
Napa Traffic Accidents 2008-12
Sonoma Traffic Accidents 2008-12
I think the data tells an important story but I will allow you draw your own conclusions regarding the meaning of this information.
While 2 weeks is not enough time to gage the workability of any pilot project, much less something as game-changing as getting people to stop using their cars, the attempt is to be commended.
$440/day per bus? The County spends $6 million dollars each year to bring more tourists here, resulting in the need for ever more workers to tend to them, ever bigger traffic jams on Hwy 29 and ever more taxes to beef up the infrastructure. If they reallocated funds for just one year, they could fund about 4 free 50-person buses for the next 10 years, while slowing the tourism binge that is adding to the traffic, housing and infrastructure problems.
That would be pilot program with a chance to succeed.
The comments below (one of many posts on the SCR Traffic Issues page devoted road widening) highlight why transportation improvements will not relieve the congestion they are touted to fix but will, in fact, cause the pace of urban development to increase, increasing the congestion and eventually encouraging urban uses to swallow up agricultural land. Napa agriculture has survived this long in the bay area because the road widening mania of the 60's and 70's was thwarted by resident vintners and growers interested in preserving their industry and way of life. With the wine industry now dominated by corporations and good-life entrepreneurs promoting tourism, traffic problems have become a major obstacle. Increasing urban development in Napa County is, of course, what Bill Dodd and now Sup. Pedroza were placed in office to do.
12/12/2015 Derek Anderson, running for supervisor against Mark Luce in the 2016 election, has just penned an interesting editorial asking taxpayers to "widen our main transportation arteries thought the valley, from American Canyon to Calistoga" in order to "fix" our traffic problems.
Southern Crossing - 8 lanes
Hwy 29 - 6 lanes throughout
Silverado Trail - 4 lanes throughout
Soscol from 29 to downtown- 6 lanes
American Canyon Rd - 6 lanes
Six Flags to Am Can Rd - 6 lanes
Green Island Rd - 6 lanes
Deer Park to Angwin - 4 lanes
Hwy 128 - 4 lanes throughout
The DEIR rejected these mitigations saying "While the above roadway improvements would reduce the peak hour and daily levels of service to acceptable levels, [these] improvements are not considered feasible given the environmental effects associated with the roadway widening and these improvements world be inconsistent with the vision set forth in the General Plan Update. The following statement from the Summary and Vision section of the proposed General Plan Update summarizes the Coutny's provisions: ' This General Plan will preserve and improve the quality of life and the rural character of the County by proactively addressing land use, traffic, and safety concerns in addition to sustaining the agricultural industry.' Widening of these roadways would result in more severe environmental impacts (beyond what is addressed in this DEIR) associated with visual resources, water quality, noise, air quality and growth inducement."
In all probability the wine industry exists because of road widenings that were opposed in the 1970's, leaving only the orphaned stretch of freeway along the west side of Napa CIty, the only bit of freeway in the county. While road improvements are often promoted as relieving congestion, their actual function is to make further development possible and inevitable. (We need only look at the recent widening of Jameson Canyon and its impact on the intersection with Hwy 29 pictured in the map at the top of the page, or the 29/Trancas underpass, to realize that widenings don't relieve congestion - they just bring more traffic.)
Had freeways been built into and through the valley as originally envisioned it is highly unlikely that the agricultural use of the land could have held out against the pressure for more urban development. The people and government of Napa county have long recognized the role of road building as a precursor to urban development and wisely shunned it even in the knowledge that, as the 2007 DEIR indicated, the unmitigated impact of traffic congestion will result.
In Mr. Anderson's call for road widenings, we begin to see the shift in development interests that continuing tourism development is beginning to bring. While traffic congestion affects all, it has become a major impediment for the growth of the tourism industry, a constant complaint in travel articles written about the county. So far many vintners seem to believe that they can have it both ways, the financial benefits of ever increasing tourism without a development impact on the agricultural resource that is the base of their industry. They feel that the development impacts can be contained with in the RUL's of the municipalities while they continue to develop their wineries, pretending that their new buildings and parking lots are a part of an agricultural process, when they are in fact an urban expansion of tourism venues into the vineyards. The need for more wineries to process Napa grapes has long been fulfilled. The need for more roads to access the ever increasing winery venues is becoming critical to the tourism industry.
There is a need for alternatives to begin to confront the congestion we have, a light rail system, a realistic bus system, worker or tourist shuttle systems (and not helicopters!). But those will only help if the amount of development currently occurring stops. Just as with road widenings, transport systems will never keep up with developers. It is time to visualize a stable economy and amount of development that the county's agriculture can support, and reject an ever expanding economy that will eventually consume agricultural land to keep the expansion going.
The call for road widenings is not really to relieve existing congestion but to allow further tourism development to proceed. A cascade of further development will come in its wake. The traffic problems will never be "fixed". If Mr. Anderson's vision of road building is realized, as has been feared and rejected in the 1970's through 2007, it will be the end of Napa's great experiment in maintaining an agricultural preserve in an urban world.
Update 3/8/18In response to a proposed community meeting on mass transit in Napa, George Caloyannidis, who has written on the issue of induced traffic created by highway expansion here, sends along this comment on the subject:
How can anybody be against mass transit in the Napa valley? For most, it is a no-brainer!
