FAIRFIELD — About four acres needed for the next big Interstates 80 and 680 interchange-related project will be taken from the owners through eminent domain if negotiations for a selling price fail.
The Solano Transportation Authority Board of Directors by unanimous vote Wednesday decided to begin eminent domain proceedings involving eight separate landowners. Board members are the mayors of Solano County’s seven cities and a county supervisor.
Seven of the eight board members had to vote “yes” for the eminent domain proposals to pass. The board declared that the land is needed for a project that is in the public interest and gave staff the ability to go to court to obtain the land, if necessary. The court would then set the fair market value to be paid to the owners.
The Solano Transportation Authority and state Department of Transportation are embarking on a $100 million-plus project to improve traffic flow near the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange. This particular project doesn’t involve moving and reconstructing that notorious traffic bottleneck, but is a more affordable first phase.
This first phase involves building a new, wider Green Valley Road interchange on I-80 slightly east of the present-day one. New on-ramps will be built leading from the I-80 and from the Green Valley Road interchange to Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon, to better sort out divergent traffic flows. Construction is to begin in 2014.
Property owners that could be subject to eminent domain are the Mangels Family Trust; Lees Pet Club Inc.; Napa Tahoe Specialty Retail Development, LLC; IMET, LLC; Watt/Fairfield Associates Limited Partnership; James and Cheryl Campi; Plaza Court Properties, LLC; and Kerry Egan, et al, a Solano Transportation Authority report said.
The Solano Transportation Authority reached settlements with the Dittmer family and PEM Green Valley TIC, LLC over the past few days and removed their names from the list at the meeting. The Dittmers own more than 11 acres needed for the project.
John Mangels spoke at the hearing. His family owns more than three acres of tree-covered land near Highway 12 that Caltrans wants for the project.
Mangels said less of his property would be needed if Caltrans would build a retaining wall on the hillside. Transportation officials said the cost would be a half-million dollars.
Bob Karn spoke on behalf of Ron Barber and Barber’s Plaza Court Properties. Plaza Court Properties owns land along Lopes Road that will be affected by the project. It leases this land to a recreational vehicle business.
A bigger Green Valley Road interchange would change the height of Lopes Road along the property. That means reconstructing a driveway to the property, requiring an easement so work can be done.
Negotiations with the Solano Transportation Authority have been sporadic since last spring, Karn told the board. Barber wants the project to go forward, but thinks he is being “railroaded” and wants more time to talk with agency officials, he said.
“We don’t feel we’ve been treated adequately by the STA when you take this huge, powerful ability you have of eminent domain,” Karn said.
Solano Transportation Authority board member and Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering said he wants staff to contact Plaza Court Properties immediately and have further talks. Agency staff said the vote to begin eminent domain proceedings doesn’t preclude further negotiations.
“They have to be satisfied we’ve heard their issues,” Spering said.
Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said the agency will turn the land for the project over to Caltrans. Having the Solano Transportation Authority do the eminent domain votes instead of the state kept the hearing local, he said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.