I am one of them:
We learned from the U.C. Davis study that widening highways does not relieve congestion for more that 1-2 years. After that, the increased carrying capacity reaches its new level of maximum tolerance delays as long as the demand to reach a certain destination also increases.
Mass transit has the same effect on highways. It relieves highway congestion for a while and then the level returns to its previous levels.
Once this phenomenon is understood, devastating effects follow.
During the 1-2 traffic relief years, CEQA analysis for projects in the pipeline are approved based on the current relaxed traffic patterns. These projects which would not have been approved were it not for the widening of a highway (or due to mass transit) are approved. This increases demand. The end effect is that more and more people end up in a given community.
In the Napa valley, more and more people will visit, more wineries, more hotels, restaurants, more low paid workers, higher demand on the infrastructure, water, etc. In addition, our small communities will require more public services, police, fire, EMS etc., all resulting in higher costs borne by the residents.
While mass transit seems as if it solves a problem, it actually makes it worse than before.
The city of Los Angeles has a new underground Metro network. Over the years, traffic has increased dramatically and high rises (apartments, condos and retail) have emerged within 2 miles around Metro stations. A whole new density and infrastructure has emerged solely created by the Metro service.
It appears that since the sale of the Napa ValleyWine Train to a new owner in 2015 (it never should have been sold to a private entrapreneur in the first place) that the sensible idea of using the tracks for commuter and tourist cars is now a consideration. One inexpensiive solution is field tested here. While the talk is only of a commute line between Napa and St Helena, the line really needs to be able to run from the Vallejo ferry terminal, to an airport parking structure to Calistoga.
But one thing should be made very clear in all these discussions of alternative transportation: they will only, at best, serve to reduce the rate of increase in road traffic in the future, not decrease it. Development projects representing thousands (if not tens of thousands) of new trips each day have been approved or are in the planning pipeline, and more will continue to be proposed. Effective public transit projects take decades to realize, and will always lag the urbanization they attempt to mitigate.
Most of the article was devoted to the issue of cycling (and walking) as a solution to traffic problems and the paucity of funds to make it a reality. I rode a bike to work during my 15 year professional career and I'm not unsympathetic to the idea of using bikes where possible. But as a transportation solution to reduce the hundreds of thousands of daily portages necessary to make society function, predictably in all weather, bicycle lanes are really just a sop built to placate the roomful of vocal activists that show up at every meeting seeing their spartan self-righteousness as a planetary solution. Accommodating bicycles costs a lot of money that might be devoted to real transport solutions - like the use of the wine train tracks as a cable car-styled people mover up and down the valley (feasibility tested here), or a wine-industry-subsidized hospitality-, winery- and farm-worker transport van system linked to parking structures at the airport. Or perhaps for the education and support necessary to reverse population growth and the need for ever expanding transport networks (my own self-righteous planetary solution).
A discussion on one solution with very long odds of success, building affordable housing for the workforce in Napa County, was discussed at a community meeting here: Panel looks at ways to keep Napa affordable. They saw no easy solutions. Napa Pipe, in one of the most ambitious efforts to add affordable housing to the county, will actually be creating more low paid commercial, hotel and nursing home employees in the project than than can fit in the 190 affordable units proposed.
One proposal not brought up: having developers pay for the real costs, in housing needs, community and transport infrastructure, community services etc, etc, that their development schemes create, but which remain unfunded. The full impacts of development need to become part of the developer's decision to add more people to the county.
For some time now, many of us have been pointing out both in the press and in testimony at the Board of Supervisors what is now evident to anyone living in the Napa valley that the protections mandated by the State throughthe California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been falsely applied byNapa County and our up-valley cities in as much as they have consistently been applying very limited radius of impacts and neglecting to observe the mandated cumulative impacts of "future, likely projects" labeling them as"speculative". How speculative is it that one day someone will build a home,a winery, a hotel on an appropriately zoned property they own when a neighboring property has received similar approvals?
Anyone doubting the effects of this failure, can experience the nightmare of Napa valley traffic as compared to just a decade ago. And yet, though through-traffic has remained steady below 10%, our officials have been telling the public that all the projects they have been approving from winery visitations to resorts and hotels have "less than significant"impacts or that their impacts have been mitigated. At this point, only ourSupervisors continue to live under this illusion. And it is not just traffic. This extends to less obvious impacts on the rest of the general infrastructure which will come home to roost at the cost of tens and hundreds of millions.
From a wider county-wide perspective, the motivation is also that of any given jurisdiction bullying itself to infrastructure share advantage. Which brings us to the victimization of American Canyon.
As an example, just the two approved Calistoga resorts will generate 2,900 daily vehicle trips, added to the County's bit by bit tens of thousands of winery and events visitors. These approvals never cared to factor in their impacts on American Canyon as they should have. Now a mere 6,300 peak hour vehicle trips the three American Canyon projects will generate, pose almost insurmountable CEQA mitigations thanks to years of myopic government policies.
If one were to roll back the clock by several decades and had considered where most residential, commercial and industrial development in the county ought to have been, it is obvious American Canyon would have been the choice, leaving agricultural lands in true conservation status and the three small up-valley towns as true to character as possible. Most large commercial activity as the Napa Airport Corporate Center and the Napa Logistics Park and the 1,250 homes and apartments at Watson Ranch and space for others for affordable housing in sufficient numbers, would be in the least impacting location. That model would have required leadership towards some revenue sharing, a leadership we never got.
Now as late comer to the game, American Canyon realizes it has been duped by the up-valley gradual, massive accumulation of fake "less than significant impacts" now strangling its ability to develop regionally wise projects, all of which diversify the vulnerable, fluctuating, monoculture-tourist economy we rely on and provide much better paying jobs than it does.
Where has visionary government been?
When will County policies stop being beholden to the wine-tourism special interests? Who will take the lead to develop the comprehensive vision which will safeguard the remaining resource? The already compromised quality of life? Who will muster the courage to say "yes" to the right projects and "no" to the ones CEQA is supposed to insure us against?
The sad reality is, we have run out of infrastructure capacity. Building it out to the 6-lane freeway to Yountville and 4-lane freeway to Calistoga and re-designing dozens of dysfunctional intersections as the County Draft EIR predicted years ago with the full knowledge of the Supervisors, will not only cost hundreds of millions but will deliver the final blow to the Napa valley. This will seal the legacy of decades of county governments.
Update 12/7/16: At the Dec 7th Planning Commission meeting during the often very informative commissioner comments at the end, Comm. Cottrell referenced Gary Margadant's cumulative traffic impact comments earlier. Dir. Morrison jumped in to point out the the general plan has a traffic element which looks at cumulative impacts and that the county is in the process of updating that element due to be finalized next year. This prompted Comm Scott to ask if there aren't some steps that the Commission or the Board could be taking to alleviate the concerns over cumulative traffic impacts that are going to be brought up during all the development projects they will unquestionably approve going forward. Is there a congestion trigger that would allow the county to begin working with the state to come up with solutions?
Dir. Morrison, always the realist, said that there is no threshold on traffic congestion beyond which action must be taken. Look at Los Angeles. In any case, the congestion at major intresections in Napa is a State issue to be taken up with the NVTA, and beyond the purvue of the County Board. (Comm. Scott, perhaps injudiciously, did mention that Napa now has one of its own in state government who might help.)
Comm. Gill, always with a bon mot in favor of more development, added that traffic in Turlock is even worse, and while Napa's broken finger may hurt, think of the poor people suffering a broken leg. Get over it.
The congestion at intersections around the airport (and through American Canyon) are already at level F (the worst on the traffic scale). Reasoning that the project will only add 345 vehicle trips/day (less than a 1% increase to the backup), and won't change the F designation, the project traffic impacts are deemed "less than significant". It is the kind of head-in-the-sand rationalization that is made for each and every development project taking place in the county: one less-than-significant impact after another adding up to one hugely significant traffic jam.
Barry Eberling indicates some of the future projects in the immediate vicinity that will be contributing to the congestion. But he neglected to mention the Napa Pipe project (with its 950 housing units and a Costco) and the huge expansion of the Meritage Resort both at the Soscol junction. And he also didn't mention the dozens of building projects now in the works further up the valley that will require hundreds of employees and thousands of tourists. All are approved without a thought to the interchanges around the airport.
This project is different from all others, of course. The purpose of the buses is to reduce traffic congestion. And this is where the real failure of imagination in this project lies, because it is not seen as an opportunity to highlight the need to reduce congestion in a meaningful way.
For what it's worth (not much I suppose) I would like to propose an expanded vision of the project: Empty busses going to and from the bus facility are just a (rather lengthly) addition to the traffic jam and the county's GHG's. If those busses were full of workers or tourists when they leave the facility, they would be actually taking vehicles off the road in the rest of the valley. I would propose that instead of the 75 at grade employee parking spaces, what is needed is a 750 car parking sturcture. Purchasing an all-day parking slot would come with a free all-day pass on the Vine buses.
The parking structure and pickup station could be located on some other nearby property, preferably next to the potential light rail corridor a few hundred yards to the west (proposed in this Napa Pipe addendum) , and this project would remain as it is. But the time to be thinking about a longer term solution to the Napa Valley traffic problem and a decent public transport system is long past due. Noisy, cumbersome, diesel buses are frankly a pathetic solution to our transport problems, and must be considered only as a stop gap measure. Perhaps, the sleek trams that bring visitors into the pedestrian-oriented city center of Strasborg, enjoyed on a visit this last summer, can inspire greater imagination.
Subject: Fwd: Napa County RSS
Date: April 14, 2016 11:51:25 AM PDT
To: David.Morrison@countyofnapa.org, Steve.Lederer@countyofnapa.org
David, Steven, Rick
Please see the following email with my comments to Nate Galambos concerning the Napa County Road and Street Standards. I believe this to be a modest proposal to help the residents, planners and industry begin a conversation on cumulative impacts that are beginning to appear on all roads in Napa County.
We, NapaVision 2050, are particularly interested in the impacts moving into the hills and watersheds off the valley floor, where the rural residents have their homes and the beauty of the Napa Hillsides. The health and safety of these residents depends on the roads for ingress and egress, especially during large events, dangerous events and disasters. Their safe travel can be impeded by cumulative impacts that slow and even obstruct their passage upon the roads.
Currently, discretionary use permit applications are vetted with a comparison of similar and nearby use permits of size (production limits) with the employee, visitor, event guests and staff noted, yet not used to indicate the increased use of the roads and the additional impacts. Rather, traffic analysis is completed under an engineering system of observation and estimation that is such a short window of analysis precluding any review of cumulative impacts after the completion of the project where the impacts begin to become evident. Napa County can do better.
The residents and public would like a more rigorous system of comparison that begins with a transparent discussion of the total activity moving into the hilly watersheds they call home. Road and traffic analysis begins in the NC Dept of Public Works, and we urge them to look to this comparative information as a starting point in the discussion.
Best Regards, Gary
Subject: Napa County RSS
Date: April 13, 2016 3:02:13 PM PDT
I want to add a last thought to the discussion on the NC RSS proposal.
Our group has spoken about the Cumulative Effect of traffic on rural roads, Soda Canyon is an example, with the increased use of the road for Residential and Commercial Uses.
Soda canyon is a long cul de sac, with 12 miles of road in various degrees of condition, slope, width, road surface, etc., and yet there is no Napa County evaluation of this road based on the RSS standards or CalTrans standards. Such evaluations would greatly assist the residents and businesses to evaluate their plans for using the road as their needs require.
The evaluation would be similar to the Mt Veeder Technical Analysis for road construction stability, but evaluated against the standards mentioned.
The cumulative effect becomes very evident during concentrated events and disasters. This is our concern and we want to county to do a better job of evaluating the problems during such events based on the occupancy of all uses throughout the road length. The concentrated events can be construction, harvest, winery events, large parties, earthquakes and fires. We suggest the county have a cumulative count of all possible residents, employees, possible construction, commercial activity, winery visitation, winery events, etc. to help them estimate the potential for difficulties to provide for the health and safety of all road users. This number would be used during the evaluation for discretionary use permits and the resulting addition to the recognized impacts of previous evaluations.
The comparison could simply be the Occupancy based on the uses, the length of the road and the conditions of the road. Essentially, a list of the cumulative impacts.
The current evaluation for Discretionary uses rests solely on the traffic analysis, which in my opinion are very inadequate and unreliable in determining the cumulative impacts. Simply observing the road traffic on one or two days per year and adding analysis based on estimates is is only a partial solution. Adding a cumulative analysis mention above, would go a long way and begin to provide the residents with some vital information to evaluate their situation.
Publishing this information would certainly increase aspirin use, but I feel the transparency is a vital ingredient for public trust and participation.
An educated and informed group of residents can certainly evaluate the situation and even participate in the preparations for difficulties resulting from these large events. CERT Training (Citizen Emergency Response Team) can provide local assistance when large events and disasters stretch emergency and County response.
Best Regards, Gary
Subject: Re: Napa County Road and Street Standards, Meeting 4/7/16, 9-12am
Date: April 11, 2016 10:43:03 PM PDT
Again, thank you for your time and effort. As we see from our view, the tangle of cross jurisdictions, compartmentalization, public unknowns and assumptions, it is more than difficult to find the triggers and address the issues. It is certainly hard to find the keys to the cumulative impact door and register our thoughts and concerns to the party of record. I can only compare the search to a joist with windmills or fighting the blob; our path has not been clear.
You have proved to be helpful and consistent, addressing our concerns with thoughtful correspondence, and I thank you.
Here is my takeaway:
-Public Road Standards are addressed by the local cities and counties, not by the Board of Forestry.
-Private Drive and Commercial Drive Standards (off the Public Roadways) are addressed by the Board of Forestry through their RSS as administered by their certified agent, Napa County and the Dept of Public Works.
-Public Road Standards, established by the Counties and CalTrans, are the determining factors for the design, maximum capacity, speed and additional factors determining road safety.
-Public Road safety for all conditions of use, including cumulative impacts and disasters, are regularly reviewed by the Public Works Department with each development application.
-Private Drives and Commercial Drives, off the Public Roadways, under all conditions of use, including cumulative impacts and disasters, are regularly reviewed by the Public Works Department with each development application.
The fourth and fifth bullet may be open to some interpretation, but at the very least, it is the door, through which the Public, Private and Commercial Road cumulative impacts and disaster impacts pass, to be investigated and addressed.
Hopefully, there are no windmills once through that door.
Warmest Regards, Gary
On Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 1:00 PM, Morrison, David wrote:
The State regulates private development. Public road standards are adopted by local cities and counties, not the State, which is why the Board of Forestry does not address them.
The "triggers" you are looking for are found in the standards established by the County and CalTrans for public roads. They take into account design, maximum capacity, speed, and other factors in determining road safety, and are regularly reviewed by the Public Works Department with each development application.
Subject: Re: Napa County Road and Street Standards, Meeting 4/7/16, 9-12am
Date: April 9, 2016 10:41:05 PM PDT
Many thanks for the review and research on the parameters of evacuation and road adequacy. It was a thorough discussion, but it does bring up a very poignant point: If the Roads are OK to handle a large evacuation with ingress and egress of people, cars and emergency vehicles and personnel, then why is the CA State Board of Forestry so concerned with the Road and Street Standards for Private and Commercial Roads? It makes me wonder about their driving concern for the focus on this current need to re-certify all counties administering the regulations? Are the public roads conditions and construction of no concern to the movement during a disaster, and the focus is only on the private and commercial access roads?
The last several years of wildfires have put a different emphasis on the access to buildings and wildfire areas, yet the public roads do not seem to be a source of concern. If the road is overburdened by the cumulative additions of vehicle trips and congestion, then one wonders why it is even necessary to be concerned about upgrading the private and commercial access? There have to be some triggers that point to a disaster in the making and provide a stop sign at the cumulative Rubicon.
I can't say I could put on a Planners Hat to find the solution. Do you have any insight that might help or a reference for research and an answer? Is this a better question for Peter Munoa at the State level.
Subject: Public Works Engineering Assessment of Mt Veeder Road
Date: April 8, 2016 11:37:44 PM PDT
Here is the engineering review completed on Mt Veeder Road. The review only dealt with the stability of the underlying soils, the road structures and any weaknesses in the culverts carrying water under the road. It did not deal with the slopes of the road, compliance with the NC and State Dept of Forestry Road and Street Standards, pavement conditions and safety for any emergency vehicles or residents. It certainly did not deal with the capacity of the road during normal daily use nor emergency operations during medical or disaster emergencies. Cumulative impacts impairing road use are neighter discussed nor evaluated. It is simply a narrow report.
But this is a start that needs to be used as a stepping stone into the NC Risk Management Plan and the NC Hazardous Mitigation. There is more information to follow provided by David Morrison.
On Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 12:57 PM, Morrison, David wrote:
Barry, Nate, and I look forward to seeing you at the next NC RSS workshop.
Two-lane rural roads typically are able to accommodate hundreds of cars per hour at maximum capacity, even in mountainous terrain. I haven't yet seen any indication, from either the public or from Public Works, that capacity is being reached on Soda Canyon Road.
With regards to your request for a risk analysis of the road design for the SMR Vineyard Winery, I'm afraid we cannot assist you in that effort. To begin with, we don't analyze public and private roads for their maximum design capacity or prepare individualized evacuation plans for each road. That's not how emergency planning is carried out. The fire hazard section in the 2013 Napa County Operational Area Hazards Mitigation Plan (OAHMP) focuses on: (1) defensible space; (2) Firewise Councils; (3) fuel reduction; (4) EOC training; and (5) reducing fire ignition. In general, the focus of the OAHMP is to minimize the potential for wildfires, thereby reducing the risk and the need for emergency evacuations.
Similarly, the purpose of the Fire Management Plan prepared by Cal-Fire is to identify the high value, high-risk areas within the county so as to plan for reducing the damaging effects of wildfire. This is accomplished through a comprehensive approach designed to minimize the costs and losses due to wildfire by a variety of means, including response planning, cooperative fuel reduction projects, fire prevention, and education.
Neither the County nor Cal-Fire have evacuation plans, as they would need to be specific to the type and location of the disaster. An evacuation plan for a wildfire will be different than one needed for a flood, and both will be different than one needed for an earthquake or hazardous materials spill. In short, there are too many potential scenarios to effectively prepare detailed contingencies for each possibility. In general, the goal of wildfire evacuations is to maintain egress routes while continuing the reduction of sources of ignition. The ability to move is important for not only the public safety but for the fire resources to mitigate the incident.
The third place to look would be the General Plan. Two policies may be of particular interest. The first policy notes that safety hazards are only considered when involving projects serving 50 people or more in hazard-prone areas. As such, facilities such as the SMR Winery and others would not meet this minimum threshold. The second policy indicates that traffic ingress/egress is only one consideration to be used when assessing the fire safety of new development.
Policy SAF-3: The County shall evaluate potential safety hazards when considering General Plan Amendments, re-zonings, or other project approvals (including but not limited to new residential developments, roads or highways, and all structures proposed to be open to the public and serving 50 persons or more) in areas characterized by:
1) Slopes over 15 percent,
2) Identified landslides,
4) Medium or high fire hazard severity,
5) Former marshlands, or
6) Fault zones.
Policy SAF-20: All new development shall comply with established fire safety standards. Design plans shall be referred to the appropriate fire agency for comment as to:
1) Adequacy of water supply.
2) Site design for fire department access in and around structures.
3) Ability for a safe and efficient fire department response.
4) Traffic flow and ingress/egress for residents and emergency vehicles.
5) Site-specific built-in fire protection.
6) Potential impacts to emergency services and fire department response.
In summary, neither PBES, Public Works, Risk Management, or Cal-Fire currently perform this type of analysis, because it is not germane to how we approach emergency response. Preparing a study like this would require diverting staff resources from established County and Board of Supervisor priorities.
Please accept my apologies. I don't recall making a reference to the Sacramento Land Use Commission, nor am I sure what group to which you are referring. Local Government Commission? Council of Governments?
The NCOAHMP is about 25 MB is size. The County email system cannot accommodate including such a large attachment. We can burn you a CD or thumb drive of the file, if you would like.
Unfortunately, we cannot assist you further with your request, but look forward to continuing the dialogue regarding appropriate road standards within the State Responsibility Area.
From: Gary Margadant [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 07, 2016 8:19 AM
To: Morrison, David
Subject: Napa County Road and Street Standards, Meeting 4/7/16, 9-12am
A short note to outline my areas of concern and proposals.
As I have related in the past, the Risks of isolation to rural areas like Soda Canyon (a good example) with residents along the road and a sizable concentration at the top (Foss Valley) with heavy coverage of Vineyards and a the attached agricultural operations. Wineries are in attendance with plans to expand visitor numbers, all adding to the traffic load and Risks for this long cul de sac.
Soda Canyon is the Ingress/Egress for all these operations and residents and the neighbors are concerned about the ability of the Road to carry this traffic during a disaster, which includes the added traffic of emergency personnel and vehicles attending to the needs in the area.
What is the Tipping Point when the amount of people and activities will overwhelm the Road's ability to provide adequate travel for all the needs during a disaster. Essentially, the road is unable to provide for the Health and Safety of these people and the emergency personnel.
You mentioned, in another meeting, that the Napa County Risk Management Plan might be the vehicles to evaluate the capacity of such Roads as Soda Canyon. I think this method holds great potential and I want to suggest an evaluation of two recent RSS projects to porovide examples of this analysis: Phelan Residence - P12-00265-UP, and 3646 SMR Vineyards Winery Use Permit #P14-00327. Both required extensive road work and exceptions based on the old RSS Standards.
Is this analysis something that Kerry Whitney or his department could provide?
I would like a copy of the NC Risk Management Plan to begin research on this promising avenue.
On Mar 27, 2016, at 10:15 PM, Gary Margadant wrote:
Helene, Barry and David
Many thanks for your help and participation at the meeting to discuss the Road Risks and the use of RSS.
We are very interested in continuing the discussion in addition to our participation in the April 7 Stakeholder meeting on the NC RSS proposals.
Hopefully, research into the NC Hazard Management Plan and our desire to find the tipping point when the roads become a hindrance to safe ingress and egress during an emergency event. I would like to see such an analysis of such risks for the road design into 3646 SMR Vineyards Winery, Use Permit #P14-00327, for a broader discussion the same overall practical effect and the technical nature of Risk Management withing NC.
Is this something performed by Kerry Whitney? Perhaps a meeting to discuss the subjects?
David mentioned the Sacramento Land Use Commission proceeding might be helpful in our discussion. Any pointers for search subjects?
Thanks again for your time and efforts. It was a very useful meeting.
George Caloyannidis has sent along two articles about the adverse impacts of highway widenings made to relieve traffic congestion (which he forwarded to County Planning Director John McDowell as well):
As we who have lived in California over the last half century know all too well, road widenings, far from relieving congestion, induce more traffic along the route and encourage further development, actually equaling or increasing the congestion they were touted to reduce. In many cases the widened route, particularly as it goes from a two lane to a 4 lane road, becomes a preferred alternative to previous routes again spurring development in areas that were not receiving it before.
This process is already happening along the Hwy 12 corridor with the widening of the route through Jameson Canyon. It is only a matter of time before Hwy 12 becomes a 4 lane freeway across the entire county. Large projects along the route, like Jamieson Ranch and now Hudson Ranch will continue to come to join Domaine Carneros, the Carneros Inn and others in creating a level of freeway accessible mega-tourism to rival the Hwy 29 crush up valley. (Were it to reduce tourism up valley, which it will not, this might be in fact a reasonable way to accommodate tourism expansion). The freeway will be built, no doubt, in response to the enormous congestion the widening has created at the Jameson/29 junction (see the photo at the top of the page) But that congestion will only worsen as the airport and AmCan industrial zones continue to be built out and more development comes to Napa and Sonoma taking advantage of the widened access.
One can only be cynical of the congestion relief excuse, knowing that the enormous lobbying and expenditure necessary for major road projects is underpinned by a development industry that sees massive public road expenditure as the first step necessary in their future development plans (and profits).
One could easily have expected the results in the search for solutions to our traffic congestion when government and business get together. Expecting two addicts in unison to find ways to treat their addiction has predictable outcomes. Nicotine patches, e-cigarettes, perhaps periodic rehabs are certain to be the types of remedies they would suggest. So, we end up with solutions of the busing, shuttling, traffic impact fee, transit-on-demand variety. Patches!
Is it a wonder that no one had the courage to even suggest the untouchable root of the problem, which is that of curtailing growth? How about instead of prescribing sleeping pills to a smoker, going straight to the cause instead of the symptom? But asking two addicts who find comfort and mutual validation in each other for their addiction to suggest ways to cure what gives them their very euphoria, is too much to ask for.
Traffic congestion may be the one factor most visible at the moment caused exclusively by growth, but growth will have many more and much more serious and expensive ramifications in the not so distant future unless we bite the bullet with bold decisions our leaders carry the responsibility for.
Buses and shuttles will do nothing to solve the problems one third of the valley's additional daily population from the outside is causing in overusing our available resources and capacities, from water to sewer handling facilities. Transit-on-demand will do nothing to add to our limited power grid capacity, nothing to stem the unabated degradation of our water sheds. Traffic impact fees will do nothing to alleviate the shame of a community with people living in its garages.
It is time for a growth forum if we want to get real with our future. But no one has the courage to look into that looking glass. Much easier to step right through it into Alice's Wonderland.
Sean Scully, editor of the Napa Valley Register, has penned an editorial on optimism, The absence of gloom, in which, after lamenting the sad state of the world, is buoyed by the can-do presentation on transportation issues made to the Napa Valley Vintners by Dir. Morrison, Calistoga mayor Chris Canning, and a UC Davis transportation expert.
George Caloyannidis responded to Mr. Scully:
"I read your excellent article twice and I need to think about it a lot before I can respond in a constructive way. But here is an article which you probably are already aware of which shows how insurmountable the obstacles to optimism are.
Vision 2050 is trying to give voice to the people who lack any constituency (though this is exactly who the BOS is supposed to represent), but despite its efforts such as reaching out to Latinos Unidos, it has had little sustained success in reaching out to this underclass which drives the wine industry economy. It is interesting to note that in the article below, there is no mention that the 10.5 million "grants" by which the Ortiz Plaza development is being financed, is really a subsidy paid for by the general public for the benefit of the wine industry which is swimming in money.
While this study addresses the conditions in Sonoma County, we need to recognize that we don't have the luxury of a 175,000 population city of Santa Rosa in the Napa Valley where farm workers can find some form of housing as bad as it is. For us here, Santa Rosa is called Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville resulting in a 25% commuter traffic gridlock. Try driving south at 5:30 am from St. Helena to Hwy 80 on 29. You will be blinded by the uninterrupted string of lights driving north (and south at the end of the working day).
Thank you again for the thought provoking article."
Another strip mall is being built at the edge of American Canyon - the first phase of 143000 sf of buildings and 148 apartments floating in a 565 car parking lot just north of the Wallmart parking lot. The traffic load: 5065 new trips/day plus 3000 trips/day from cars just passing through (huh?).
And how is all this traffic to be mitigated at the AmCan intersections that are already operating at level of service F (gridlock) during peak hours? Payment of traffic impact fees toward the construction of improvements to Hwy 29 that are supposed to solve all of Napa's access problems - some time in the future. State taxpayers still haven't coughed up the real money for the Hwy 29 improvements, and they will never happen fast enough to keep up with the development already happening in the county. The delay at the 29/Napa Junction intersection once this mall is built is designated as "OVR" - meaning a delay of over 1000 secs, or 16 minutes. They don't say how much over.
The mitigation fees will no doubt be used for other unfunded impacts of the project - like the inevitable overrun costs of the greywater line. No mitigation of the traffic on 29 will happen, and the backup at the signals will become ever longer. Well, perhaps some mitigation: as the discretionary travelers (i.e. tourists) give up coming to the Napa Valley because of gridlock, some current traffic may be reduced.
What do American Canyon residents really get out of this development? Higher taxes of course, longer waits in traffic, and maybe a closer Micheal's or Taco Bell. (Tractor Supply Co? Hard to farm parking lots and housing tracts) What does the city get out of the development? More storm drains to unclog, more robberies to investigate, more fires to put out, more kids to school, more water worries. What do the developers get? Money.
As usual I am coming late to the major development projects being proposed in the county. As with most of them, the solutions being proposed to the problems created by previous development is - more development. Traffic has become the most evident of the problems created by the continuous expansion of the tourism industry and imported-grape wine industry in the county. Both the county and the municipalities have continued to do what all local governments, as tools of development interests, have done: sanction the conversion of vacant land into buildings with the promise of jobs and fees and taxes necessary to pay for the impacts of previously approved projects.
The Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency has been working for several years qon its Vision 2040 Plan to propose solutions to the traffic congestion that now impacts everyone's daily life in the county. The solutions proposed are nuts and bolts mitigations of existing problems: widen the congested stretches, signalize the blocked intersections and build a flyover for the worst of them. And then there are the enormous amounts to be spent on hopeful solutions. Maybe more people will use buses if enough money is spent on maintenance or schedules. Maybe the population will decide bicycles are a more convenient mode of travel if enough money is spent on the vine trail.
Such traffic mitigations, unfortunately, will never keep pace with the increase in traffic as long as the current amount of building development continues in the county. The mitigations proposed by NCTPA may help with the existing problems citizens have complained about. But by the time those mitigations are in place, 150 more tourism wineries or winery expansions will be built promising tens of thousands of new events, 3000 housing units will be built, hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space will be built, several major resorts and hotels will be built, a new jail will be built and, of course, a Costco will be built. All will bring more tourists, and workers, and shoppers and residents - and their vehicles.
And the reality is that the easier you make it to get from one place to another the more people and development are attracted to come. The level of congestion quickly rises again to the not-quite-tolerable awaiting more costly mitigations. (Since the completion of the Jameson Canyon widening, its intersection with Hwy 29 has become hopelessly clogged as traffic seeks the easiest route to get from Sacramento to the Napa Valley and points east). What is never proposed is that development should be stopped first, and then, once you know that no more buildings will be built and no more jobs created, at least for a predictable period of time, efforts can be undertaken to make getting from one place to another more bearable.
NCTPA is doing what it is charged to do: make proposals to try to relieve existing problems. It is up to city and county governments to limit the development that will create the traffic of the future.
-Widening much of Silverado Trail to 4 lanes
-Widening much of Highway 29 to 4 and even 6 lanes in places
-Widening of upvalley 2 lane roads such as Deer Park road and Chiles-Pope Valley Road into 4 lane roads
While these expansions are explained as “…inconsistent with the current county General Plan”, they are also noted as the “the necessary roadway improvements that when applied to the 2030 network would mitigate the significant traffic operation impacts at the locations specified” and would “reduce peak hour and daily levels of service to acceptable levels.”
We are already experiencing twice daily gridlock traffic along both Hwy 29 and Silverado Trail. Our currently over-impacted road/traffic situation will degrade further with every new high visitation project approved as more tourism and the hospitality workforce to support that tourism will be required to travel up and down our roads.
Our infrastructure and roadways WILL SIMPLY HAVE TO EXPAND if we continue to accommodate a heavy-visitation tourism based economy and the traffic increases brought on by continued approval of winery and hospitality endeavors.
This infrastructure and roadway expansion will create a further and rapid urbanization of Napa Valley/County, intense pressure on our Agricultural Preserve as well as a threat to the rural character, community fabric and quality of life in Napa County/Valley.
This will be urbanization by over-visitation, the Napa Valley and Napa County will be transformed by the necessary roadway and infrastructure increases to accommodate the increased visitation currently promoted.
While this may seem unthinkable to those that love and care about the rural character of Napa Valley/County, our communities and of protecting our growing/farming lands, it is clear that If we continue adding heavy visitation-oriented development our current two-lane roads or “feeder arteries” will be stressed to the breaking point, and our Ag Preserve/ growing lands will get further paved over to accommodate this visitation/ hospitality/marketing aspect.
We must also consider the effects on our precious grapegrowing microclimate of 1000’s of slow moving cars and trucks idling in our narrow valley, as well as water limitations.
There are over 55 new and expansion projects in the county pipeline waiting for approval. Is this urbanization the future we want for Napa Valley and Napa County? We must stop now and analyze the cumulative impacts of current development before we allow more. We must analyze the carrying capacity of our roads, infrastructure and water availability in relation to the health, welfare and safety of our citizens and community.
The time to stand up is now for those that believe in our Ag Preserve as a Growing/Farming region, for those that wish to protect our communities and the rural nature of our county, We must find the common ground upon which to stand together now.
Please contact all County Supervisors and Planning Commission (below),
write letters to our newspapers, and become involved with groups such as the NapaVision2050 Coalition,
Sooner is better.
Feel free to pass this letter on or to contact mebest,
As with all traffic mitigations, the flyover is a stopgap measure to temporarily reduce current inconveniences. This case is more useless than most because it will just move the current bottleneck literally down the road. And it will probably be completed after Napa Pipe adds a thousand housing units, 200,000sf of industrial/retail space, a hotel and nursing home and, oh yes, a Costco. And after 500 housing units at Tulocay Village, the county jail, and 1250 units and a town center at Watson Ranch. All are a short drive from the flyover. And of course it will have to handle the hundreds of thousands of tourists that all of the as-yet-unbuilt vanity event centers are expecting to enable their unprofitable wineries to survive.
And of course if by some magic traffic mitigations worked to relieve congestion, that just greases the skids for more development.
The problem that the county should be considering is how to reduce traffic, not how to make a bad thing more bearable thus encouraging more bad things. Traffic congestion is a consequence of urban development, and the best way, really the only way, to ease traffic congestion is to stop urbanizing. As long as urbanization continues the traffic mitigations will never catch up to the impacts and everything will be as congested as before. The real best way to reduce traffic congestion not just to stop urbanizing but is to reverse urbanization - to begin engaging in ruralization.
Is it possible to ruralize in this place at this time? Well Napa has one of the most expensive legal crops in the world. As Andy Beckstoffer said in a recent article: "Never in the history of mankind has agriculture withstood urban growth long-term, but here we have the best chance."
All the politicians say they want to preserve the agriculture that is the golden goose of the Napa Valley. In the meantime the vineyards are being filled up with building projects. It is time for our politicians to jettison the idea of smart growth (which more recently they've actually replaced with dumb growth) and instead begin looking at ideas that might reverse growth. Maybe then we wouldn't be so anxious to get out of town.
"it was estimated that 21% of total daily trips into Napa County were “visitor” trips, a number four percentage points higher than the percentage of visitor trips from the vehicle intercept survey (discussed in more detail in Chapter 5). However,
visitors to Napa County are likely underrepresented in the vehicle intercept survey as potential respondents who live or work in Napa County are generally considered to be more likely to complete the survey."
Let's not forget the that the employees of the tourist industry and the development industry that cater to the needs of those visitors constitute a (perhaps significant) addition to the percentage of traffic attributable to tourism.
The following links are related to the proposed Cal-Trans changes to Hwy 29 from American Canyon to Soscol. They are related to Napa Pipe in that they are both part of the development of the Napa-Vallejo metropolitan area. The highway proposal is intended to ease (but will in fact encourage more) traffic into the valley.
What is not covered in the propsal is the Soscol corridor into town. A mile further north on Soscol from the Hwy 29 flyover is the intersection with Kiser Rd which will serve almost all traffic to Napa Pipe, 1000 housing units, a Costco, 200,000 sf of retail commercial industrial office space, a hotel and senior center. This intersection, currently almost empty of cross traffic will become as congested as the American Canyon/29 interchange is now.
And will the flyover really be able to ease things enough once thousands of vehicles from Napa Pipe and the Watson Ranch, and the future industrial parks at the airport and American Canyon are added? Will it just be a temporary speed up going toward the next intersection bottleneck?
As long as the county and the municipalities of Napa aspire to the development levels of Sonoma or Contra Costa counties, Cal-trans will never be able to keep up with the traffic.